If you’re feeling sluggish, beatdown, overtrained, and/or like no amount of work you put in at the gym is ever enough to help you reach your goals, then do yourself a favor: only waking up to drink a protein shake, sleep for the next 72 hours. But, before you do that, pay attention! This article will convince you that if you really want to accomplish those lofty goals (building muscle, burning fat) it’s time to find some balance between exercise and recovery.
The problem most people have when setting out on any endeavor, specifically fitness ones, is that they burn too hot off the bat, then their engine gives out from over-exertion. Kind of like in Mario Kart, when you try holding down on the acceleration for too long during the race’s countdown and find yourself spinning out into seventh place before the real race has even gotten underway.
Don’t be that non-gender binary pronoun. Be patient. And, since we all hate being patient, in this article I’ll provide you with the five best ways to get the most out of your rest and muscle recovery, so when you’re not in the gym, you’re still improving.
Muscle Repair Must Be Priority #1
I used to be the guy that trained seven days a week, two hours each time. My version of a rest day for muscle recovery was thirty minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I also used to be stupid. Well, I still might be stupid, but that’s only with personal matters. When it comes to fitness, age has brought experience…
It’s also brought some laziness. Like, I’m the laziest ambitious lifter there ever was. Not counting powerlifters, of course. Ya’ll take the cake on that one — and probably the second cake too, if we’re being honest.
And on the note of laziness, my tired old man apathy compelled me to learn the best methods for getting the most results in the smallest amount of time. What I’ve found is, well, really what all of us inherently know, but don’t want to admit to ourselves.
How you repair your muscles is just as (if not more) important as how you tear those muscles.
Tearing a muscle group is necessary for growth, but it’s not difficult; go to muscle failure, then a little beyond. Repairing muscles can be a bit trickier, though.
To make sure you’re getting the right amount of rest and recovery (as well as getting it optimally), I will go over the five most critical components and hacks for resting and muscle recovery with the boss-ness of a Snorlax.
Sleep Your Way To Gains
Starting simple, with what you all know you need to be doing. Get yourself some freaking shut eye from time to time. I won’t beleaguer you with the details, because no one likes being told the boring stuff, and sleep is definitely the more boring of these hacks for rest and muscle recovery. But, it does need to be stated.
We do not grow when in the gym. You know that. I know that. Your fourteen year old brother who’s still taking lifting advice on how to build muscles from their high school gym teacher knows that. We grow when we’re resting.
Really, to get optimal recovery, we want to make sure we’re getting minimally six hours of sleep a night. It should actually be between 8-10 hours of sleep for fitness enthusiasts, but let’s be honest…no chance that’s happening. Basically, get as much sleep as you’re able to. And if someone calls you lazy, just say it’s for the gains. They’ll have to understand, and if they don’t, then you don’t care about their opinion anyway. If someone doesn’t respect your quest for gains or improvements to muscle recovery, then they aren’t worth your time.
Things that keep you up at night:
- Cortisol levels too high
- Too much caffeine throughout the day
- Insulin spike
- Dog snoring and somehow making themselves ten times heavier, whilst cuddling you as hard as they possibly can
I can’t help you fix all the aforementioned things. Mankind has been struggling with the weight of their existence forever, and minds far greater than yours (and definitely greater than mine) never figured out how to lighten the load; if anything, their intellect only made things tougher. Your regrets are yours and yours alone, and your dog…well, you know what you signed up for.
I can, however, help with the others.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. It’s similar to adrenaline. Except, that adrenaline surges when you’re being chased by a lion. Cortisol is the anxiety that lingers after the lion has gone off, and it’s this stress hormone that keeps you fidgeting and all that nonsense at night. What you want to do is find a way to maximize your sleep by lowering levels of cortisol throughout the evening. Some very effective options are vitamins like Sleep Support, particularly because it’s got a clinical dose of Ashwagandha in it, and this powerhouse ingredient has been clinically studied as one of the most OP supplements for sleep quality and even testosterone production.
What you don’t want to do is let your cortisol continue climbing up until you try going to sleep. Meaning, avoid toxic people after 5:00PM if possible. Turn off your phone, or at the very least, use it differently. And more importantly than either of those, avoid taking too many stimulants past 5:00.
If you think that alcohol could help decrease that cortisol, or that maybe binge eating Ben & Jerry’s could do the trick, because they both make you feel better, then guess again.
- Alcohol impairs sleep quality, and can hinder protein synthesis.
