How To Speed Up Muscle Recovery: 14 Proven Ways

Here are some proven tips to ease those aches and help you get back to your training sooner.

Sweat logo

October 4, 2019 - Updated January 22, 2024

How To Speed Up Muscle Recovery: 14 Proven Ways - Hero image

If you’ve been training hard, are trying a new training style or recently kickstarted your fitness journey, you may be experiencing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — that crippling muscle ache in the days after a workout. 

While muscle aches are sometimes just part of challenging your body and getting stronger, there are things you can do to speed up your muscle recovery so you can keep working towards your health and fitness goals!

How to speed up muscle recovery

The Sweat trainers often receive questions from the Sweat Community about how to relieve sore muscles after a workout. 

Your six back-to-basics steps for better muscle recovery:

  • Drink at least 2 litres of water each day

  • Don’t skip your rest days

  • Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night

  • Eat a good source of protein at each meal

  • Stretch after your workouts  

  • Even if your muscles ache, incorporate light movement each day to promote blood flow!

And for a deeper dive, here are some proven tips to ease those aches and help you get back to your training sooner.


Drinking water is essential for your overall health and post-workout recovery, including muscle repair. It’s good to aim for about two litres of water a day, but if you’re active, sweat a lot or live in a warm climate you’ll want to aim for more to replace the additional loss of fluid.

If you’re regularly working up a sweat, is water enough? Do you need special hydration drinks? For most people, water and a nutritious diet will do the trick! 

According to a 2004 study on rehydration and recovery after exercise, electrolytes are important for your nervous system and also get used up during muscle contraction. 

Electrolytes include minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium, which are found in most foods, so you can definitely get enough electrolytes by following a healthy eating diet and consuming plenty of fruit and vegetables.  

Having a glass of milk, coconut water or a fruit smoothie after your workout can help to quickly replace electrolytes without the need for a sugary sports drink, but we recommend seeing a sports nutritionist if you’re training hard, focused on endurance sports, or not feeling your best. 

How To Speed Up Muscle Recovery: 14 Proven Ways - Picture Panel 2 - Desktop

Consume plenty of protein throughout each day

As the American Council on Exercise explains, the primary role of protein is to repair damaged tissues and it should make up about 15-30% of your daily calorie intake. Because the body can only consume so much protein at once, it’s best to eat protein-rich foods throughout the day rather than at a single meal.

If you follow a plant-based diet, make sure you eat plenty of high-protein foods throughout the day such as nuts, tofu, quinoa and beans to give your muscles the nutrients they need to repair. 

If you feel hungry after exercising, a post-workout snack is a great opportunity to get a hit of carbohydrates and protein to help promote your muscle recovery - not to mention a burst of energy to keep you going. 

According to Sports Dietitians Australia, the body is most effective at replacing carbohydrates and promoting muscle repair and growth in the first 60-90 minutes after you exercise,, but don’t worry if your appetite is MIA immediately after working out - these processes continue for another 12-24 hours. 

What about supplements?

We will always encourage you to get your nutrition from whole foods, but we can also appreciate that your body, nutritional needs, dietary preferences and training routine are unique and for many people, supplements can help. 

For example, magnesium plays an important role in protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and while there are plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, it’s also a popular supplement to help ease sore muscles. 

Some trainers and athletes also supplement with branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which come as a powder and can be consumed in a similar way to a protein shake. 

BCAAs are also found in many whole foods like eggs, animal protein, tofu, beans and dairy products (they’re not some magical nutrient made in a lab!), and the research is mixed about the benefits of consuming BCAAs as a supplement, but if you notice a beneficial effect on your recovery and muscle soreness, we can’t argue with that. 

Find what works for you, or ask your healthcare provider for a blood test to see what you actually need before you think about spending money on supplements.

Warm up before your workouts

According to Mayo Clinic, taking the time to complete an effective warm-up may help to reduce muscle soreness and risk of injury. While sore muscles are usually from the hard work you’ve put in, sometimes the pain you feel is actually strain from not warming up properly.

A proper warm-up is especially important before challenging workouts and heavy lifting movements like deadlifts, back squats and pull-ups

After some light cardio, make sure your warm-up includes dynamic stretching to activate the muscles you are about to use. This will help to prevent overstretching, strain or injury during your workout. If you’re working out with the Sweat app, warming up is a breeze as every workout includes a warm-up with movements best-suited to the exercises in your session.

Make time to cool down

Alongside a warm-up, the Mayo Clinic recommends including cool-down exercises after your workout to allow your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure to gradually recover from a tough workout or HIIT session

Once your heart rate has slowed after 5-10 minutes of light cardio, holding a few static stretches can help to improve your range of motion and prevent you from feeling so tight the following day. Have trouble sleeping? A short stretching session before bed may also help you to sleep better.

