For most of us, recovery is the most neglected part of the workout routine. It’s always tempting to skip a stretch or avoid the water bottle, but neglecting post-workout recovery will hinder future workouts and limit your ability to achieve results. Most of the professional athletes say that recovery is the most important component of an exercise program! Without it, you will feel sore, fatigued, or downright miserable during your next workout session.
Proper recovery helps restore energy and enhance athletic performance in three ways:
1 Recovery Replenishes Creatine Phosphate and Glycogen Stores
Creatine phosphate and glycogen are two of your body’s primary energy sources. When depleted, you will feel sluggish and uncoordinated. Here’s how they work: creatine phosphate is used within the first 10 seconds of high-intensity exercise to create ATP, the body’s source of cellular energy. Likewise, glycogen, which is a stored form of glucose, is used during steady-state exercise to create ATP.
2 Recovery Rids the Body of Damaging By-Products
Exercise leads to a buildup of metabolic by-products that can hinder future workouts, including lactate and protons. Without recovery measures, these by-products can accumulate and limit muscular contractions and energy replenishment, resulting in poor performance.
3 Recovery Restores and Protects Muscle Tissue
High-intensity exercise can place stress on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Without proper recovery, this stress can cause weakness, soreness, and even pain.
Post-Workout Recovery step-by-step
Now that you understand why post-workout recovery is important, let’s review guidelines for optimal recovery:
Don’t rely on thirst as a good indicator of your fluid needs. If you’re thirsty, it’s likely you’re dehydrated. Consuming fluids at regular intervals throughout the day will prevent dehydration. How much should you drink? Before your workout, drink 8 ounces of water. During your workout, drink 7-10 ounces every 20 minutes you’re exercising. After your workout, drink an additional 8 ounces. Weigh yourself before and after your workout, then consume 16-24 ounces of water for every pound lost during your session.
Dehydration can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of dehydration can include the following:
- dizziness or lightheaded feeling
- nausea or vomiting
- muscle cramps
- dry mouth
- lack of sweating
- hard, fast heartbeat.
Consider a sports drink to replenish electrolytes.
Or, here’s an easy homemade recipe:
16 oz. Water
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/4 Cup of 100% Fruit Juice of Your Choice
Stir, sip, and savor!
In conjunction with hydration, good nutrition is the key to achieving the best results from your workout. During recovery, protein and carbohydrates are the main nutrients your body craves.
Protein is used in the repair, maintenance, and growth of muscles and other connective tissues. Within one hour of your workout, you should consume approximately 30 grams of protein. It’s an exact amount your body can assimilate into one reception. It’s also important to spread your protein intake throughout the day. Physically active adults require approximately 0.4-0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re seeking muscle growth, an intake of 0.6-0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight is more appropriate. Some good sources of protein include nuts, beans, lean meats, and fish.
After a tough workout, your fuel of blood sugar and glycogen should be low. You may have even tapped into reserves to complete your training, especially if you are dieting. Most of us understand the need for protein after training, but many overlook the benefits of carbohydrates.
From a physiological perspective, your body’s first priority is correcting blood sugar balance and replenishing glycogen, not making your biceps pop. Consume fast-digesting carbohydrates in order to spare protein, replenish glycogen, spike insulin, and speed recovery. Dose recommendations differ, but to maximize recovery, ingest 50-75 grams of high-glycemic carbs after exercise.
For optimal recovery, consume a post-workout meal that contains a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. For example, 1 cup of whole grain cereal, 1 small banana, and ½ cup of milk. Then, throughout the day consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat, organic dairy. This will ensure that your fueling your body with the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals it needs for awesome athletic performance. Nutrition is the key to achieving the best results from your workout. During recovery, protein and carbohydrates are the main nutrients your body craves.
Stretching after a workout aids in relaxation, flexibility, and may aid in the prevention of soreness. The research is mixed on soreness, but we know flexibility does help prevent injury. So take 3-5 minutes to stretch after each workout. Perform at least one static stretch for each major muscle group, holding stretches for 15-30 seconds. Take deep breaths, relax, and listen to your body. Let it tell you which areas need some love. Trust me, your body will talk!
Rest is vital to replenishing energy stores and promoting the repair, maintenance, and growth of muscle tissue. To ensure proper recovery, make sure to sleep 7-9 hours each night and take at least one day off from training each week.
Massage is a mode of recovery recommended for all types and levels of athletes giving them an anabolic edge. In addition to a proper cooldown, the post-training massage assists the athlete to recover after an intense training session. Massage improves blood circulation and facilitates the interaction of tissue fluids, relieving fatigue in muscle tissue. It also assists in the removal of metabolites and toxins, by means of venous and lymphatic circulation. It enhances the return of fresh blood rich in oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
Post-Workout Recovery Made Simple
Good recovery practices are key to better workouts, better performance, and better results. Implementing a post-workout recovery program doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. Let’s break everything we’ve discussed above down into simple, actionable steps:
Drink lots of water – before, during, and after exercise
Eat a healthy snack within 30-60 minutes of exercise. Try to keep the carb-to-protein ratio balanced at 3:1
Stretch after your workout, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds
Sleep 7-9 hours per night
Refrain from exercise at least one day per week to rest
Most of all, listen to your body. When you’re recovering properly, your body will tell you. Your workouts will be more enjoyable and you won’t experience fatigue and extreme soreness afterwards. Take care of your body, let it recover, and it will take care of you.