Exercise Recovery: 5 Things You Should Do After Every Workout
After a hard workout, some people think their work is over, but before congratulating yourself on a job well done, there are certain things you should do to help with recovery. Your muscles have taken a beating and will hopefully adapt and make gains, but you can help things along by doing these five things after every workout.
Do a Gradual Cool Down
You're tired, and it's tempting to plop down in a chair. Don't do it. As your heart rate slows down, blood pools in the veins of the feet and legs, which can cause you to feel lightheaded or dizzy. Do a gradual cool-down, and give your body a chance to adapt before heading for a comfy chair. Don't “shock” your body by stopping too quickly.
Stretching after a workout helps to return muscles to their resting length while increasing flexibility. There's no real evidence that stretching prevents injury or reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but it feels good to stretch out muscles that you worked hard. The best time to stretch is after a workout when your muscles are warm and have increased blood flow. Static stretching before a workout reduces power in the stretched muscles and may increase the risk of injury. Save your stretches for the end, and do an active warm-up before starting your workout.
Replace Lost Fluids
If you worked hard, you probably sweated hard too. Hopefully, you hydrated well before beginning your workout and sipped fluids throughout, but you still need to up your fluid intake to make up for deficits. Failing to replace lost fluids after a workout can make you feel tired and irritable. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that mild dehydration causes mood changes, problems concentrating and headaches. The best way to determine how much fluid you need after a workout is to weigh yourself beforehand and as soon as finish. For each pound of weight you lost, drink about 2.5 cups of fluid. If you exercised intensely for more than an hour, a drink that contains electrolytes is a better choice.
There's a window period after a workout where your body is most receptive to carbs. If you eat a carb meal within 30 minutes after exercising, you'll replace glycogen stores more quickly. If you've strength-trained, you'll also want to send amino acids speeding to the muscles you worked to help with growth and repair. As with carbohydrates, there's a window period after a workout where your muscles are most receptive to protein. How much do you need? The average person should consume between 20 to 40 grams of carbs and 10 to 20 grams of protein after a workout. A turkey sandwich should do the trick.
Record Your Progress
You are keeping a training journal, aren't you? A training journal makes you more accountable and motivates you by documenting your progress. It also shows when you're slacking off and whether your fitness routine is really working. Write down what you did, how long you did it, your level of motivation and how you felt afterwards once you've completed a workout. You can refer back to this information when you want to see how far you've come or make adjustments to your fitness program.
Now You're Ready to Rest
Once you've completed these five steps, take a rest. You deserve it. Adequate rest is critical for recovery and muscle adaptation. Make sure you're not overtraining and that you're getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Muscles grow and adapt when you give them adequate rest and nutrition between workouts. Give them the downtime they need.