All athletes, whether professionals with elite status or weekend warriors, should take good care of their muscles to prevent injuries and to enhance their performance. So, no matter which camp you fall into, there are things you can do to speed recovery and keep your muscles in top shape.
If you should develop a muscle injury, Dr. Steven E. Nolan in Sugar Land, Texas, can help. He’s a sports medicine specialist with decades of experience. So, if there’s something wrong, he knows how to treat it. If you’re an athlete, follow these muscle care tips from Dr. Nolan and our experienced team.
When you push yourself hard, your body needs time to rest and recover. When you train hard, work out for hours at a time, or compete, your muscle fibers get tiny tears in them. You get stronger by allowing these tiny tears to heal.
Try cross training by doing a different activity every other day to give all your muscles a chance to recover. Or, try active recovery. For example, if you’re a marathoner, try walking a few miles instead of running the first day or so after a competition.
If you overtrain, you’ll get run down and your muscles won’t be able to function at their best. You could also develop a muscle injury like a strain. Your muscles heal while you sleep, so aim for at least seven to nine hours of shuteye a night.
Athletes need to eat a healthy diet based on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. Be sure to eat enough protein, because protein provides essential amino acids that build and restore muscle fibers. Without enough protein your muscles will break down and you’ll lose muscle mass.
Drinking water and staying hydrated is also essential to every cell in your body. Aim for at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. If you exercise intensely for hours at a time, or workout in extreme heat, you may need more fluids and electrolytes like salt, potassium, and sugar.
Stretching is always up for debate. We recommend active or dynamic stretching, which mimics the movements you’ll be doing in your sport. By moving and warming up your muscles first, you’ll lower your chance of injury. After your activity is done, it’s safe to perform static stretching where you stretch and hold for a certain amount of time. Stretching helps your muscles recover by improving blood flow to the area. It also helps lengthen muscle fibers and improve range of motion, which will improve your performance.
Getting a massage is one of the best things you can do for your tired and achy muscles. A massage improves blood flow to your muscles, which speeds up healing and muscle repair. It also helps keep them from knotting up so they can function properly.
Myofascial release, a type of targeted massage, includes foam rolling. Invest in a high-quality foam roller and use it to roll out tight, sore, and overworked muscles. It helps reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, especially when used on a regular basis.
Some athletes swear by compression garments. These special socks or leggings help improve blood flow to the legs, reduce inflammation, and speed recovery. Other athletes submerge their bodies in an ice bath to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after a hard workout session, game, or competition.
If your muscles are sore or you have a mild injury, try the RICE method — rest, ice, compression, elevation — try topical pain relievers like Biofreeze® or IcyHot®, or take over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and decrease inflammation.
If you think you have a more serious muscle injury, book a consultation with Dr. Nolan to get the care you need. Request an appointment online or call 281-720-6910 today.