By Amanda Morgan
Going to the gym is both a mental and physical struggle at times. After an intense workout it can be easy to move on with the day and feel satisfied in knowing that the workout is completed. However, what a person does after a workout is equally as important as the workout itself. Proper care of the body post-workout may promote better results at the gym and better recovery after pushing one’s body to its limits. When people neglect their bodies after a workout they find that they are not getting the results they expected. Read this article to learn nine ways to maximize the exercise you do after you are done with the workout.
The more exercise the better, right? Studies have shown that workout are more efficient when the body is given time to recuperate from strenuous exercises. When the body is overworked, people experience a decreased performance in future workouts. If muscles are not given a proper recovery period, they have no time to strengthen. A noticeable increase in muscle size and strength actually occurs in the days following a workout and not during the fitness routine. Recuperation time varies between people; some people do best with four days on and three days off while others can handle six days on and one day off. The amount of resting time depends on a person’s body and their muscle strength. A clear sign that a person needs to take a day to rest is when they notice that their performance is diminishing and they are tiring easily.
2) Eat Healthy
The food that people consume after a workout can be a determining factor on the success of a workout. Certain foods will promote muscle growth, while others will allow for a speedier recovery. Protein such as chicken or eggs will encourage muscle recovery. Foods filled with protein will also maintain blood sugar levels after a draining workout. The key to eating after a workout is to eat enough to satisfy one’s hunger but not feel full to the point of nausea. One of the easiest foods to eat after a workout is a smoothie full of fruits and vegetables. Smoothies are easy for the body to digest and to get the nutrients it so desperately needs post-workout. The best part of a smoothie is the magnitude of combinations possible when creating it. This will ensure that the post-workout meal is neither repetitive nor boring.
Stretching both before and after exercising can benefit a workout. While most people recognize the benefits that occur from stretching prior to workout, few people realize the impact it has on the body post-workout. Stretching after a tiring workout, allows the muscles to recover faster and prevent muscle fatigue. This will allow a person to get back to gym sooner than if they experienced pain from overexertion. Post-workout stretching can also promote flexibility in different muscle groups around the body. Increased flexibility is critical in reducing tension in the body and it makes other exercises easier such as doing squats. Stretching increases a person’s chance of having a more efficient workout next time they go to the gym since their muscles will be less fatigued and they will be more flexible.
4) Hot and Cold
Strained muscles are unfortunate side effects of a hard workout. How a person takes care of their unplanned injuries post exercise may determine the speed of their recovery. Most people favor either hot or cold compresses after a strenuous workout. Doctors are currently recommending that using a combination of both may be the best way to alleviate pain and promote healing. Ice slows blood flow while on the other hand heat speeds up blood flow. Heat is best used for relaxation after a hard workout and to reduce pain in overworked muscles. Juxtaposing heat is cold which is applied to muscles which are strained, damaged, or broken. It can prevent bruising and allow the body to cool off faster after working out. It is important to listen to the needs of the body when determining hot or cold and always listening to medical professionals when in doubt.
The best thing a person can do for their body after a workout is to sleep. Relaxation is key after a workout. When the body is able to finally unwind, it can begin to build stronger muscles and repair the damage created through the exercise. People who do obtain a proper night sleep may see an increase in weight despite the workouts they complete during the day. Insufficient sleep will cause the hormones throughout the body to be unbalanced and may cause excessive hunger. The body may become stressed after not sleeping and release stress hormone signals which increase retention of fat cells despite hours put in at the gym. By getting a proper night sleep of seven to nine hours, people can prevent undoing all of the hard work put in at the gym.
6) Post-Workout Protein and Carbohydrates
For people looking to build muscle from their workout, post-workout food is just as critical as the workout itself. Two types of food that should be eaten following a workout are protein and carbohydrates. Most athletes recommend a protein powered shake made of 100% whey immediately after rigorous exercise. These powders can easily be made into a smoothie in three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. The recommended amount is one gram for every pound that a person weighs. Extra protein in the body following a workout allows for a speedier recovery and faster muscle growth. Do not fear carbohydrates when consuming a post-workout snack. Most people will indulge in protein but forget about carbohydrates. A good source of carbs that will not slow down the digestive system are white potatoes. Make your workout the best it can be by eating a proper amount of both protein and carbohydrates.
Hydration is key during all parts of a workout. When people forget to drinking water after exercising, the entire workout may become a waste. The goal of post-workout hydration is to replenish the water lost from the body during a workout. One easy way to tell if a person has had enough to drink following a workout is the color of their urine. It should be a light yellow color. Dark yellow indicates that a person has not had enough water while colorless urine may suggest a person has had too much. Drinking water will aid in removing all the toxins that a person is trying to get rid of while working out. It may also help with recovery since it allows nutrients to be transported around the body, especially to important muscles.
8) Treat Yourself
Both mental and physical health are important components of a workout. It is important to reward yourself for your success in working out. People find that when they celebrate their success in going to exercise, they are more likely to go again and make it a routine. A reward could be watching a beloved movie or getting a massage. Massages have the added benefit of preventing lactic acid buildup in the muscles following a workout. Lactic acid is a byproduct of a hard workout due to anaerobic respiration when the body struggles to get oxygen to the muscles fast enough. This process is normal but can cause pain. Massages will break up the lactic acid and reduce pain. The optimal time to get a massage is immediately following a workout. Treat yourself and feel better both mentally and physically.
It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life following a workout. When a person is constantly on the move, they may decide to forgo an immediate shower after a workout. A quick shower of even two minutes after gruesome physical activity may be the difference between a quick recovery and a slow one. Cold showers are recommended after a workout to cool down the body and to ease stress in muscles. It is much easier than applying a cold compress to specific areas of the body. This will reduce soreness and prepare the body for another day at work. It is also crucial to remove the sweat that has accumulated during the workout. Sweat promotes bacteria growth and ultimately may lead to rashes or breakouts. No one wants to deal with fungal infections or staph infections following a productive day at the gym.