Muscle Recovery for Muscle Growth

Discussion in 'Training Forum' started by PreMier, Jul 9, 2006.

  1. PreMier

    PreMier Junior Member

    Muscle Recovery for Muscle Growth

    The harder, the heavier and the more frequently you train, the faster you will growprovided, that is, your body can recover.

    Unfortunately, that last key element is often poorly understood. For example, if you check out a variety of weight training programs, youll find that very few include effective recovery strategies. Any discussion of recovery brings up two obvious questions:

    (1) What is the optimal recovery period?
    (2) When is the best time to retrain a body part?


    The main problem with trying to pin down the optimal recovery period is that the body doesnt recover as a unit. There are actually 4 main parameters of recovery after a workout, and each recoups at a different rate. In the following sections, Ill describe them, going from the fastest to the slowest.

    (1) Energetic recovery. Working out uses up energy, energy stores that must be refilled before another intense training session can take place. There are two types of energy that are the main concern:

    - ATP and phosphocreatine
    - Glycogen

    Unless you are severely overtrained or on a very low calorie diet, the energetic recovery is a matter of hours. At most it should take a few days. High carb meals spread evenly throughout the day plus creatine and ribose will speed up energetic recovery. This is not the major rate-limiting factor of recuperation, although the energetic state of a muscle cell will aid anabolic compensation.

    (2) Hormonal recovery. Intense training disturbs your endocrine system. After a workout your cortisol level can go down, or most likely, up and your testosterone level can temporarily increase before dropping for a few hoursor at worst a few days.

    Most of the time, everything should be back in order 24 hours after normal training. A return to normal homeostasisthe bodys natural balancemay take more time than energy recovery, but it should not be a rate limiting factor either, provided that your training volume is reasonable.

    If your hormonal system hasnt recovered in 24 hours because of excessive training loads, it can be a problem. If anabolic hormone levels are still depressed from say your chest workout, then leg training performed a day later will further exacerbate the deterioration of hormonal homeostasis. Training on a third consecutive day will further worsen the situation.

    By artificially altering their hormones, users of anabolic steroids can train more frequently than they could naturally.

    (3) Contractile recovery. Things start to get complicated here. After a mild, non-traumatic workout the recovery of the contractile apparatus of the musclesactin and myosin as well as other supporting componentsshould be quite rapid.

    Professor Volkov of Russia notes that weightlifters need 16 to 28 hours to recover from a moderately intense workout (16 to 17 hours for a small muscle group and 24 to 28 hours for the larger muscle groups).

    So, even among the muscles, recovery isnt uniform. Volkov also makes an important point to keep in mind: Recovery of the contractile apparatus is a very uneven process. Recovery is very fast for 7.5 hours, and then it slows down.

    When the training load is greater, recovery lengthens from 24 to 48 hours. Again, however, it is a very uneven recovery. After 24 hours, 87% of the weightlifters capacities are recovered. It takes another 24 hours for the last 13%.

    Note that this is true for powerlifters, as opposed to bodybuilders. The negative, or eccentric, part of the lifters lifts arent especially elongated. Since most of the muscle trauma comes from the eccentric component, bodybuilders need far more rest than weightlifters after an intense, traumatic workout.

    As it is with weightlifters, the fist phase of recovery is very rapid for bodybuilders. Eating protein supplements right after the workout further speeds up the anabolic response to training, so recovery should be quite fast.

    Unfortunately, if you inflicted damage to muscle fibers, youll have created small intracellular calcium leaks. Despite ongoing muscle recovery, intracellular calcium keeps accumulating in the wrong places. Within a few hours the body reaches a critical calcium threshold. It starts triggering catabolic pathways that abort the recovery process.

    That delayed aftereffect of training can persist for days because the anabolic pathways are neutralized as catabolism accelerates.

    The concept of biphasal recovery is well illustrated in a 2000 study of strength athletes. The subjects strength recovery was fairly rapid during the first 11 hours after a heavy leg workout. Then, performance deteriorated again for another 11 hours. Force recovery was completed in 33 hours instead of 12. With a milder training protocol, one that was far less traumatic, the subjects recovery was completed within 3 hours.

    Therefore, complete contractile recovery is one of the factors limiting your ability to resume intense training for a muscle group.