- Foods with a bunch of sugar in them spike insulin. Insulin can trigger cortisol. And…BAM. Energy levels go up, hindering sleep quality, and then you wake up with the sugar crash. So, way less than ideal. If you must eat carbs before bed, pick something low on the glycemic index, preferably a carbohydrate source that comes loaded with the sorts of vitamins and minerals our bodies like for sleepy-time.
- For example: carbs such as squash, sweet potatoes, and whole grains, when eaten a couple hours prior to bedtime can potentially raise tryptophan levels in the body, and as a result accelerate the time it takes to fall asleep.
This is a technique I’ve grown increasingly fond of, and includes timing nutrients specifically for what you need at any given time.
For example, throughout the day, the nutrients you truly need are those that provide energy for tasks and training/exercise. Whether you go the keto route, low carb route, IIFYM, carb loading, fasting, or whatever, isn’t exactly necessary to decide at this moment.
It’s no secret that when it comes to building muscle, protein is deity (one of the benevolent ones). So, throughout the day, I suggest still ingesting protein, but utilize either carbs or fats for your primary energy. Or, if you’re like me, then stick with caffeine, exogenous ketones, and water.
Directly after your workout, follow this regimen:
- Partake of All Bulk No Bloat for its benefits in protein synthesis, nutrient utilization, mitochondria function, recovery and overtraining prevention, as well as hormone optimization. It’s a super effective way to seriously increase your body’s ability to recover with the feast you’re about to eat.
- Thirty minutes later, have a single serving of Buck Feed Grass-Fed Protein mixed with a single serving of Organic Greens.
- Because Buck Feed only has 120 calories it won’t curve your hunger (which is good), and whey protein can further increase protein synthesis.
- The Greens are for a cornucopia of reasons, one of them being that you’re ensuring your body gets the vital micronutrients it requires to grow at the best time possible since by now your body is a sponge (thank you anabolic window), and greens are — surprise! — healthy.
- Cook or prepare the biggest meal of the day. You will want to indulge in this feast about 30-60 minutes after your Buck Feed shake. Since I usually only eat once a day, for me this meal is stupid massive. But for most, a solid route to go would be something to the extent of .4g of protein per pound of lean body mass. So, somewhere between 50-80g protein (admittedly my math might be off on that). Regarding carbs and fats, I recommend 25-50g of carbs like sweet potatoes, and then maybe an avocado. Or just one or the other (recommended, if cutting is your primary objective). Also, lots of greens.
I also recommend, if at all possible, to make this into an evening routine, especially for those of you whose primary goal is to build muscle, since your cortisol levels will be dropping anyway, and even better…we do our best recovery and repair when sleeping. You might as well optimize that with the most beneficial muscle-repairing nutrients around.
Note: if you go to sleep on an empty stomach, it’s a good idea to throw in an extra serving of L-Glutamine, since it can encourage sleep quality as well as aid digestion, promote more recovery, and all sorts of other great stuff.
Rest Days: The Not-So-Secret-Secret To Building Muscle and Killing Fat
If you are training hard enough, your body will thank you for the extra rest day for muscle recovery. You will grow.
I know, I know. Instagram and all those whatever gurus will tell you that you need to grind every day all day. That’s totally fine for the following types of people:
- Those who have unequivocally epic genetics (for example, Ronnie Coleman has some sort of rare gene that essentially makes him the closest thing to Wolverine, and as such, he reportedly didn’t even need to start taking steroids until after he had his pro card)
- Speaking of steroids, people who use steroids have faster recovery, so they can participate in higher volume, higher intensity, and still grow/cut.
- Disclaimer: I know how your brains work, so I know that you might get the itch now. But be careful. Obviously steroids come with pros and cons, and it’s not remotely my place to encourage or discourage their usage (I won’t touch them, but that’s for personal reasons, like that I’m a genetic freak; kidding, it’s for other reasons which are outside the scope of this article). Anyway, steroids aren’t (can I say weed here?) to be taken lightly; be smart with your decisions. To reiterate, I’m not encouraging their usage, nor am I judging anyone…unless of course you’re a freaking 21 year old who wants to look better for attracting people or validating your insecurities, then yes I’m judging you because that’s asinine.
- Moving on…others who can train every day without negative impact are those who simply put don’t train hard enough. But they look the same all the time and never make gains anyway, so who cares about what they do.
In other words, do not be afraid to take a rest day.
