9 Post-Workout Recovery Tips

By:    Published: September 9, 2012

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We often hear how important it is to “warm up” for our workout, but the period right after exercising is often ignored. Maximize your exercise efforts and feel better afterward by using these post-workout recovery tips.

Cool Down

Just as you warmed up before your workout, it’s important to cool down as well. The best way to do this is to slow down the intensity considerably rather than abruptly stopping at the end of your workout. Doing 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity activity helps remove lactic acid from your muscles and may reduce muscle stiffness.

Stretch

Going with the idea of mirroring your warm up with a cool down, it’s also important to mirror the habit of stretching before your workout and do so after as well. Post-workout stretching is essential way to help your muscles recover and prevent stiffness. You can even incorporate some stretching into your cool down period.

[Related – 10 Easy Stretching Exercises For Flexibility]

Drink Water

It seems obvious, but many people forget to drink enough water after their workouts. You need more than just a sip to quench your thirst. Drinking water after your workout replenishes your body and supports metabolic function. It’s especially important for those who are doing any type of endurance workout or high-intensity exercise to drink enough water post-workout.

[Related – Exercise And Hydration: Tips For Maximum Performance]

Eat Carbs

Carbohydrates stored as fat and glycogen are your body’s main source of energy during high-intensity exercise. When you workout daily (or even every other day) it doesn’t leave your body much time to replenish its glycogen levels. Therefore, it’s important to give your body a carb boost after a workout. Doing so will help prevent muscle soreness and low energy levels. Some great sources of healthy carbohydrates include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits and fruit juices
  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Whole grain products such as bread, pasta and rice
  • Sports drinks, gels and bars (just make sure they don’t contain excessive amounts of sugar)

[Related – 7 easy Tips To Reduce Soreness After A Workout]

Eat Soon

Another benefit of getting your carbs right after a workout is the “carbohydrate window.” This is a 60-minute time period (particularly the first 15 to 30 minutes) after a workout when the muscles convert carbohydrates into glycogen up to three times faster than at other times of the day. Have a moderately sized meal right after a workout to maximize the efforts you undertake when exercising and to help avoid fatigue.

Eat Protein

Along with carbs, you also need protein after a workout to help build and repair your muscles. However, you only need a small amount of protein compared to the amount of carbs you should eat. The best ratio for protein to carbohydrates is about 1:4. Interestingly, one of the best post-workout recovery drinks is chocolate milk because it fits this ratio perfectly. However, other options include low-fat yogurt mixed with granola or peanut butter on a whole-wheat muffin.

Massage

Consider scheduling a massage after your workout for a boost in post-workout recovery. Massage has been shown to help reduce inflammation caused by exercise and speeds up the recovery process for your muscles. At the same time, it also gives your cells a boost when it comes to adapting to endurance exercise. Best of all, these benefits were found even with just 10 minutes of massage after a workout.

De-Stress

One point that many people overlook in post-workout recovery is their stress level. According to a recent study, individuals with high ongoing stress levels were found to recover from a workout slower than those with lower stress. One reason for this difference is that stress affects hormone levels, which in turn can make it harder for the body to repair itself after a workout is complete. Another factor is whether stressed individuals are caring for themselves properly on a daily basis by getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods. However, you shouldn’t skip workouts if you’re stressed since it can be a great way to relieve stress. Instead, incorporate stress relief methods into your daily routine, such as yoga or breathing exercises, and make sure to get enough sleep and eat well.

Rest

Although lying on the couch the rest of the day won’t help maximize your workout, it is important to get enough rest so that your body has time to recover. This is especially important if you feel very tired or sore after a workout. Give yourself a little time to recuperate after a workout when you’re tired and you’ll find that you feel better the rest of the day. Just don’t forget about the other post-workout tips here, like taking time to cool down and replenish yourself with water and healthy food.

There are numerous ways to help your body recover after a workout, but the important thing to keep in mind is that using these tips helps to maximize the effects of your workout. Whether you want to run longer, build more muscle or just feel better, taking the right steps after your workout is over will help you achieve your goals.

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