5 HABITS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY
When it comes to seeing progress and reaching our goals, the things we do outside of the gym (like our nutrition!) are just as important as the training we do in the gym. Recovery plays a huge role not only in how we feel the next day, but how we perform during our workouts and in everyday life. If you have goals of improving your performance in the gym and how you feel overall, follow these tips for maximizing your recovery.
1 | OPTIMIZE YOUR POST-WORKOUT MEAL
Whether your preferred activity is weightlifting, running, or yoga, your body will perform better and recover faster if you fuel it properly. Eating as soon as possible after your workout helps to refuel your body and jumpstart your recovery. Your post-workout meal should have a good dose of protein, be lower in fat and include about 30% of your daily intake of carbs to help refuel your muscles. Stick with fast-digesting carb sources such as fruits, potatoes, rice, pasta, oats, or cereal.
This meal is essential for refueling and recovering and should be eaten within 1-2 hours of completing your workout.
Your muscles are hungry when you're done working out, so it’s important to feed them! Within that window, most of the nutrients are going into the muscles. So, eating within an hour or two of finishing your workout is a good habit to have, especially if your goals are performance-based.
If you prefer not to eat right after your workout, this is an ideal situation for a protein shake. Add 15-20 grams of quick-digesting carbs to your shake (frozen berries, banana, chocolate milk) to aid in recovery. The simple carbs are important because they are quickly absorbed. Your muscles need sugar to make energy and they need energy to build muscle, so the best fuel source for them immediately after working out is glucose (aka sugar). Your body instantly uses this sugar to replenish your starving muscles and help build muscle instead of deplete it.
Keep in mind that this point depends on your goals, too. If your goals are focused on performance, intake shortly after training should be a priority. If your goals are focused more on aesthetics or general health, your window to eat post-workout can be a little more flexible. Either way, try to get in a meal or at least a shake within an hour of finishing your workout.
2 | SLEEPING FOR RECOVERY
It’s not a secret that sleep directly impacts our body’s ability to recover. Sleep plays a huge role in how our body regenerates after a tough workout or even just a long day of work or school. Not only does it aid in promoting recovery, it's also important for overall healthy well-being. While you’re sleeping is when your body is repairing and rebuilding from the previous day, in turn preparing you to take on the next day.
Ideally, we would all get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Start by making sleep a priority and changing your habits around sleep. Creating a regular sleep schedule by having the same bedtime and wake time each day can also lead to more restful sleep.
If you have an activity tracker (like a FitBit, a Garmin, or a Whoop band) that tracks your sleep, put it to use! Pay attention to how many hours you’re sleeping each night along with your bedtime and wake time each day. Work on consistency across each of these areas to improve your sleeping habits.
If you don’t have an activity tracker, set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. The obvious way is to work backwards from the time you need to be up in the morning. If you have an iPhone, try using the Bedtime feature within the clock app to hold you accountable and keep you consistent.
Another good habit to work on is powering down your devices about an hour before you plan on going to bed. Try to be off the computer and your devices within an hour of bedtime and avoid using your devices in bed to help your body prepare for a restful sleep.
3 | HYDRATION
We talk about it all the time with our clients, but we cannot overemphasize the importance of staying hydrated. Making sure you are adequately hydrated is important for both performance and recovery. A good rule of thumb to aim for is to
drink 100+ ounces of water per day for females and 125+ ounces per day for males
If you’re training multiple times a day, do long distance training, or have an active job, this should be the bare minimum.
If drinking plain old water is challenging for you, try adding something to give it a little taste. Add a few slices of fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber. You may also try something like Crystal Light or Mio - there are lots of different flavor options that can make it easier for you to hit your water target each day.
4 | STRETCH
This one is simple, but it can be a game-changer for your recovery. I make it a point to stretch at least three times per week after my workout and I have experienced a noticeable difference in how I feel the next day. Like many things in health and fitness, there are studies proving and disproving that stretching is important post-recovery; whatever the true science behind it is, I recommend trying it out and seeing how you feel after a few weeks of consistently adding it to your post-workout routine.
It doesn't have to be anything fancy, in fact, I don't even use any equipment (bands, balls, foam rollers, etc.) except for my yoga mat and maybe a few pillows from my couch. I recommend doing 15-20 minutes per day of basic stretches that target large muscle groups.
If you have a hard time committing to this or you need some accountability, try one of these three ways for adding stretching to your post-workout routine:
1 | PHONE A FRIEND
Make a pact with a friend or training partner to stretch X number of days per week or certain days during the week. Text each other each night and check-in to see who's stuck with the commitment. You could also do something to make it even more fun and throw a little prize in there. The first friend to break the pact owes the other Starbucks or dinner.
2 | TAKE A CLASS
Some gyms offer mobility classes or post-workout stretching. You can also check out a local yoga studio. Many yoga studios offer restorative yoga classes. Any class labeled yin yoga, cool-down, restorative or something of the like is generally focused on recovery poses. Some studios even offer a stretching class for athletes.
3 | ROMWOD
Romwod is my go-to for post-workout stretching. There's a new video each day that guides you through a 20ish-minute routine. It was created by CrossFitters for CrossFitters, so stretches often target our achiest spots, like hips and shoulders, and are held for several minutes. I like not having to think about what I'm doing and it motivates me to get it done knowing it's only 20 minutes long. They also offer a free-trial period.
5 | TAKE A HOT BATH
If your body is feeling like it's been hit by a truck (and run over), a hot bath can be exactly what it needs. If you're on a budget, this can also serve as a free version of getting a massage. Even though each muscle isn't getting specific attention, the hot water helps your muscles relax and loosen up. It’s a good way to help your body dissipate mental and physical stress. You may try adding some epsom salts, essential oils, bubble bath or a bath bomb to the water to aid in relaxation and help with muscle recovery.
Now it’s time to take action! If you want to see results in the gym, at work and in everyday life, work on making recovery a priority. Follow the steps below to start working some of these new habits into your daily routine.
Already doing some of these things? Let us know in the comments below which has made the biggest impact on maximizing your recovery.
1 | pick one thing on this list to implement this week. Whatever it is, give yourself a clear commitment (ex: stretch 3x this week, take a hot bath, sleep 8 hours every night, etc.)
2 | Hold yourself accountable by writing it down and sharing it with a friend, significant other, training partner, or your coach.
3 | Each week work on adding one thing to your routine. Practice your new routine for at least 30 days and see how you feel!