Muscle Recovery Techniques for Athletes

January 5, 2022

Developing strong muscles and exceptional endurance propels athletes toward great physical heights. Superb athletic performance isn’t just a result of intensive training. To avoid soreness, burnout and injuries, athletes must spend a significant amount of downtime on muscle recovery, with the goal of nourishing and repairing muscles after intense physical activity.

While muscle recovery is a crucial component of an athlete’s routine, those training to compete professionally often have busy schedules that limit their muscle recovery periods. Luckily, there are several muscle recovery techniques athletes can practice without having to sacrifice valuable training time.

Active Recovery

As the name suggests, active recovery means engaging in low-impact exercise to recover after a strenuous workout. This type of activity can be done between regular workouts and involves activities like walking, jogging, swimming, outdoor or indoor cycling and yoga.

Active recovery can be used on rest days as an alternative to inactivity. It’s believed to decrease the accumulation of blood lactate in your body, decreasing soreness and helping your muscles relax and become less fatigued. The only time active recovery isn’t recommended is when you’re in pain and/or injured.


Hydrotherapy uses water to alleviate a variety of conditions. Immersing yourself in a pool, hot tub or bath with warm water relaxes the muscles and reduces soreness. Alternating between warm and cold water can help promote recovery after strenuous workouts and delays the onset of soreness. Water aerobics are a hybrid of active recovery and hydrotherapy techniques, making this low-impact workout especially effective in muscle recovery.


Stretching is a necessary technique for both warming up and muscle recovery among athletes and physically active people in general.

What makes stretching so effective is that it improves blood flow to the affected muscles, allowing them to receive the nutrients they need. Other benefits of regular stretching include increased muscle flexibility and improved performance.


Getting a massage can alleviate sore muscles and accelerate the biological process of muscle recovery. Many massage therapists offer athlete-tailored sports massages which are meant to relieve muscle pain and tension. A hot stone massage is another type of massage that alleviates pain, reduces muscle tension and improves blood flow. Getting a massage may also make you feel less stressed or anxious, especially before an important event or competition.


Self-care is critical to your physical and mental health. It’s an extremely important but often overlooked part of muscle recovery.


As an athlete you may be tempted to work out every day. While daily physical activity is not harmful, alternating workouts and giving your muscles at least 24 hours of rest between trainings is essential in preventing injuries and sustained soreness.


Contrary to what some people say, sleep is not overrated. The average adult needs 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. While many people can function on little sleep, athletes may not be so lucky. Getting enough sleep ensures that you have the physical and mental energy needed to train and compete. Sleep also enhances muscle mass and muscle recovery through human growth hormone release.


Eating a nutrient-rich diet is crucial to speedy muscle recovery. Athletes should eat plenty of protein with every meal. This includes animal proteins like chicken, tuna, cow’s milk (or plant-based milk if you’re lactose intolerant), cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs and plant-based proteins, like almonds, peanut butter, bananas, edamame, quinoa, chickpeas and more.

Consume these protein-rich foods one or two hours before and after working out to make sure your muscles get the nourishment they need to speedily recover. You may want to replace regular meals with protein bars and shakes, but it’s generally best to consume protein from natural foods. Protein bars and protein powders are usually packed with many unwanted ingredients, like sugar or preservatives.


Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re training outdoors in warm and dry weather. Water plays a key role in distributing nutrients within your body to speed up muscle recovery. Drinking water also gets rid of lactic acid buildup—a common post-workout occurrence that exacerbates muscle pain and fatigue.

On average, a person should consume roughly 64 ounces of water per day. However, athletes who train several hours a week may need to drink much more than that to remain hydrated. If you’re not sure how much water you should drink, you can figure out the amount by dividing your body weight in half and drinking one ounce per pound. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking 100 ounces of water per day.

Get Help from Non-Surgical Orthopaedics in Georgia to Treat Your Sports Injury

Are you experiencing prolonged muscle soreness or a sports-related injury? Our orthopaedic sports injury specialists can help. We offer a diverse range of non-surgical treatments to help you heal your sports injury and restore mobility.

Call (770) 421-1420 for more information or to schedule an appointment at our Marietta or Carrollton office.

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