In fact, if you’ve hit a plateau in your training, or noticed you haven’t grown in a while, or feel flatter than usual, try one or both of these experiments:
For those who are focused solely on building lean muscle mass:
Take 3 days off from the gym (no, not a full week, I still don’t recommend that to anyone unless there’s medical reasons). During that time, it might be difficult to adhere to your typical eating habits, as those of us obsessed with fitness have strange brains and somehow said brains tell us that we’re not lifting so we shouldn’t diet either…or I’m just projecting. Who knows.
Anyway, it’s critically important that you eat clean and quality foods during these three days.
Prior to taking those three days off, I recommend training more than just one muscle group, and ideally try a full body hypertrophy training day, along with high intensity techniques. This just helps my mindset, like, “I earned this” and if you trained everything you’re way less likely to break one day in. For a solid workout to try out before your rest, check out this article.
After you’ve done this 3 day rest experiment, start implementing the following rest day routine…
For those who are more focused on losing fat and cutting down (or have already done their three days off), the route to go is to simply add in an extra rest day to your weekly routine.
When I say add in an extra rest day, if you’re only training 3 times a week already, I’m not referring to you.
The most optimal way to add in an extra rest day for muscle recovery is:
- 2-3 days lifting
- 1 day rest
Note: switch around so that the muscle group you want to grow the most is trained on the day prior to resting. The muscle group that you want to increase strength in is best put at the first day after a rest. Yes, there is a difference.
Supplements To Empower Rest & Recovery
It wouldn’t be a proper article if there weren’t some supplement suggestions, so here we are. The following supplements are those that reign supreme when it comes to optimizing your rest and recovery.
- ALL BULK NO BLOAT: Look, I could go into some long description about why you need this ZERO CALORIE LEAN MASS GAINER, I could brag about how revolutionary this formula is, and I could even hammer it down that Bucked Up is the only company with such an obscenely powerful supplement for those who need to get bigger without accumulating fat. But, I would just rather trust that you’re smart enough to come to the conclusion all on your own. Some key ingredients…
- L-Glutamine + HMB
- Phosphatidic Acid
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Betaine Anhydrous
- HICA and Alpha Lipoic Acid
- More…really, just use this link and go get yourself some already, you’ll thank me later
- SLEEP SUPPORT: Formulated to help improve your sleep quality not just tonight, but the next night, and all the nights to follow. Melatonin free, this multivitamin is not for those seeking a crutch to help them limp along while ignoring underlying issues. It’s for those who know that a better quality of life requires time and attention and healing. That being said, Sleep Support combines several clinically studied ingredients that can accelerate time it takes to fall asleep. Without causing drowsiness, or leaving you feeling foggy the next morning — that’s sleep aids’ territory (find out more about Sleep Support using this nifty link). Some key ingredients found in Sleep Support are…
- CBD Powder
- KSM-66 (Ashwagandha)
- The Original BCAAs: You know what they do. At least…come on. You must know what BCAAs do. Delay muscle fatigue, can accelerate muscle recovery, and promote protein synthesis. Also with electrolytes for hydration. For those who want a deeper understanding about BCAAs, read this.
- L-Glutamine: The most abundant amino acid found in our bodies, L-Glutamine plays a critical role in muscle recovery as well as several others. When we train hard, those reserves can get depleted, which can impair recovery. In other words, make sure to never let your Glutamine reserves deplete.
- Buck Feed Grass-Fed Protein: Ummm…it’s protein. The end all be all of muscle building. All-natural. Grass-fed whey. Hormone free. No artificial sweeteners. Tastes great. What more do you need? Aside from the other four supplements recently mentioned, of course.
The Cliff Notes (of Conclusions)
In summary, it’s highly possible that it’s not your workouts that are holding you back, but rather, your approach to resting and recovering. Starting now, pay attention to:
- Sleep length and quality
- Cortisol levels (especially at night)
- Post-workout routine
- Number of rest days, and when to take rest days
It’s no secret that out of all the aforementioned upgrades, the only one that really matters is supplementation. Who needs rest days with epic muscle recovery supplements like All Bulk No Bloat? Who really needs to sleep if they’re taking Sleep Support? (I mean, doesn’t Sleep Support basically replace sleep entirely?) And naturally if you have the right supplements, then your post-workout will be optimized.
In other words, before you get serious about going to bed at the proper hour, or eating the most nutrient dense foods, the most important thing you can do is take that enthusiasm, and rush your goal-oriented little heart right on over to our website and get bucked up (i.e. get stocked up). Read about why pre workout doesn’t affect me.