Beyond the Burn: Mastering Post Workout Recovery Techniques

by Mara Welty December 29, 2023 7 min read

 post workout recovery

When it comes to fitness, you have your workout routine down: You balance strength training with cardio, legs with arms and hydration with nutrition. That said, your post-workout recovery regimen is just as important as working out itself, particularly when it comes to supporting muscle repair and improving your athletic performance.

Experts recommend dedicating an equal amount of time to your recovery process as you do to working out. So, if you’re spending three hours lifting heavy metal and making personal records, take at least three hours of your after-gym time to allow your muscles to relax and repair.

Questioning how to execute an effective post workout muscle recovery period? We have you covered.

Understanding Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

Using your muscles during exercise to lift heavy weights, run on the treadmill or stretch in a yoga class can create tiny ultrasonic disruptions in the muscle, or tears. Even low-intensity workouts can cause this type of muscle damage.

However, exercises that involve muscle lengthening require the most (longest) recovery. These are called eccentric contractions, and they include such movements as lowering into a squat or lowering into a press-up.

In contrast, concentric contractions involve shortening the muscles, such as when you push out of a squat or press-up. While these movements are less likely to cause exercise-induced muscle damage, they can still stress your muscles and require a recovery period.

Typically, you can identify exercise-induced muscle damage when you feel muscle fatigue. In some training methods, like high-intensity training and bodybuilding, athletes strive to reach muscle failure to facilitate muscle growth. However, these intense exercise strategies can often lead to injury or burnout.

When tiny tears do occur, people can experience DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, which typically occurs within 24 to 72 hours following a strenuous, muscle-lengthening workout.

The severity of soreness experienced depends on the intensity of the workout and the amount of stress placed on the muscles. For example, running down a hill puts greater force on the muscles than running along a flat surface. Also, the more you repeat a movement, the more likely your muscles are to tear.

Typically, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness symptoms — swelling, tenderness and stiffness — will dissipate within four days after exercise. However, the exact time of the recovery process will depend on your muscle strength, range of motion and fitness routine.

To allow your muscles to repair, there are three types of recovery practices that you can adopt:

  • Immediate recovery – This type of recovery refers to the short time period between repetitions during your workout. For example, you may do 50 bicep curls, take a 30-second break and then perform 50 more curls.
  • Short-term recovery – This type of recovery occurs between sets, such as interval sprints or weight training sets. Typically, these types of recovery periods last longer, from one to three minutes.
  • Training recovery – Training recovery occurs between workouts, and it's the most beneficial when it comes to muscle recovery.

Post Workout Training Recovery Techniques

Providing your body with time to rest after a workout gives your body the opportunity to repair itself and, subsequently, strengthen your muscles. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all all answer, post workout muscle recovery is essential and can be tailored to your individual fitness level, age and/or sport.

#1 Active Recovery

Active recovery is what many athletes refer to as a “cool down.” It directly follows a strenuous workout and aims to increase blood circulation throughout the body to:

  • Eliminate waste products (lactate) in soft tissues that have been broken down during intense exercise
  • Deliver nutrients to help repair muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Raise the heartbeat above a resting rate

Studies have shown that active recovery can return the body to homeostasis and facilitate muscle repair more quickly than passive recovery techniques, like sitting or lying down.

Active recovery practices include stretching, walking, slow jogging, swimming, cycling and light weightlifting — that is, 30 to 40% less weight than you’d normally lift.

#2 Quality Sleep

A restful night of sleep following a workout can help facilitate muscle repair and recovery. Recovery, however, is reliant on two types of sleep:

  • Basal sleep – The amount of sleep our bodies need every night to recover and feel good
  • Sleep debt – An accumulation of sleep lost every night

Failing to get enough sleep every night can cause cortisol levels to rise, thus triggering the body’s stress response. In return, the body can struggle to maintain its normal processes, such as muscle repair and athletic performance. It can also impact your overall health. Studies on sleep-deprived men found that they had impaired metabolisms and nutrition intake, low testosterone levels, increased inflammation and increased afternoon cortisol levels.

It was also found that sleep-deprived people are more likely to reach for sugary junk foods in an effort to quickly fuel the body.

Neuroscientist Dr. Walker, who reportedly sleeps a whomping 12 hours a night, once said, “Sleep is probably the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that few are abusing enough.” This explains why some professional athletes report sleeping at least 10 hours every night.

When we sleep, the body releases hormones — like the human growth hormone (HGH) — to promote the healing, recovery and growth of sore muscles.

