When it comes to creating the perfect workout routine, it’s important to factor in some time for post-workout recovery.
Research has shown that taking time to rest and recover after a workout can dramatically (and positively) influence your fitness progress because the exercise process breaks down muscle fibres, which you must then slowly rebuild with rest and the proper nutrition.
If you don’t provide the right amount of time and optimal conditions for your muscles to heal, you will compromise your performance and gains and could even injure yourself.
While you may be tempted to skip your stretches or post-workout snack, this could undo a lot of your hard work. If you’re unsure about how to plan a post-workout recovery routine, here are five easy steps you could include:
#1: Try active recovery
Active recovery involves easy, gentle movements that help improve circulation. This will, in turn, promote waste and nutrient product transport throughout the body.
This is meant to support the muscles by accelerating the repair and refuelling process. Think of it like slowly bringing a car to a halt rather than slamming on the breaks.
Try taking a short walk or bike ride, or you could even try a few yoga poses. Just remember to take it extra slow, this isn’t meant to be a second workout.
#2. Drink water
When you exercise, you can lose a lot of fluid. Replacing the fluid lost is a crucial part of recovery because water plays an important role in every metabolic function and nutrient transport in your body.
While drinking water throughout your workout helps mitigate fluid loss, it’s easy to get caught up in your exercises and forget. Drinking water after your workout is a quick way to boost your recovery.
And, if plain flavourless water doesn’t sound too appealing, these alternatives should help. Replenish fluids while appeasing your tastebuds with great-tasting water infusions. Drop a few slices of cucumber into your drink or enhance the flavour with electrolyte sports drink mixes, herbal tea powders, or aloe concentrates.
#3. Stretch it out
Stretching is an excellent addition to any workout routine, which you can include before and after a session. Stretching keeps the body flexible, which helps reduce the risk of injury.
Other benefits include improving blood flow, eliminating exercise metabolites, boosting energy levels, and gradually slowing the body down. Plus, it’s great for that mind-body connection, too.
You could easily add stretching to an active recovery routine or do it separately. It’s generally suggested that 15 minutes of stretching is ideal.
#4. Eat a healthy snack
Your workout generally depletes your energy stores, so it’s important to refuel your body within 60 minutes of a session.
The best foods to eat during a recovery period include high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and probiotics.
But who really has energy to plan a whole meal after a workout? Protein shakes and bars are the most convenient source of energy and beneficial protein (with the least amount of prep work).
They not only include key nutrients, but can fill the gap immediately after a workout and give you time to relax before prepping a nutritious meal. You could also snack on yoghurt, fruits or vegetables, and salted nuts.
Eating after a workout doesn’t necessarily mean opting for a full meal, it just means putting some sustenance back into your body so that you restore spent energy and support the tissue repair process.
It’s important to keep your body in top shape when you exercise, and taking care of your energy levels is an important part of this process.
Last, but definitely not least, take some time to relax. Exercising and relaxing go hand-in-hand. Take some time to chill after a workout, even if it’s just five minutes – it could do wonders for your body and your mind.
A short meditation is a great option for relaxation if you’re in a hurry. It may be challenging to get into the mindset of slowing down when you’re eager to reach your fitness goals, but your post-workout recovery will massively impact your fitness journey, so it’s important to take it seriously.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.