Active vs Passive Recovery- Fastest way to recover

Coach, can I workout daily or what am I supposed to do on workout recovery days is one of the most common questions. 

I understand that you guys want to stay on the fitness track and recovery days doesn’t really fit well into the planning. 

Don’t want to skip training because you want to reach a bodyweight goal before a specific event? Let me remind you one thing, your nutrition and diet plan is the key factor to reach your goal, training works as a catalyst to boost up fat loss. 

The importance of workout recovery:

Being motivated about the regular workout is good but overtraining them will lower their performance and also have negative effects on metabolic rate. 

Using the same muscle groups over and over again is a sure-fire way to get injured. Whether you are a professional athlete or a regular gym-rat, you will need a good workout recovery for improved performance and weight loss. 

What to do on workout recovery days?

A muscle recovery routine can be classified into 4 phases, every phase is important to accelerate the whole process of rehabilitation and improvements. Four phases are as follow-

  • Active recovery schedule
  • Passive recovery
  • Fueling
  • Therapeutic solutions 

Let’s understand each of them in detail. 

Active recovery

It’s for those who don’t want to miss their workout but their body seeks some recovery time. 

No pain, No gain. This motivation is certainly not true when it comes to the healing of muscle. Forcing muscle into regressive training without substantial recovery time can lead to muscle overuse, injury and a decrease in performance. 

Active recovery routine involves body into low-intensity aerobic activities that are not hard on the body and allows you to burn some extra calories while recovering from the previous workout session. 

Fifteen participants were recruited to take part in this study conducted by the American Council on Exercise and Western State Colorado University. All of them were regular exercisers and were considered low-to-moderate risk. Their descriptive attributes were as follows:

  • Age: 26.5 ± 8.4 years
  • Weight: 154.9 ± 24.4 lb (70.4 ± 11.1 kg)
  • Height: 67.6 ± 3.8 inches (173.4 ± 9.7 cm)
  • Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max): 50.2 ± 7.0 mL/kg/min

Results were clear, participants who were following the active recovery routine were able to perform better, why this happened? Because active recovery allowes a better clearance of lactic buildup which in-turn lead to better performance and lower muscle stiffness.

What kind of active recovery are good? 

As specified earlier, active muscle recovery sessions is a low-intensity workout that can keep you in a workout mode without putting any stress on the muscles. Some of the most convenient active recovery work can be: 

  • Long Walks
  • Slow jogging sessions
  • Going for a bike ride with a partner
  • Swimming
  • Go for hiking 
  • Yoga classes.
  • A baseball or soccer game.
  • What about some dance sessions? 

Overall, the active recovery period is a fun way to burn a moderate amount of calories without going wasted. It’s also a great escape to spend some quality family time. 

Passive recovery

Passive recovery involves no activity and you allow your body to completely rest for a particular duration. 

Active recovery has been proven a better alternative to enhance endurance and power of athlete, then why the heck someone needs a passive recovery? 

Most of us go to the office five days a week and get two days off on the weekend, right? Are those two days off enough for the proper recovery? No. Sometimes you just need a week-long vacation to bounce back with better intensity. The same goes for Passive recovery.

You opt for active recovery for 2-3 times a week but your body needs periodic passive recovery time after every 6-8 weeks of intense training. 

This passive recovery period helps in bouncing back to the workout with greater intensity and it also allows your body to break the plateau. I personally suggest restorative spa sessions for accelerated recovery.

An average fitness enthusiast needs a week of a passive break after every 8 weeks of workout for the best performance. Don’t forget to follow a healthy diet followed by some intermittent fasting days. This routine will help in clearing out toxins and assist in gaining the stronger version of yourself. 

Active vs passive recovery.

Fueling (what to eat)

Whether its Strength training or endurance training they don’t just burn tons of calories, they also break down muscles and depletes stored glycogen. 

It orders to promote the restoration process it’s necessary to recognize the three aspects of fueling for recovery. Three main ingredients of refueling: 

  • Rebuilding your muscle protein
  • Restoring glycogen reserves
  • Rehydrating the lost liquid.

Rebuilding your muscle protein: 

Regardless of what kind of training you are involved in, muscle tissues experience micro-tears on the cellular level. It’s important to rebuild those micro-tears by fueling them with essential amino acids. 

How to fuel it: having a post-workout protein shake is highly suggested, these protein shakes are proven to improve the repair process and improve athletic performance. 

Protein shake vs whole meal: I will always prefer protein shake after a training session, liquid meals are readily absorbed which results in the faster recovery process. Additionally, sometime athlete might not feel the hunger after an intense workout, these shakes are always easy to consume. 

Restoring glycogen reserves: 

The muscle uses carbs as a primary source of fuel and the entended training routine can cause the depletion of glycogen reserves. 

Consuming some quick energy bars can help in getting back the body’s glycogen reserves. 

Chocolate milk is my top choice to fulfill instant energy needs. Rice, pasta, bread, and fruits are all excellent choices to incorporate post-workout. Don’t consume them in big quantity. 40-60 grams of carbs are enough to get back the lost energy. 


The body loses large about of water weight after an intense workout. It’s not just the water that your body is losing, you are also loosing essential electrolytic liquids. 

Dehydration may lead to feeling dizziness, headaches, loss of coordination and physical performance

Low-calorie sports drinks can do the work for you. Adding some electrolytic salts in plain water can be a cost-effective solution to replenish sodium and potassium levels. 


Sleep has a significant effect on your muscle recovery and growth process, we all know that. But there are few other pointers that you need to know as well. 

To get the best restoration, the body needs to have undisturbed 7-8 hours of sleep. 

The pituitary gland secretes growth hormones when your body is in a state of deep sleep and not enough sleep may lead to a decline in growth hormone. 

Are you someone who struggles with a quality night sleep? Some natural sleep supplements (Chamomile, Melatonin, ZMA, etc) and meditation to help you achieve restful sleep (20). 


Can I workout twice a day?

It’s okay to workout twice If you are chasing a definite goal under the supervision of expert trainers while following the right diet pattern.

Isolation and nutrition is key to success when it comes to workout twice a day. 

You cant do compound movement twice a day and expect accelerated results. It will always lead to constant fatigue and injuries. 

Can I workout daily? 

Workout on a daily basis is something many people do, but it’s essential to plan it the right way.  

Combining high-intensity training with low-intensity training is a safe route to a daily workout. While high-intensity training allows the body to grown and improve performance; low-intensity workouts allow active recovery periods. 

After every 6-week, give your body a break of 1-week passive recovery. 

Post-workout recovery before bed

Sleep is the time when your body does most of its recovery work. Here are some quick tips to recovery routine before bed: 

  • Eliminate blue light 1-2 hours before you go to sleep. 
  • Epsom salt bath can help in removing stiffness and relaxing muscles. 
  • Eliminate any kind of caffeine 5 hours before bed. 
  • Consume chamomile tea before bed, it’s proven (21, 22) to help you achieve restful sleep. 

Workout recovery period

If you are suffering from muscle soreness after an intense training session then it might last from up to 72 hours. 

Soreness occurs because of the micro-tears and lactic buildup within muscle tissues. You can accelerate the healing process by consuming a high protein diet, moderate carbohydrates, 8 hours of sleep, stretching, EPSOM salt bath and massage gun.  

How Often Should I Rest?

That depends on the intensity of the workout and how long you have been continuous with exercise. 

Beginners: You should take a day off after every two days of training. 

Experienced: 5 days workout and 2 days of active recovery are going to be more suitable for your needs. 

Professional athletes: Depending on your future goals, your coach is the right person to decide the rest your body needs.

Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments as always. This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.    

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