    Of course, contractile tissue repair depends on the full recovery of the energetic and endocrine systems, which brings us to another serious limitation to recovery.

    (4) Nervous system recovery. The muscles contract because your brain sends them signals; so the nervous system is a critical parameter in determining your strength. Training fatigues your nervous system, which just as your muscles do, needs time to recover. The nervous system, however, needs an amazingly long time.

    For example, research published in 2000 showed that, whereas leg soreness following intense training disappeared after 5 days, the nervous system needed more than 10 days to return to normal. That makes nervous system recovery a major limiting factor for training volume and strength gains, and as with the endocrine system, hard training on consecutive days can only postpone its full recovery.


    Another study on this subject that has important implications for bodybuilders was performed by Professor Dietmar Schmidtbleicher on physical education students. It may have passed unnoticed, as it is written in German and for unknown reasons was published in two different sport science journals, two years apart.

    The subjects in the test had to perform five sets of three reps on the bench press with maximum weights. One group only had to do the positive part of the press, while the other performed both the positive and the negative phases (a complete rep).

    The researchers measured maximal isometric strength for up to three weeks. In the subjects that only performed the positive part of the lift, strength declined after 48 hours. On day 3 their strength increased by 21%, indicating that recovery was completed and gains started to occur. On day 7, strength was up by 24% over baseline, and after 10 days the subjects strength peaked at 27% over baseline.

    Strength loss was more intense after 48 hours in the group that performed both positive and negative work. After 3 days, strength had increased by 20%. After 7 days, strength was 24% above baseline. After 10 days, it was up by 27.5%.

    Things got more interesting after 3 weeks. While the first group completely lost the training effect, strength continued to rise in the second group and reached an all-time high of 29%.

    The studys effects are important for bodybuilders. A non-traumatic workout produces faster but milder benefits than a traumatic workout. Since the gains made will fade away faster, you need to train more frequently.

    The trauma inflicted on muscles by the eccentric component of each rep translates into better gains, but to get the most out of a traumatic workout, you have to be patientthe full benefits will be greatly delayed.

    To achieve the best gains, you have to reduce training frequency. In other words, you have to adjust the time needed to recover according to the amount of damage inflicted on the muscles. Im talking about dynamic adjustments, a contradiction of what most bodybuilders do by following a very rigid schedule.


    A scientific study, even if it attempts to replicate reality, never truly duplicates it. This one is no exception. None of the subjects were true bodybuilders, so a bench press workout was likely to cause them more trauma than it would seasoned athletes.

    On the other hand, bodybuilders rarely perform only 5 sets for a chest workout, and the greater training load can only increase the length of time they need to recuperate.

    Furthermore, bodybuilders train other muscle groups in the following days, postponing recovery even more. They need more time to recover and to grow. That point is also true for the results obtained by Raastad.

    The fact that recovery time is specific for each body part is key. In an earlier study of strength-trained me, Schmidtbleicher had determined that legs need 72 hours to recover, while the chest needs only 48 hours after training. Thats true when you want a GROWTH response.

    If you are looking for better muscle reactivity, leg recovery time can drop to 48 hours. When speed is your goal, its possible to re-train after only 24 hours rest. Those figures should be taken into consideration when you consider using training schedules designed by some strength coaches and powerlifters. Theyre likely to be far different from what a bodybuilder needs.

    Not only is recovery slower for bodybuilders, but its much slower than was previously thought. Recovery takes many forms and is different for each of your muscles. Whats more, its byphasal. You have to become fami[​IMG] with all the pathways involved in the recovery processes and address each of the specifically to speed up recovery.

    Only then can you plan an active recovery strategy for accelerating the hypertropic response.


    Volkov, VM (1977). Vosstanovitelnyje Processy V Sporte. Fitzkulutruia I Sport. Moskva.

    Raastad, T. (2000). Recovery of skeletal muscle contractility after high- and moderate-********* strength exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 82:206.

    Deschenes, M.R. (2000) Neuromuscular disturbance outlasts other symptoms of exercise induced damages. J Neurol Sci. 174:92

    Schmidtbleicher, D. (1998) Zeitlich verzogerte effekte beim krafttraining. Leistungssport. 3:33

    Schmidtbleicher, D. (2000) Anpassungen nach krafttraining mit maximalen lasten. Sportwissenchaft. 30:249.

