Don’t leave your fitness behind in the gym: plan your recovery as thoroughly as you plan your workout with these tips and tricks for what to do, eat and drink after a serious workout.
Make time for cool-down stretching in your workout. It’s easily forgotten about if you don’t plan for it, but it’s the simplest way to maximise your recovery, keeping your muscles and joints ache-free. Remember, if you’re stiff and sore your next session won’t be nearly so effective.
As you work out, you lose a great deal of fluid and while most of us are pretty good at replacing it as we go, we tend to forget about it afterwards. Keep sucking down water for the hours immediately after working out to speed your recovery: good hydration is vital for all metabolic functions, including nutrient transference. It will help your muscles recover and keep muscle pain away.
Sour, or tart, cherries have been used for some time now to assist with sleep disorders due to their high levels of melatonin, but have more recently been praised for their high levels of anti-inflammatories. You can pick up some fresh cherries, or better yet sour cherry juice or tablets (usually derived from Montmorency cherries) for a post-workout recovery boost.
Potassium is a pretty vital mineral when it comes to, you know, living, but in terms of working out, it’s most important for muscle and heart health. Potassium helps your muscles contract, and along with magnesium, prevents cramps and muscle weakness, and keeps your blood pressure where it should be. Fill up on bananas, yoghurt or beans after you work out to help keep your blood pumping.
Speaking of bloodflow, make sure that you don’t immediately return to your sedentary default: keep moving, even on rest days. Walks, bike rides, gentle swimmming, all will help to speed your recovery and keep your muscles healthy.
Rest is key after stressing out your body. This includes programming in your rest days, but also some good body-repair in the few hours immediately after your workout. A short power nap of 20 minutes or so about two hours after the gym will boost your recovery, and as long as you keep it to early enough in the day, won’t effect your sleep patterns.
Massage is invaluable for healthy, pain-free muscles as it keeps your circulation up, and prevents the build-up of inflammatory fluids. Work out knots and tight spots immediately after working out with gentle massage or by doing a few gently exercises with a foam roller, and if you’re serious about your regular training, make time for a proper regular deep tissue massage too. As if you need an excuse.
Protein, protein and more protein
Protein is often described as the ‘building-blocks’ of muscle: post-workout protein helps to rebuild the muscles that you stress as you work out, making your muscle-building work more effective, and staving off post-gym aches and pains. Intake of protein during meals is important, but also make sure you get a hit of protein within an hour or so of your workout, to maximise its absorption by your muscles.
Carrying a steak with you to the gym can be a little impractical though: protein shakes, beans, nuts and yoghurt are a little easier.