Intense workouts are a key part of improving your fitness. Pushing your physical limits makes you feel strong. When you’re rewarded with a rush of endorphins, your energy and positivity soar.
Waking up with pain and stiffness the next day is a different story. While you certainly conquered your workout, you didn’t take the right steps for proper recovery.
What should I do after a workout?
What’s equally as important as your workout is what you do over the next 24 hours to help your body recover. This is the phase where your muscles rebuild and strengthen, and you prepare for your next bout of exertion.
If you don’t have the time or patience to cover all your recovery bases, even a few will make a difference. Here are eight steps that you can take to improve your workout recovery.
Intense workouts can be sweaty. It’s important to start preparing for this before your workout begins. Experts recommend drinking 6 mL of water per kg of body weight every two to three hours beforehand to ensure that you begin your workout well hydrated.
You should also start rehydrating shortly after your workout ends to help replace the fluids lost through sweat. To figure out how much fluid you lost, weigh yourself before and after exercising.
If you’ve been sweating for more than one hour, you should also replenish the sodium lost through sweat by drinking an electrolyte beverage, or by adding 0.5–0.7 g/L sodium to your water bottle.
Water will usually be enough to help you rehydrate after a moderate workout. To quench your thirst after long or intense exertion, choose something that also contains electrolytes, such as:
• Coconut water for a natural source of potassium, sodium, and magnesium
• Iced green tea with added ¼ tsp of salt per 1000 mL
• A half-and-half mix of fresh fruit juice and water
• A DIY sports drink made from 1000 mL of water, fresh lemon, 1 tbsp of honey, and ¼ tsp of salt
2. Eat a post-workout snack
A heavy training session will deplete a lot of your body’s stored glycogen and amino acids. Eating a snack within the first 30 minutes after your workout can make a big difference in your recovery. This is considered the most critical period for replenishing energy stores and the nutrients needed to rebuild muscle fibres.
A snack that contains a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is considered the best option for supporting muscle protein synthesis. Here are some satisfying post-workout snacks that are easy to fit into a busy schedule or even eat on the go:
• A fresh fruit smoothie to help replenish fluids while providing protein and carbohydrates
• Whole grain toast with almond butter
• A protein shake made with Whey Factors contains 17 g of undenatured grass-fed whey protein per serving to help build and maintain lean muscle mass
• Canned salmon on whole grain crackers
• Pita and hummus
• Greek yogourt with berries
• A banana
3. Supplement for recovery
No matter how nourishing your diet is, there may be times when you’ll benefit from the added support of a supplement. Effective options for aiding recovery include:
• L-glutamine: an amino acid that assists with repairing muscle cells after exercise. Muscle Recovery & Growth Optimizer combines micronized L-glutamine with high-absorption curcumin in a convenient, unflavoured drink mix. It promotes muscle and immune system recovery after periods of intense physical stress.
• Fermented foods: fermentation breaks down otherwise indigestible plant materials to help release nutrients and improve absorption. 100% Fermented Organic Greens contains fermented grasses, fruits, vegetables, and micronized medicinal mushrooms. Each serving provides 6 g of easy-to-absorb vegan protein.
• Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM: three key nutrients that can be taken for ongoing joint support. OsteoMove® Extra Strength Joint Care with Pain Reducing InflamRelief™ Complex combines these and other joint support nutrients to help slow down cartilage degeneration, maintain strong and healthy bones, and encourage the repair of connective tissue.
4. Take an ice bath
Immersing yourself into an icy bath may not sound enjoyable, but it can make a big difference in reducing your muscle soreness and inflammation the day after your workout. Consider taking a 15 minute bath at about 15 °C to support recovery after a workout.
5. Have a daytime nap
If you can fit a post-workout nap into your schedule, it’ll be an advantage. Taking a daytime nap within a couple hours of finishing an endurance session can help with recovery. Even a 20-minute power nap has benefits.
6. Eat a balanced meal
You’ve already had your post-workout snack, but after an hour or two it’s time for a well-balanced meal that helps to replenish energy and reduce inflammation. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the ideal meal will include protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Add some of these mouth-watering options to your recovery menu:
• Crisp greens and in-season vegetables topped with skewers of prawns, lean meat, chicken, or tofu
• Avocado spread on toast with an egg omelette
• Sliced chicken breast with sweet potato spears
• Baked salmon and cauliflower with wild rice
Stretching is an important part of any balanced exercise regime. Taking the time to stretch after your workout helps to:
• Improve flexibility to help avoid future injuries
• Cool you down after exercise
• Disperse the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles
Both pre- and post-workout stretches can help reduce soreness the day after exercise, but if you only have time for one, then post-workout stretches have the greatest benefit.
8. Get a good night’s sleep
The more intense your training load is, the more stress your body needs to recover from. Sleep plays a critical role in your body’s recovery process. In addition to fitting in a daytime nap, getting a full night’s rest helps to improve how you feel and perform in upcoming workouts. Sleep experts recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
If you want your hard work at the gym to pay off, then you need to invest in your recovery. Adding recovery strategies into your training program is a vital part of replenishing energy, repairing muscles, and enjoying your workouts.
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