How To Maximize Gains After Your Workout
If your goal is to make consistent fitness gains, it’s time to optimize your post-workout routine.
It doesn’t matter if you jog, lift weights or do Zumba — the “sweat equity” only requires about an hour of your time. But the other 23 hours are just as essential to staying fit and healthy. Efficient post-workout rituals are vital to your recovery and fuel your future efforts.
Wondering how you can properly replenish your body to get the best results after exercising? Read on to learn more!
It probably comes as no surprise that our muscles shorten and tighten when we skimp in the stretching department. But you may be surprised to learn that tightened muscles are actually weaker muscles.
This isn’t just problematic for gymnasts and other athletes, either. Everyone is vulnerable to the injuries that can occur as a result of tight and weakened muscles, such as joint pain and strains. Static stretching immediately after your workout lowers your risk of injury by keeping your muscles long, lean and flexible.
Drinking water is vital to overall health, and becomes even more of a priority when you’ve working up a sweat. Since you’re losing water through sweat, post-workout is the time to rehydrate. This helps boost your energy levels and is required by virtually every part of your body. Grab the H2O after exercising and make sure to sip water during your workout, too.
Fuel your body
Your post-workout meal deserves just as much attention as what you eat before the gym. This is because your muscles use up their glycogen stores to fuel your workout, which leaves your muscles somewhat depleted afterwards. Other proteins in your muscles get broken down and/or damaged while you exercise, too.
The body’s ability to assimilate and restore glycogen and protein is at a peak for about an hour after you exercise. As an an article on Healthline.com explains, “Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster.”
To properly recover, try to get some protein, healthy fat and carbs. We’re not talking just any old carbs, but complex carbs from whole food sources. Complex carbohydrates are found in food sources like rice, quinoa, bananas, berries, peas, beans, oatmeal and sweet potatoes, so you have plenty of options.
Relieve sore muscles
If you’re sore after your workout, take it as a good sign! That means you pushed yourself enough to create microscopic tears in your muscles and their connecting tissue. Your muscles will heal, and they’ll come back stronger. The soreness will usually go away within a few days, but there are some ways you can find relief in the meantime.
It might seem counterintuitive, but light and gentle movement will feel better than melting into the couch. That’s because physical activity increases circulation, which speeds up the repair process. Taking a walk may help bring you some relief. If your soreness is in your legs, you can also elevate your legs when you return to reduce the swelling that can sometimes accompany soreness.
Foam rolling is also an effective relief technique. Foam rolling is known as a self-myofascial release (SMR). You can use a foam roller, medicine ball, handheld rollers or similar devices to increase blood flow to the tissues that were stressed in your workout.
You can also try using heat or ice. Heat can relax you and minimize pain, while ice can reduce swelling.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress should be an essential part of your post-workout routine. You can log your workout in a journal or use an online app. Paying attention to the day-to-day details keeps you in tune to your body and allows you to find new ways to challenge yourself. Plus, it’s empowering to see how far you’ve come!
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