Though it’s often ignored, how you recover after a tough workout makes a big difference in how well your body is able to transform. Ben Greenfield, the Get-Fit Guy for QuickAndDirtyTips.com says, “… Exercising without recovering properly is a bit like trying to cook a casserole without turning on the oven–you’ll end up going through all the casserole-cooking motions, but getting no final results, or at least a very disappointing final product.” There are three main aspects to your post workout recovery: stretch, eat right, and hydrate. Here’s how to properly incorporate them into your routine.
Too many people don’t do it, yet cooling down is one of the most important parts of a good workout. From slowly ending your workout to stretching, there are a number of reasons you don’t want to miss this post-workout necessity.
- Improved blood flow: Circulation of blood in and out of the muscles you’re working is integral to your speed of recovery and therefore the results you’ll see. If running on a treadmill or outside, don’t just stop abruptly. Instead, drop your speed down to a jog and then a walk. Stretching will also have the same effect on your blood flow, so be sure to stretch after every session.
Release knots: A significant cause of post-workout soreness is knotted muscles, especially in your quads and IT bands. Roll the muscles that you just worked with a foam roller. Beware: if you have never done this before, it may be painful at first. But in the end, you’ll feel a difference.
Though you may not be hungry right after a workout, it’s imperative that you eat; but not just anything. Instead of “rewarding” yourself with a big slice of pizza, grab something that will work to help your body recover. Some post-recovery foods include:
Protein-heavy: Protein is necessary to increase the amount of amino acids, which have been lost during your workout. It also works to repair your muscles.
Carb-heavy: This doesn’t mean you should eat a whole loaf of bread. Nosh on a healthy carbohydrate food like fruit, vegetables or whole grain toast.
In general, a 1:4 ratio of protein to carbohydrates is ideal for a post-recovery snack. Think:
- Peanut butter and apple
- Beans and brown rice
- Low fat yogurt with granola
- Almond butter and rice cakes
If you haven’t hydrated enough, or at all, during your workout, it’s critical that you do so immediately after.
- Water: Try to rehydrate with 20 to 24oz of water for each hour of working out. So, if you only had a 30-minute session, drink about 10-15oz.
- Chocolate milk: Chocolate milk is not just a childhood favorite, but the perfect post-workout recovery drink. With carbohydrates, electrolytes, sodium and potassium-all of which are lost during your workout-you get everything you need in one 8-oz glass to get started toward recovery.
- Fruit juice: 100% fruit juice-that means no additives or extra sugar-is filled with nutrients that your body can use to recover.
Post-workout recovery is critical to the results that you see from a hard workout. Make time for a stretch session and post-workout snack or drink to be sure you complete your workout 100%.