    Schmidtbleicher, D. (1999) Recovery following strength-training seesions with different training regimenintramuscular coordination vs. muscle hypertrophy. Rome: Fourth annual Cong Eur Coll Sport Sci. 72.
  2. The Animal

    The Animal Junior Member

    I just wanted to put this back into the shuffle. This gentleman deserves an A. One hell of a lecture.
  3. role model

    role model Junior Member

    For those who are unsure as to whether they are getting sufficient protein, is protein status can be ascertained through nitrogen testing. What is nitrogen? Nitrogen is a compound unique to protein that can provide a direct measure of ones amino acid (protein) status.

    Carbon, Hydrogen & Oxygen
    Among these, only protein contains the additional nitrogen molecule. Therefore, nitrogen excretion (meaning the amount of protein being eliminated from the body) can be measured to determine the amount of protein present in the body, and given up to 70% of protein is found in muscle tissue, this gives an excellent indication of the body's muscle building potential.

    If the body is excreting more nitrogen than is being consumed, this sends out the warning signal that one should immediately increase their complete protein intake, to offset this nitrogen deficit.
    In fact, nitrogen testing is the most widely accepted laboratory test used to determine the anabolic status of the body - it shows the body's nitrogen balance, or the extent to which the body is maintaining sufficient protein balance.
    There Are Three Basic States Of Nitrogen Balance
    Positive: This is the optimal state for muscle growth - where the nitrogen intake is greater than nitrogen output. Essentially, it shows the body has sufficiently recovered from its last workout. The greater the nitrogen balance, the faster is workout recovery. This is the body's anabolic state.
    Negative: This is the worst state a bodybuilder can find themselves in - where nitrogen loss is greater than nitrogen intake. Not only is nitrogen drawn away from muscle, where it is needed for growth, it is also taken from the vital organs where serious damage can occur. Of course, negative nitrogen balance also destroys muscle and is consequently considered a catabolic state.
    Equilibrium: This state should be what a bodybuilder might achieve at the very minimum - where nitrogen intake and loss are equal. The trainer in this state is not regressing, nor are they really gaining any appreciable muscle.
    How Nitrogen Is Measured
    In scientific practice, initially nitrogen balance was tested for by carefully measuring the nitrogen content of foods. This content is then compared with the amount of nitrogen excreted.
    The resulting value is the current nitrogen balance of this body. A simpler, more common, and exact, method involves measuring urine urea nitrogen loss - as 90% of nitrogen is lost through the urine, via the kidneys.
    Whatever method is used, essentially ones nitrogen status is ascertained by measuring the amount of nitrogen in the diet minus the amount excreted over a 24-hour period.
    How Negative Nitrogen Balance Can Occur: What To Watch For
    As mentioned earlier, protein consumption is crucial are far as enhancing nitrogen balance is concerned. A negative nitrogen balance may result from consuming an insufficient amount of high biological value proteins, poor quality proteins (lunch meats, fatty meats, and vegetables for example), or protein sources lacking an optimal balance of the essential amino-acids.
    On a more serious level, a continued negative nitrogen balance will result in the body consuming its own blood products to support the internal organs.
    A severe lack of protein equates to fewer of the antibodies which are needed to fight infection - bacterial infections may result from this. The bloated stomach (seen in many third-world populations) ultimately results from the negative nitrogen imbalance induced bacterial infections, and death occurs soon after.
    Proteins importance, in this instance, is underscored by the fact that regardless how many nutrients are consumed at this point, death will occur if protein is not supplied.
    Insufficient carbohydrate and fat consumption. To support protein synthesis, good quality fats and carbohydrates should be available for energy purposes. If one consumes primarily protein, without considering the importance of the other macronutrients, the body may metabolize protein for energy purposes, thus lowering the nitrogen balance - valuable amino acids will be shuttled to vital organs thus depriving the muscles of exactly what they need for growth.
    Overtraining: Training involves breaking down muscle tissue. Protein and rest help to regenerate these tissues. Too much training, coupled with insufficient protein consumption will hasten a negative nitrogen balance.
    Following a training session, muscles soak up nutrients (including protein) like a sponge. If training is undertaken to frequently, these nutrients might eventually fall short of supporting continued growth.
    How To Achieve A Positive Nitrogen Balance

