What you do after your workout is an important part of yielding results, such as muscle gain and weight loss, while reducing muscle soreness. A post-workout routine also helps to maintain optimum energy levels as you restore your vitality, making it easier to stick to your fitness plan.
Fitness doesn't end when you finish your workout routine. There are still a few steps to good health. Here are some tips on what to do during your post-workout routine.
1. Cool down
Always finish your workout with a cooldown, which allows your heart rate to gradually return to its normal rate. It also helps to stop blood pooling in the lower extremities, which may make you feel lightheaded or dizzy.
A proper cooldown can also help to relieve stress, prevent muscle soreness, and prevent injury.
Include a stretching routine after your workout while your muscles are still warm. This helps to elongate muscles, relieve tension, and enhance flexibility. Stretching also helps prevent muscle soreness, relieve tension, and increase your range of motion. This improves mobility, promotes good posture, and enhances muscle relaxation.
3. Get Hydrated
When you work out, your body loses water. You want to replenish your body's water supply to help increase muscle flexibility and strength and decrease muscle soreness. And while it's important to hydrate after you break a sweat, you don't need a sports drink—which is brimming with unnecessary calories—unless you've had a lengthy and intense workout.
4. Take a cool shower
Take a cool or cold shower to encourage healing, prevent inflammation, and ease muscular tension. You can even try out an ice bath, which may relieve muscle soreness and inflammation. It may also help you to experience a night of peaceful slumber.
5. Prioritize protein
To repair and rebuild muscle, choose meals that contain healthy carbohydrates and high-quality proteins. Protein options that help to build muscle include:
- lean meats
- whey protein
- nuts and seeds
- soy foods
- low-sugar protein bars
6. Let your body recover
That means you don't have to schedule another intense workout for tomorrow. More isn't always better, so nix the double spin class sessions. If you don't give your muscles time to recover, they won't be able to heal and repair. Mix up your workouts so you're using different muscles tomorrow or schedule a lighter workout.
7. Munch on the right snack
Plan to eat a healthy snack or meal within 45 weeks of completing your workout. This will help replenish muscle energy stores and start the recovery process. Eat foods that contain carbohydrates and protein.
Carbs help to restore glycogen levels so you can recharge your energy levels. Protein aids in muscle recovery and provides amino acids that help to repair and rebuild muscles.
Some healthy post-workout snacks include:
- Nonfat or low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit or granola: Top protein-brimming yet low-in-fat yogurt with ½ cup of sliced bananas, carb-filled berries or some granola.
- Whole-grain waffles with nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt and almond butter: This snack provides an ideal combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat. Top a frozen waffle with 1 tablespoon almond butter and some low-fat Greek yogurt.
- Nonfat or low-fat chocolate milk with whole-grain salted pretzels: Chocolate milk is a well-kept secret for recovery, especially for endurance athletes like cyclists, swimmers, long-distance runners and triathletes. It offers protein and sugars, both of which you'll need after a long workout. (Vegans can try a flavored soymilk.) Plus, you can pour some in a water bottle, making it easily portable. The pretzels can help you regain the sodium you sweat out.
- Tuna on whole wheat: This sandwich packs a carb-and-protein punch while also being low in calories. Put four ounces of water-packed tuna (a lean protein) on a slice of whole-wheat bread. Flavor by drizzling some lemon juice and olive oil on top.
- Banana with almond butter: Grab a banana, a nutritional powerhouse. Top it with 1 tablespoon of almond butter, which offers protein and a healthy fat. Because almond butter is high in calories, consume in moderation.
Beware of protein bars. Sure, they're convenient because they're portable and quick. But, a single bar may actually be two servings, and it may be loaded with sugar. The same goes for smoothies—they're a convenient way to refuel, but watch out for excess sugar and calories.
To get the most benefits from your workout, it’s important to honor and nourish your body by following a post-workout routine and nutrition plan. This allows you to stay healthy physically and mentally. If you don’t follow a post-workout routine, you run the risk of injury or burnout. Plus, it may be more difficult for you to stick to an exercise plan or have the energy to complete your daily tasks.
You may occasionally deviate from your post-fitness routine due to lack of time or other commitments, but overall you should follow the appropriate steps as often as possible.