Recovery from Exercise


If you ever have felt that you are having a hard time in your recovery from an exercise. This article will show you how to reduce muscle soreness and upgrade your fitness level.

What is DOMS?

DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, it’s that tender achy soreness in your muscles the day after a workout routine. We’ve all fallen victim to it, some worse than others, and it can actually be a good sign (depending on the level of soreness) that we are getting stronger after a workout. Although it isn’t a direct indicator of progress, it suggests that our muscles are rebuilding and adapting after a workout.

How does it work?

During a workout, we overload our body to the point where muscle fibers tear on a microscopic level and exhaust a multitude of ATP energy. When muscles tear, the inflammatory response occurs which attributes to the next-day soreness, but the energy expenditure can also alter the acidity level of muscles which directly affects next-day soreness as well.

This all seems unhealthy from an individual standpoint, and it can be if we stay in a catabolic state of breaking down muscle and expending energy such as running multiple marathons in a row or max deadlifting every day. Luckily, given the right tools and enough time, our body naturally recovers from the microtears, metabolite build-up, acidity imbalance, etc… and actually relies on this cycle of muscle breakdown and energy expenditure to become stronger. We don’t actually get stronger during the workout, but rather the recovery period afterward because our body heals by rebuilding and adapting to whatever the imposed demands from training were. 

Recovery from Exercise

The key ingredient to getting stronger and more fit is the aftercare of a workout. Although the body naturally recovers, there are ways to make recovery more effective and efficient. Each person responds differently to certain recovery methods; it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you.

No matter what method you use, recovery always takes time, and time can be tricky because if we take too little time to recover we are more susceptible to injury. Whereas too much time and our bodies adapt to the imposed demands at a much slower rate. That’s why understanding and listening to our bodies is crucial to make sure we aren’t susceptible to injury; but still progressing at a comfortable rate in terms of frequency, intensity, and volume of exercise.

DOMS is just one symptom to be conscious of when exercising. But let’s talk about how we can potentially reduce the soreness and optimize recovery. 


The oldest and most reliable form of recovery is sleep. Although you may think that you are sleeping enough, the quality of sleep is just as important. Health guidelines show that the optimal amount of sleep is between 7 and 9 hours for an average adult, but the quality of sleep is a little harder to measure because it tracks your circadian rhythm cycles rather than hours.

Hormones such as Cortisol, Melatonin, Leptin, Ghrelin, and even Insulin can affect your quality of sleep. For example, if you’re stressed out from work, if you’re staying up past your bedtime using your computer, or even if feel hungry. So a good place to start experimenting with your sleep is with your bedtime ritual.

How to do it?

Mindfulness meditation before bed, nose breathing exercises to enhance airflow, or listening to white/brown noise to block out environmental sounds can decrease your stress levels. Blocking out the lights in the room or wearing a blind is also a good way to make the sleeping environment less stressful and a good transition into enhancing melatonin levels before rest. Natural light influences largely your Melatonin, which is why we sleep during the night and work during the day. Melatonin will start to kick in as the day gets darker, but artificial light from phones, computers, televisions, etc. can also influence.

Your body may want to be asleep by 9 pm but won’t produce melatonin until later because you’ve been exposed to that light. Switching to a warmer color or blocking out the blue light on screens can restore circadian rhythms back to normal; just relying on less artificial light during the day and night can help as well.


As aforementioned, nutrition can play a role in how we sleep because of hormones such as Leptin, Ghrelin, and Insulin. What we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat affect these hormones directly. Eating too much too early in the night may leave you feeling hungry at night, throwing off your circadian rhythm. Having a small snack at night before you start your bedtime ritual can enhance metabolism as your body rests; it would satisfy your hunger hormones until you naturally wake up.

What to eat?

Just like anything else, it matters what you are eating too, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates are recommended for a bedtime snack. However, for a pre or post-workout meal, it’s more complicated. Regardless of protein, carbohydrates, or fats, we know that eating alkaline or neutral foods either before or after a workout can help to balance out the pH acidity imbalance and help reduce the effects of DOMS. Alkaline and neutral foods include peas, soybean, and seeds, along with certain vegetables and fruits. Note that most processed foods/meats fall on the acidic side, but are often used for protein consumption after a workout.

Making sure that you have regular eating habits every day plays a big part in recovery. The nutrients we consume from our dinners last night are the tools being used to rebuild your muscles today. Eating after exercising is very important; your body will understand that it can replenish its stores before using more to strengthen the muscles.

Now, depending on your individual goals and activities, your meal plan needs to be tailored in order to be optimized. Runners typically need more fats and complex carbohydrates. Bodybuilders typically need more protein and carbohydrates. However, everyone reacts differently to diets so it takes experimenting to figure out what works best. Usually, a nutrition expert helps out.

Active Recovery

Sleep is what we consider passive recovery, so all of the following methods for recovery will be active recovery.

Myofascial Release

One of the most popular active recovery methods is the myofascial release which focuses on breaking up fascial tissue surrounding muscle and restoring blood flow to a specific area. This includes foam rolling or ball rolling. They can be great self-releasing techniques to learn, or deep/soft tissue massages, dry needling, and active release therapy; it is much more effective as they are performed by professionals.


Aside from myofascial release therapy, there is also cryotherapy or cold therapy. It focuses on reducing pain in a specific area by reducing blood flow and inflammation. This method includes icing, cryo chambers, and ice baths/massage, all of which reduce soreness from workouts, without affecting the recovery.


Opposite of cryotherapy is thermotherapy or heat therapy which offers increased blood flow and circulation to the applied area. Laser therapy, heat packs, Epsom salt baths, and paraffin wax are all practices of thermotherapy. They can be more effective than cryotherapy in terms of recovery.

Compression Therapy

There is also compression therapy which again focuses on the constriction of blood vessels in specific areas to stimulate blood flow for enhanced recovery. The muscular compression from movement is what helps increase blood flow throughout the day. Therefore, tools like Normatec compression sleeves work to compress the muscles and increase blood flow but without actively contracting or stressing the muscle during movement.

Some of these active recovery methods may work for you better than others because everyone has a different tolerance for recovery. Maybe a good night of rest is all the time you need to shake off the last workout, but if you struggle with soreness you can try out any and all of these methods until you find a combination that gets you moving again sooner and feeling better.

If you want to learn more about how not having a hard time in your recovery from an exercise, reach out to us. Connect with us via email or follow us on our social media networks.