#3 Massage

Following an intense workout, spend some time soothing your muscles with a massage. It’s believed that massaging your sore muscles can improve blood circulation, decrease muscle soreness and instigate muscle repair.

However, overly aggressive massage techniques do put your muscles at risk of further damage that can prolong your recovery. Instead, start slow and simple with light movements across sore areas.

It’s worth stating that some studies have also found that massages after intense workouts can slow recovery, or be less effective than other post workout recovery techniques like active recovery and/or cold water immersion.

#4 Compression

Compression garments and devices may be able to relieve muscle soreness and reinvigorate the muscles. Specifically, this is done by accelerating the removal of lactate and other waste in the muscles, thus decreasing stiffness and increasing oxygen flow.

Pneumatic compression, through devices that create pulsations and pressure, is the most effective at increasing blood flow and decreasing soreness. Although, elastic compression garments may still be effective in relieving soreness.

#5 Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy involves exposing your body to extremely cold (freezing or near-freezing) temperatures. Typically, you’ll sit in a booth for up to five minutes, which is believed to:

  • Reduce muscle temperatures
  • Increase vasoconstriction
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Relieve soreness

That said, studies indicate that cryotherapy may only provide temporary relief from muscle soreness; and in animal-based studies, cryotherapy was actually found to slow down muscle recovery.

While the jury’s still out, experts do believe that exposure to cryotherapy may reinvigorate your body.

#6 Hydrotherapy

Water immersion, or hydrotherapy, can involve either cold or hot temperatures. Some athletes will adopt a technique called contrast bath therapy, in which they alternate between warm and cold water in a set time period. It’s believed that this practice improves blood flow and reduces muscle soreness.

Others will adopt either cold water immersion or hot water immersion techniques.

The temperature changes are also believed to influence your:

  • Inflammatory response
  • Immune function
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle fatigue

It may also impact your perception of how sore your muscles are.

#7 Protein Intake

Making changes to your diet is a relatively easy and convenient way to facilitate muscle recovery after a workout. Protein provides your body with amino acids, which are the building blocks of your body, including your muscles.

Recent evidence suggests that adding protein to your workout routine — whether before, during or after — can enhance your recovery, immune function and lean muscle mass. This is why it’s especially important to know how to increase protein intake if you’re someone who is physically active.

There are a few different types of protein powder to choose from for supporting muscle recovery. However, whey protein, which comes from milk, is believed to be the most effective protein supplement for post workout recovery after endurance and resistance exercises. When digested, whey protein helps to facilitate muscle protein synthesis to:

  • Create new muscle
  • Build and maintain muscle mass
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Increase lean muscle mass

Whey protein can also make you feel full longer, helping to facilitate the loss of body fat. A variety of products contain whey protein, from bars to protein powders. The INVIGOR8 All-In-One Superfood Shake incorporates 20 grams of grass-fed whey protein, in addition to essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. You can read more about how to use protein powder to maximize your recovery benefits with our helpful guide.

#8 Hydration

If you’re dehydrated, your body can struggle to facilitate muscle repairs. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to lose water when you’re exercising strenuously or in hot weather. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, athletes should drink at least 16 to 24 fluid ounces of water after exercising.

#9 Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco

Avoiding alcoholic drinks and tobacco products isn’t just good for your recovery — it’s good for your overall health. While grabbing a few beers with friends after a successful workout can be fun, alcohol can impair protein synthesis and glycogen levels in your muscles, which provide your muscles with the energy they need.

Similarly, smoking tobacco may put your body at a higher risk of muscular injury during or after exercise.

Optimize Your Post Workout Recovery With INVIGOR8

Creating an effective post workout recovery can help you care for your body while providing both muscle building and weight loss support. To jumpstart your success, add a scoop of INVIGOR8 to your workout arsenal.

Our All-In-One Superfood Shake is made with standout nutritious protein powder ingredients such as whey protein and 18 vitamins and minerals that fuel your body pre- and post workout. You can also explore our weight loss kit if you’re looking to build muscle and lose fat at the same time!

Shake up your post workout recovery with INVIGOR8.


  1. Journal of Applied Physiology. Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise
  2. ACSM. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
  3. Healthline. 15 Proven Tips to Maximize Muscle Recovery
  4. UC Health. Rest and recovery are critical for an athlete’s physiological and psychological well-being
  6. Healthline. The 7 Best Types of Protein Powder

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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