How To Speed Up Muscle Recovery: 14 Proven Ways - Picture Panel 3 - Desktop

Foam roll 

A 2019 meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery found that foam rolling before and after a workout can also help improve performance while also promoting flexibility. 

Elevate your legs

It’s typical to spend most of your time with your legs down, whether it’s sitting, standing, lying down, walking or running. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, elevating your legs or practicing the legs-up-the-wall yoga pose can help promote blood flow, swelling and the circulation of bodily fluids. Some calming yoga poses may also help to improve circulation.

Take a cool bath or shower

Post-workout soreness is usually caused by micro-tears in your muscles - a normal process that occurs as your muscles adapt to the workload and become stronger. 

If you are still sore one or two days after your workout, a cool bath or shower may help reduce inflammation and support recovery. 

For muscle recovery, some athletes also enjoy cryotherapy (cold exposure, like freezing cold) and contrast therapy (alternating between hot and cold temperatures in a single session). We’re all here for whatever works and research suggests it can help, but always seek advice from your healthcare professional before you try a new health treatment like cryotherapy - especially if you have pre-existing health conditions. 

How To Speed Up Muscle Recovery: 14 Proven Ways - Picture Panel 4 - Desktop

Don’t skip rest days

Alongside getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, prioritising your rest days can also help to speed up the muscle repair process and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on your next workout. Remember, your muscles repair and grow when during rest, not during the workout itself.

With any demanding physical activity, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends scheduling at LEAST one day of complete rest (as opposed to an active recovery day) every 7-10 days to allow your body to recover and adapt. Every Sweat program has rest days included, but if you feel like you need more rest - take it. Your body knows best! 

Keep moving

Light movement in between your workouts, such as walking and stretching, can help to promote blood flow, bringing nutrients to repair the muscles and assisting with the removal of metabolic waste. 

A 2018 literature review published in Frontiers in Physiology found that active recovery done within the first few days of a tough workout reduced the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

Wear compression tights

Research from 2019on the effects of compression garments on recovery observed significant positive effects on performance, with the researchers recommending athletes wear compression tights immediately after intense exercise based on these results.  

Compression clothing may also help reduce your perception of muscle soreness, inflammation and swelling. 

The tightness of the fabric can help to promote blood flow through the deeper blood vessels rather than those on the surface, which may aid with clearing waste and providing nutrients to the muscle fibres.

How To Speed Up Muscle Recovery: 14 Proven Ways - Picture Panel 5 - Desktop

Reduce stress

Did you know your emotional and mental wellbeing can affect your muscle recovery? Taking time to relax is important, as being in a state of stress reduces your body’s ability to prioritise muscle recovery.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at whether chronic mental stress affects muscle recovery, perceived energy, fatigue, and soreness after strenuous resistance exercise, over a four-day period. 

The results showed that higher levels of stress resulted in lower recovery and, conversely, lower levels of stress were associated with superior recovery.

Stress can also impact everything from your sleep to eating patterns, hormones and general wellbeing. All of these things can impact your immune response, which is essential for muscle recovery. 

If you’re under a lot of stress, try using techniques like mindfulness and meditation, include yoga in your routine, connect with your loved ones, or make time for the hobbies and self-care rituals you love. Your stress levels can be impacted by a number of internal and external factors, and if stress is having a consistently negative impact on your daily life, reach out to a healthcare professional.

Follow the principle of progressive overload

Your training program shouldn’t leave you feeling sore for days on end after each workout. Ideally, any resistance training program will gradually increase the intensity of each workout, within your limits. This is called progressive overload, a principle used in many Sweat programs where your training routine undergoes regular small adjustments to your workout volume, intensity, density and frequency.

Remember, just because your muscles don’t hurt doesn’t mean you didn’t push yourself or you’re not making progress!

Listen to your body

All of our bodies are different, so keep checking in with how you feel during your training sessions and as you recover. If an exercise feels too strenuous, take a modification. If a weight feels too heavy, go lighter. If you scheduled a workout for today but you’re too sore, have a rest day instead. 

Based on their findings, Sports Performance Bulletin highlights that while technology can be a useful way to monitor performance and fatigue, you should never neglect the power of self-monitoring. Only YOU know how you truly feel - both in relation to fatigue, soreness and your training. To avoid burnout or overtraining, be aware of telltale signs like poor sleep, fatigue, lowered immunity or constant achy muscles.

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Use these muscle recovery ideas to bounce back after your next workout

Being sore isn’t necessarily a sign of a good workout, however, when you first start a new workout program, training style or take your current routine up a notch, muscle soreness is very common. 

If you make some of these changes to your routine and still find you’re sore after every workout or the pain lasts for extended periods of time, consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

Feeling rested, recovered and ready to get back into it? Check out our trainers' top workout tips.

Sweat logo

A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


Recommended Stories

We have a feeling you’re going to love Sweat

That's why the first week is on us.