You’ve just finished a tough workout. Now it’s time to recover. To do that, you need to rehydrate by drinking fluids and take in enough carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores. If you’ve been exercising at a high intensity for more than an hour, your muscle glycogen stores may be severely depleted. This will cause you to feel fatigued. In addition, some people experience a blood sugar drop after a long, intense exercise session. That’s why it’s important to “refuel” after exercise. Little things count when it comes to making a quick recovery – even the temperature of the room you recover in.
Exercise Recovery: Room Temperature Makes a Difference
A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the temperature of the room you’re in after exercise influences how quickly your muscles recover. Researchers had nine men cycle at a moderate pace in a room at 91 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. After finishing their workout, they recovered in a room set at a temperature of either 91 degrees Fahrenheit or 72 degrees Fahrenheit. During recovery, they drank a carbohydrate-rich sports beverage.
The results? When the participants recovered in a cooler 72 degrees Fahrenheit room, their muscle glycogen stores were significantly higher four hours after exercising than they were after recovering in a hot 91-degree room. The take-home message? Head to a cool environment after your workout. Researchers in this study believe that when you recover in a hotter environment, you continue to break down carbohydrates, but when you head to a cooler place, your body goes into glycogen synthesis mode, and your muscles recover more quickly.
Exercise Recovery: Other Ways to Recover Quickly after a Workout
If you work out more than once a day, fast recovery after a workout is important. Some studies show that immersion in cold water speeds up the process by helping muscles remove lactate and by reducing muscle inflammation. Of course, not everyone likes the idea of jumping in ice cold water after a workout. Other ways to ensure a fast recovery are to:
Replace lost fluids as quickly as possible. If you’ve exercised for an hour or more, especially at a high intensity, a carbohydrate-containing beverage is a better choice to replenish glycogen stores and lost electrolytes than water. To ensure that you’re adequately replacing lost fluids, weigh yourself before and after your workout. For every pound lost, drink 20 ounces of fluid. There’s also some evidence that drinking tart cherry juice or chocolate milk aids muscle recovery and reduces muscle soreness after exercise.
Eat a snack with both protein and carbs within 60 minutes of completing a workout. Consume about 0.5 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight and 15 to 20 grams of protein. Waiting longer than an hour to refuel reduces the amount of glycogen your muscles synthesize after an exercise session.
Rest after exercise. If possible, take a brief nap. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, napping after a workout has the potential to speed up recovery – and don’t skimp on sleep at night. Muscle recovery, repair, and adaptations occur when you’re resting.
The Bottom Line?
A variety of factors affect how fast your muscles recover after a workout – even the temperature of the room you recover in. Replace fluids, carbs, rest – and do it in a cool environment to speed up your rate of recovery.
The University of Montana. “Effect of Post-Exercise Environmental Temperature on Glycogen Resynthesis”
International Journal of Sports Medicine, August 2010.
J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2010 Jul-Sep; 3(3): 302.
Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010 Mar;5(1):87-97.
CBS News. “Chocolate Milk: The New Sports Drink?