We could talk all day about the benefits of exercise. A longer life. Lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Stronger, toned muscles. Less body fat. Mental stability and clarity. You name it, exercise can help accomplish it!
While working out might not be your favorite pastime (and if it is, you rock it!), the lucky thing is, there are so many ways to get your heart rate up that it’s easy to find the right one that works for you. The opportunities are endless: jogging, walking, tennis, cycling, pilates, yoga, swimming, weightlifting, zumba… the list goes on and on.
While your workouts are critical to wellbeing, what you do after your workout may be just as important. Many people exercise and then go on with their days, not knowing the vital steps needed to make the most of their workout session. Not only that, there are certain things you should be doing to avoid injury and build added muscle. These include:
- Stretch the muscles you worked. When you work your muscles, they automatically tighten and shorten. It is vital, therefore, to stretch the muscles you used during your workout to get them back to their normal length. This helps muscles grow and keeps them from getting sore. Stretching also helps you cool down and relax. Aim to stretch each muscle you worked for at least a minute after each workout.
- Eat lots of protein. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and need to be replenished after a tough exercise session. As you’re using your muscles during the workout, they tend to rip and tear, and the rebuilding process that happens afterwards is part of what helps you grow stronger. Replenishing proteins helps with that muscle growth and recovery. Eat more protein for higher impact workouts – like running or heavy lifting – and less for lower intensity workouts, like walking or pilates.
- But even more carbs. The fitness community often touts the benefits of protein in muscle growth, but carbs are equally if not more important. In fact, studies show that for every gram of protein you eat post-workout, you should be consuming three to four grams of carbs. Carbohydrates get a bad reputation, but are absolutely essential to muscle repair and growth post-workout. The carbs you ingest help proteins enter the muscles; this complementary nature is what makes food so essential in taking advantage of exercise.
- And always consume water. Oftentimes, many people do not replenish their fluids and electrolytes well enough after an intense workout. Aim for at least 18 ounces after an hour-long sweat session to replace all the fluids you’ve lost. If you did a particularly intense workout – say, a half marathon – replenish electrolytes, too, with a sports drink. In this case, it’s most important to replenish your sodium and potassium, so eating cheese and a banana can also do the trick.
- Remove your sweaty clothes and shower. You know how much you sweat during a workout session? That sweat sticks around and makes its way into the fibers of our clothing – making for nasty odors and bacteria growth. Always change out of sweaty clothes as soon as you can, and clean the sweat off your body with a shower. Gyms are a haven for germs and bacteria (those weights and mats aren’t cleaned as often as we’d like!), which thrive in hot and sweaty environments. In addition, make sure to wash your workout clothes in hot water (separate from your other clothes) to clean them fully.
How do you recover post-workout? Let us know in the comments!