    Rule 1

    The fundamental rule when aiming to increase nitrogen balance is to eat sufficient complete proteins.
    Indeed, a caloric surplus of protein should be maintained at all times, to keep nitrogen balance positive. It is advisable to eat about six meals (each spaced two-three hours apart), each containing around 30-40-grams of protein, per-day.
    The protein sources listed in this article are the most complete sources and should be eaten at each of these meals. Indeed, the idea is to continually increase the uptake of amino acids into the muscles. With this is mind, some key pointers can be followed:
    To spare muscle protein breakdown during training, increase insulin (an anabolic hormone, which increases the uptake of amino acids and glucose into the muscle) by consuming a liquid meal containing protein and carbohydrates one-hour before training.
    Immediately following training, consume the same protein/carbohydrate drink to saturate the muscles with amino-acids, and enhance protein synthesis.
    Directly before bed, consume a drink containing both whey and a slow release protein like micellar casein, to tide the muscles over during this catabolic (fasting) period.

    Rule 2

    Achieve sufficient rest.
    Resting the muscles following intense training is essential, if protein synthesis is to take place. If training sessions are too frequent, a protein surplus might be used to fuel training efforts, rather than maintaining a positive nitrogen balance.
    Remember, if one finds themselves in a negative nitrogen balance, all training should be ceased and protein intake should be increased significantly. If training continues, muscle might continue to deteriorate.

    Rule 3

    Train in an anabolic fashion.
    The idea when training to maximize positive nitrogen balance is to stimulate the greatest amount of fibers with the least amount of muscle break-down.
    Upon finishing a training session, the muscles should be in an anabolic state, as this will accelerate a positive nitrogen balance. Long sessions usually leave the muscles exhausted in a negative way, and the body is left in a catabolic state as a result. Training in an anabolic fashion involves:
    Training when the body is sufficiently rested from the last session - in other words, in a positive nitrogen balance.
    Workouts should be kept short and intense - training duration between 30-45 minutes long, two-three exercises per body-part.
    Train the body again, only when it has been rested.
    Dorian Yates' style tended to replicate this anabolic method, and if his results are anything to go by, he certainly achieved a positive nitrogen balance.

    How Much Protein Do Bodybuilders Need?
    The general rule, in terms of protein intake for size gains has, for some time, been one-gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Certainly, the recommended daily allowance (RDA), for the general population, of 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight is way off the mark for bodybuilders and other strength athletes.
    A nitrogen balance study of bodybuilders demonstrated an increased protein need relative to controls and estimated the RDA for bodybuilders to be 1.7 g/kg total.
    In another study, impressive strength gains of 5% and size of 6% were seen over several months of strength training in world-class weight lifters when they increased their dietary protein from 1.8 to 3.5 g/kg of body weight per day.
    Both these studies underscore the greater need among strength athletes, for a higher protein consumption. For the average, non-pro, bodybuilder, it is best to err on the side of caution and consume more than the one-gram-per-pound guideline, to ensure maximal nitrogen retention.


    A fundamental prerequisite of any bodybuilding program, is a sufficient intake of complete proteins. A positive nitrogen balance is an accurate indication that one is consuming adequate protein.
    Indeed, keeping the muscles saturated in nitrogen, given this is a direct measure of protein status, is arguably the single most important variable a bodybuilder can assess. Follow the guidelines in this article to offset the dreaded negative nitrogen balance, and grow.
    Fritz, B.(1991). Balance: What Growth is all About. Muscle and Fitness. December, 1991.
    Lemon, Peter, "Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids?" International Journal of Sports Nutrition, S 39-61, 1995
    Tarnopolsky, M, Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes." Journal of Applied Physiology, VOl 73, No 5, pgs 1986-1995, 1993
  4. oldtimer

    oldtimer Junior Member

    A must read. Shameless bump.
  5. jasthace

    jasthace Member

    Good thread
    2 x excellent posts
  6. Preacher

    Preacher Junior Member

    If only I could read!
  7. zkt

    zkt Member

    Role model- I have a case of mild renal impairment. Does all that you said still apply in this case ?
    Latest labs

    urea nitrogen 27mg/dl (8-22)
    sodium 134 mmol/l (135-145)
    potassium 5.1 (3.5-5)
    creatinine 1.5 mg/dl .(5-1.3)