Top 5 Tips: Exercise Recovery

Osteo for Sore Muscles After Gym

Top Tips For Exercise Recovery!

Football season is back! And with that comes an increase in training loads, a return to games, and potentially body soreness, fatigue, and injuries.

So what is the best way to effectively recover after exercise such as a football game to avoid injury and ensure you get the most out of your training sessions before the next game?

Rehydrate & Refuel For Exercise Recovery

Dehydration negatively impacts sports performance. A loss of 1-3L of fluid/hour can occur during intense exercise, and AFL athletes can lose between 1.2-3.5% of their body mass during a typical match! A fluid loss of 1.6% of body weight can lead to both cognitive and physical impairments, such as reduced strength, slower running time, or poor concentration. exercise recovery

Rehydration immediately after a game or training session (~30-60mins), as well as over the following hours to days, is important to ensure adequate recovery. The volume of fluid that should be consumed is more than was lost during exercise to account for the ongoing loss of water post-exercise. 150% of body mass lost is the equivalent amount of fluid that should be consumed, e.g. if you lost 1% of body mass, then 1.5L is what you should consume.

Rehydration For Exercise Recovery!

So what should you drink to rehydrate? Drinking plain water is important and will provide some rehydration, although is not as effective in restoring the appropriate fluid-electrolyte balance required for recovery when compared to other rehydration alternatives. Rehydration drinks should include sodium, protein, and/or carbohydrates. Milk-based drinks (e.g. cows milk, soy milk or chocolate milk) are shown to be more effective than sports drinks (e.g. Powerade or Gatorade) in providing rehydration post-exercise due to their increased protein, energy, and sodium contents.

Food and Exercise Recovery:

Refuel exercise recoveryEating a meal or snack in the following hours (~1-3hrs) after a game or training session is important to help refuel. Post-game food or snacks should be low GI and contain protein & carbohydrates, such as a peanut butter sandwich, greek yoghurt with berries or a healthy burger on a whole grain bun with lean meat & salad. Protein is important for muscle regeneration & recovery, whereas carbohydrates will help to recharge your fuel stores. Speak to your nutritionist for specific advice about what foods and sources are best for you and your body.

Repair, Rest & Recovery for Exercise Recovery

Immediately after games or training, you may feel tired or a bit battered and bruised, but instead of sitting down and avoiding activity, an active cool-down and acute management of injuries, swelling and bruising is preferred. ( something about Osteo would be great here: Ie if general soreness escalates, and pain becomes worse seeking early advice improves outcomes. Less time in the treatment room and more time on the field.

What is Active Exercise Recovery? Exercise Recovery

Low-intensity activities of at least 15 minutes are used as activity exercise recovery. These may include activities such as foam-rolling, hydrotherapy, swimming laps, yoga, walking, jogging or cycling. This is more beneficial than complete rest. Active recovery may also be used on ‘rest days’ throughout the week when you are not training or playing a game but want to remain active.



Good sleep hygiene is the most underrated, yet best recovery tool and essential for exercise recovery.

For adults, 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is ideal for growth and cell repair and improved mental wellbeing. Bad sleep hygiene or <7 hours per night may lead to disruptions in cell growth & repair and the metabolism of glucose, impaired cognition, and may also increase our risk of respiratory viruses.

Exercise recovery tipsWhat Does Sleep Hygiene (i.e. good sleep habits) include?

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine – reduce screen time and phone use, dim the lights and ensure your room is dark, a cool temperature, and quiet
  • Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, whilst trying to go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day
  • Avoid stimulants (e.g. coffee), alcohol or large, heavy meals too close to bedtime
(Image from Istock)
  • Expose yourself to natural light in the morning – this helps to regulate our natural circadian rhythm!
  • If you find yourself tired throughout the day, maybe that dreaded 3 pm post-lunch slump, a short nap may be helpful for you as it can help improve alertness, mood, and cognitive performance! The ideal time to nap is between 1-4 pm, but ensure these are <30mins to avoid feeling sluggish or resulting in difficulty falling asleep at nighttime.

What About Injuries?

Ice or compression bandages may be used for swelling, pain, and injuries immediately after they occur in a game or training session, however, evidence suggests long-term use of ice (>72-hours) may inhibit or slow the healing of some injuries. Applying ice for 20-30 minutes (followed by at least a 10-minute break before reapplication) a few times a day, for up to 72-hours, leads to vasoconstriction of blood vessels, and therefore slowing blood flow reducing acute inflammation whilst also numbing the area to reduce pain.

If pain or swelling persists or you are unsure of the cause of your symptoms, it is important to check in with your doctor or allied health professional, such as an osteopath, for an in-depth assessment of your injury and possible referral for further diagnostic imaging.

How Can Osteopaths Help With Your Exercise Recovery?

Osteopathic treatment can be used in combination with these other recovery strategies over the following days after a game or intense training session. Techniques used such:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Mobilization techniques Manage your Back Pain with Equilibrium
  • Manipulation
  • Stretching
  • Specific Mobility Program

These may help to improve symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), increase joint range of motion, improve blood flow and overall recovery. Treatment and rehabilitation of injuries sustained during a football match, such as an ACL injury, ankle sprain or shoulder dislocation, can also be managed by an osteopath through hands-on techniques and the prescription of an individualized exercise management plan.


At Equilibrium Sports and Spinal clinic, we thrive on helping our local community with their exercise recovery from sports such as football, soccer or basketball. Our Osteopaths service Malvern, Glen Iris, Ashburton, Hawthorn, Toorak, South Yarra, Camberwell and Caulfield. Book online today, and let us help you turn your pain & soreness into a thing of the past!

Any questions about recovery or want to know more about how an Osteopath can help you?

Feel free to email us at [email protected] 



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