Now that you’ve got the hard part out of the way, there’s probably something you’ve missed a beat on if after every gym session you’re feeling stiff and sore – which can keep you out of the gym for days. Thing is, while training is important, there are also steps that you need to take following your workout due to oxidative stress and the muscle damage that occurs that allows your body to morph into this new improved you. Recovery isn’t down to a few stretches or eating right, there are a whole myriad of factors at play here that you need to take care of to ensure that you’ll be at your peak every single day.
Cool down instead of rushing out
With the blood pumping and the heart rate up, it’s always a reaction to get out of the gym as quickly as possible to get all of those nutrients in, rehydrate, and prepare for relaxation. But, a better alternative is to allow for a period of cool down time right after your workout. That, in itself, allows your body to relax and adapt to the changes that have occurred.
Whether you choose to do dynamic stretching (stretching in a smooth flow of movement) or static stretching (stretching and holding for a period of time) it is imperative that you do stretch before and after workouts. This is due to it being necessary to keeping yourself flexible after workouts and will strengthen your muscles so that they do not suffer from the dreaded DOMS and fatigue.
The foam roller has established itself as revolutionary when it comes to recovery. It’s a simple tool that you can use to break up “knots” in soft tissue that occur due to the muscle damage that accompanies intense exercise. Using a foam roller will also improve your flexibility and allow blood to flow and circulate better.
Do a short stint of cardio
If you are lifting weights, doing squats, and “pumping iron” then a light session of cardio can save you hours of stiffness and torment that may keep you out of action for longer than you want to be. Do a little on the treadmill, or go smooth sailing on the elliptical, whatever your poison, it’ll assist you with the after effects of exercise.
If you’re into fitness and training, then your anthem should be: “rest days aren’t cheat days”. Sure, resting is important, especially when your sessions are getting more intense and your body needs to adapt, but on days where you aren’t training you shouldn't shirk doing a little bit. A light session of yoga in the morning, a few bodyweight exercises such as planks and push ups, and a chilled run outdoors are great ways to keep your body guessing and in a mode where it remains active.
Rehydrate with water or a glucose drink
An intense training session means that your body’s fuel reserves will be depleted and you’ll be left feeling dehydrated. Water, the giver of life, is necessary after workouts to ensure that your body stays hydrated. Similarly, you don't want to drink too much water without enough sodium in your bloodstream. A glucose drink after exercise can supplement these losses are restore order in your ecosystem.
Drinking chocolate milk
This is actually a bonus because no self-respecting person turns their nose up to a cool glass of chocolate milk at the best of times. And now, there’s proof to back up the benefits of it as it is important for recovery. It contains casein protein from the milk, that’s imperative for recovery while you rest, and the chocolate powder will give you a much-needed energy boost.
When it comes to building muscle, which mainly occurs after exercise while you recover, protein is the most important macronutrient. Eating lean meat, fatty fish, or skinless chicken breasts after training will repair the muscle damage and fill your body with the nutrients it needs to get you going for your next session.
Don't forget the whey
More protein, but this time in the form of whey. Although it isn’t the be-all and end-all, whey protein is specifically engineered as a post-workout supplement that will reduce muscle damage, oxidative stress, and is a fast way to get healthy nutrients into your body quickly.
Get into an ice bath
The ice bath is a dreaded invention that is momentarily hard to handle, but is effective in reducing pain and aiding recovery. This cold therapy helps combat the small tears that occur on a muscular level in your body. It’ll reduce swelling, flush out toxins, and constrict blood vessels so that your body relaxes.
You may think that you’re building muscles when you’re pushing hard at the gym, but the reality is that actual muscle growth takes place when you’re at rest. And what better rest is there than sleep? Getting enough sleep is important due to the energy gained from periods of real rest, and your body will repair itself for the duration. When you wake up, after getting your 8 hours, you’ll feel fresh and ready to take on the gym again.
Forcing your muscle tissue to adapt to sudden changes in temperature goes a long way to helping you to recover quickly after strenuous exercise. It stimulates your body without increased stress. You should be wary of how you do this, and always end with the cold, while stretching it out when your body is still warm.