What to Do After a Workout—Your Post-Workout Guide
You just had a killer workout in the gym and really crushed your goals, so now what do you do post-workout?! Here’s what to do after a workout to maximize your progress and make sure you get the most out of all your hard work in the gym!
What to Do After a Workout
Getting in a good workout is definitely on the list of priorities, but what exactly should you do after your workout? After putting in so much effort, it would be great to not leave any money on the table (metaphorically speaking). There are a few things you can do post-workout to ensure you magnify your progress and treat your body well, especially after a tough session.
Check out this Post-Workout Guide
Step 1: Cool Down
Yes, it may be hard to find the time to add yet one more thing to your workout repertoire, but it is a vital component of a good workout. In fact, it may be the most important thing you do after exercise.
Doing a proper cooldown can help your body regulate back down to your usual temperatures and allow your heart rate to normalize. You can include a variety of active and passive cooldown techniques. However, passive techniques (such as stretching and rolling) seem to be the most beneficial.
Try to involve the muscle groups you worked during your exercise session. Do extra light repetitions (an active cooldown) or, better yet, stretching and rolling those areas for a good, effective cooldown.
Step 2: Stretch
After your workout is the perfect time to stretch. Why? Because your muscles are warmed up and thus more pliable, allowing you to increase your stretching ability over time and to do so without increased risk of injury.
Stretching can also help you relieve some of the soreness that can come with training your muscles because it helps to dissipate the buildup of lactic acid that happens when you train hard.
Step 3: Roll It Out
Beyond stretching is rolling. Using a foam roller after a workout is a great way to transition out of a workout. Gently rolling on the areas you worked can help relieve some of the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you might experience. Studies show that this form of self-myofascial release is an effective way to cool down, relieve muscle tension, and help increase range of motion.
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Step 4: Rest and Recovery
As tempting as it may be to go 100 miles an hour all day, every day, you need your rest, especially post-workout! As hard as you work, your body needs the downtime to repair and replenish itself as well as prepare for your next moves.
Get a solid eight hours of restful sleep each night (some folks may need more), and take at least a day off before working the same muscle groups again. Let them recover fully and for any soreness to go away before hitting those muscles again on your next workout.
What to Eat After a Workout
After you work out, it’s essential that you fuel up properly so your body can recover.
Protein—after tearing down your muscle fibers in the gym, it’s important to replenish your system with what it needs to repair itself. The best way you can do this is to get plenty of protein shortly after you complete your training. Why? Proteins are the building blocks that help you repair torn-down tissue and build muscle.
Repairing of tissue is not possible without proper replenishment, so getting in a healthy portion of quality protein within an hour of your workout is a good strategy.
Carbs—after your workout is a great time to replenish those carbohydrates, too. This (along with your protein intake) will help you build muscle and recharge those batteries.
As you most likely know, you derive energy from the glycogen in your bloodstream. Glycogen is formed from the food you take in, which is converted to sugars and deposited in the bloodstream. You draw on those energy sources during your workouts, leaving you in a deficit. Recharging after training is important, so you can quickly replace the glycogen you lost (with simple carbs, which will be absorbed fast and renew your energy levels) and then add in a healthy mix of complex carbs to supply steady energy over the next several hours.
What to Drink After a Workout
What you do after training is important, and what you take in nutritionally is vital as well. But, it’s also important to get your fluids in, so you can stay balanced and hydrated.
Water—naturally, you’ve been sweating it out and you need to rehydrate! While that may seem like it’s completely obvious, it’s easy to forget to drink enough after your workout to replace what you may have lost during exercise. It’s also easy to underestimate how much you actually sweat, so be sure to drink extra water after you’re done with your training.
Electrolytes—these minerals help to keep your body in balance when it comes to hydration levels, your body’s pH levels, and the way your muscles and nerves work. Electrolytes are comprised of sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and potassium. They help you hold onto water when needed and to release it when the situation calls for it. However, if you sweat too much and don’t replace those fluids with water and the proper mix of electrolytes, you can throw your body off balance.
Also, magnesium, for example, can help to calm your central nervous system after a tough workout, allowing you to sleep and rest more deeply through the night.
How do you make sure you replenish electrolytes after a tough workout? You can sip on water with a quality water enhancer or try a sports drink. Just make sure you check labels to make sure you’re getting what you need and not getting things you don’t want (like excess sugar or additives). You can also glean electrolytes from your foods if you’re sticking to a healthy, nutritious diet, including fresh fruits and veggies, coconut water, some nuts, bananas, poultry, and dairy products.
While the time you spend working out is vitally important, so is what you do after you work out. By taking just a few steps post-workout, you can help improve recovery, so you’ll be able to crush your next workout as much as the last!