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Understanding How Your Body Recovers from Exercise

The NHS states regular exercise reduces the risk of multiple illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Furthermore, getting your body moving and increasing your heart rate can improve your appearance and in turn, improve the way you feel about yourself. The benefits of exercise can make a positive difference to your everyday life.

However, before we congratulate ourselves on being regular gym-goers, most of us are missing the before and after care that we need to help our bodies heal and bounce back.

For instance, understanding how your body recovers from strenuous exercise enables you to give your body what it needs to repair itself efficiently, and build strength. This article talks about what you should be doing before and after a workout, discussing how this supports better health.


Sleep is an inescapable human function, one necessary for our body and mind’s recovery. Many of us are inclined to take it for granted, preferring to condense or skip our rest in lieu of work, socialising, or late nights of Netflix. Hopkins medicines supports the notion that no one can negate sleep and get away with it without consequences. Problems can occur after just one night of poor sleep, such as irritability and poor concentration. And if the urge to skip bedtime continues, the difficulties could develop into severe health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, regardless of whether you exercise or not.

Thankfully, according to the National Sleep Foundation, your sleep improves when you exercise. After a day of exercise, when you do decide to rest your head, a deeper sleep awaits you. However, that means you need the discipline of getting yourself to bed in the first place, particularly if you want to feel the benefits of recovery from exercise. 

After exercise, your body needs the opportunity to enter non-REM deep sleep to stimulate muscle repair. During this period, it is growth hormone, released from your pituitary gland, that gets to work. However, for those fending off sleep and committing to slumber less than the recommended eight or so hours of rest per night, the growth hormone secretion levels decline, muscle mass decreases, recovery slows down, and your capacity to take on exercise at your next workout session is hindered too.

If you haven’t already, you need to create and invest in a sleep haven. This includes researching beds to suit your needs, such as investing in the best mattress for back pain which can ease any pressure and better support your body as it repairs. Or find a bed with temperature control technology to keep you fresh and comfortable at night while you sleep. Plus, think about setting a bedtime each night, to ensure you get an adequate amount of undisturbed sleep. Furthermore, blocking out light in your room, including your phone prevents light exposure from tampering the secretion of melatonin; a sleep hormone that enables your body to relax and drift off to sleep with ease.


Pre and post-workout stretching should be an essential part of your workout routine to improve blood circulation, flexibility, and to help you avoid or eliminate lactic acid buildup in the muscles, which can cause aching and soreness. Reducing lactic acid aids muscle recovery, reduce muscle tension, and prevent the risk of injury to your body during and after your exercise.


Our bodies need water to survive. When you lose fluids through sweat while pushing yourself at the gym, your body hydration levels begin to drop, and your mind and bodily processes begin to suffer. 

Increasing your water intake for exercise is necessary to ensure your muscles can recover from the stress your workout has imposed on your body. Following exercise, your body endures a process called protein synthesis, which according to the National Institute of Health, protein synthesis increases by 50% following resistance training for four hours, to repair your body after exercise and build muscle tissue. However, if you’re dehydrated post-workout, this muscle building process can take longer, and you will more than likely feel sore. To beat the post-workout pain, drink plenty of water prior to your workout. Be sure to take a few sips during exercise too as well as drink water afterwards to restore the water you have lost.

Soft Tissue Therapy

Scientific evidence published in Current Sports Medicines Report (2015) shows getting a massage or engaging in foam rolling following exercise can facilitate muscle recovery and decrease muscle soreness. Furthermore, it can also relieve tension and transition your mind and body into a relaxed state.

Nutritious Food

Your body needs food to recover after your workout to replenish glycogen and support protein synthesis. However, any food won’t do, you need highly nutritious food, such as lean protein and whole carbohydrates. Following exercise, there is a 48-hour window that is crucial for protein synthesis, as such, eating nutritious food within this time is essential for your body to recover. Post-workout nutrition can also improve your body’s recovery rate. If, however, you delay providing your body with adequate food, it shall decrease protein synthesis, and render most of your exercise useless.

Rest and Recover 

Aside from sleeping, restful intervals are necessary between exercise sessions to give your body the chance to power down and rejuvenate. For each period of exercise, this period of rest is just as important. How much downtime you need before your next workout is highly dependant on how intense your workouts are, and what your current level of fitness is. 


Furthermore, we must engage with and listen to our bodies to better understand what they need. It can be enticing to keep working hard and pushing yourself the extra mile. But, without the right balance of rest, you will quickly burn out, or risk injury.

By sacrificing the above components from your workout regime, you impair your recovery and undermine the energy invested during your exercise session. With a better understanding of how your pre and post-workout choices affect your body’s recovery, you can begin to make smarter decisions about what your body needs to benefit from the session. Eating the right food and enabling your body to gain a full night’s sleep every night are vital attributes that contribute towards increasing muscle recovery, strength and stamina to tackle your next workout.

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Owner of Personal Trainer, Father and fitness copy writer. Working hard making the world fitter and healthier!

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