There are many benefits to doing High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. At least one study proves that an exercise regimen composed of short bursts of high-intensity exercise with a post-exercise recovery period can improve your heart health, lower cholesterol, stabilize sugar levels, reduce fat and increase muscle mass. But to fully reap the benefits of HIIT, your body must recover.
In this article, we give you five effective ways to recover from your HIIT training.
1. Get Some Rest
After your HIIT session, it’s crucial that you rest. Note that when you subject your muscles to an extreme workout, they develop tiny rips or micro-tears in the muscle fibers. As you sleep, your body works to repair these micro-tears, making your muscles stronger. This healing process is called hypertrophy. You need at least 6 hours of sleep after a HIIT session for your body to fully repair and grow the muscle fibers.
Another reason to have enough sleep after HIIT is that a lack of it can slow your metabolism and make you crave carbohydrate-rich foods for energy.
2. Drink Up
By drinking up, we mean water—lots of it. As you engage in any physical activity, your body sweats to cool itself down, and you lose useful electrolytes. More than quenching your thirst, rehydrating is essential as you lose both water and electrolytes when doing HIIT. Water is likewise vital in maintaining your flexibility, which will help you minimize or avoid post-HIIT injuries. While plain cool water is enough to help you rehydrate, you can also consume an electrolyte drink to speed up electrolyte replenishment. If you can get it, you can go for coconut water—it’s the better, all-natural electrolyte drink.
3. Pack in the Proteins
Another essential part of recovery after HIIT is having a meal that is high in protein and carbohydrates. You’ll need this to replenish your body’s protein stores. Although a HIIT session burns up your body fat, it may soon resort to consuming available muscle tissue for energy. To avoid losing muscle mass instead of gaining it, be sure to have enough protein—whether from a meal or a quality protein shake, and have it within an hour after your workout.
4. Perform Active Recovery
If you’re not too sore from the last HIIT session, you may opt to do an active recovery workout. This is a low-intensity workout that reduces the lactic acid present in the muscles and cuts down on post-HIIT soreness and stiffness. Doing a vigorous recovery workout also increases blood flow to your joints and muscles, minimizing swelling. If your muscles are too sore for this sort of low-intensity exercise, you can do a yoga session instead.
5. Get Stretched
The intensity of a HIIT session causes many muscles to do more contractions than average, leaving them compacted and shorter than usual. Stretching will help your muscles return to their original state, and keep them from stiffening up. You should do static stretches, or stretches that require you to extend your muscles, then hold that position for 25 to 30 seconds.
Recovery is important to reap the benefits of HIIT sessions fully. If you don’t get enough rest or don’t consume enough protein after doing HIIT, you run the risk of losing muscle mass or worse, not losing stubborn fat. After a punishing HIIT session, you need to get enough sleep, eat the right food, drink enough water and stretch—do these recovery measures properly to avoid undermining your efforts.