Whether you're trying to build muscle or lose weight - recovery is essential. Exercise recovery is a huge component in fitness and neglecting to recover after any type of intense workout can lead to sore muscles, decreased performance in your next workout, and ineffective results. On the other hand, nailing your post-workout recovery can speed up recovery time, improve performance, and enhance muscle recovery for better results.
So, what can you do after a workout to elevate your recovery game?
Well, besides drinking muscle recovery supplements like 373 Lab BCAAs, we're going to show you how to speed up muscle recovery so you can get back in the gym faster and stronger!
Everyone warms up, but many tend to forget to cool down, so we're here to tell you (if you don't already know) - cooldowns are just as important as warm-ups! In fact, even the American Heart Association says so. They recommend cooling down after any intense physical activity because stopping too fast can result in feeling sick or passing out. This can happen because your body temperature and heart rate are higher than usual. Whether you're doing cardio or weight training, take the time to cool down.
The best way to cool down is by doing light cardio! Doing something like walking for five minutes is a great way to get your heart rate and body temperature lower. Do any type of light cardio until your heart rate reaches below 120 beats per minute. You should also try to keep the activity specific to what you worked out. For example, if you did a high-intensity cardio workout like HIIT, consider jogging or walking for 5 minutes. If you just got done lifting weights, specifically the upper body, use the rowing machine at a slow pace for 5 minutes. Decide whatever light exercise works best for you!
For those who don't know, foam rolling is a recovery technique that involves using a foam roller to help reduce lactic acid buildup which can reduce your risk of stiff muscles and muscle cramping. You've probably seen someone using a huge foam roller at the gym, but if you haven't it just involves rolling your muscles over the foam roller to break up "knots" in soft tissue which will help increase blood flow and circulation, and even help improve flexibility. It's extremely beneficial to do this, but we have to be honest... It can be uncomfortable, maybe even a little painful at first. The more lactic build-up there is, the more discomfort there will be, but the more you do it, the easier it will become!
We highly suggest investing in one or using one at your local gym, but if foam rolling is not your thing then you have to follow our next piece of advice...
Stretch large muscle groups
Cooling down is an important part of your workout routine and a part of that is stretching. So, once you're done doing your 5 minutes cool down walking, or whatever activity you chose, stretch your muscles! Stretching will reduce your risk of tearing a muscle, help elongate and lengthen your body while your muscles are still warm, and most importantly, help your nervous system relax after a tough workout. It will also improve your flexibility thus helping increase your range of motion in future workouts!
You want to focus on stretching major muscle groups like the glutes, hamstrings, core, shoulders, back, and hips. Perform at least 5 minutes of static and/or dynamic stretches, like the figure four stretch, supine lower back stretch, standing hamstring stretch, etc. Keep your movements fluid but avoid any bouncing, and try to find a good balance between discomfort and pain. Stretching should feel slightly uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be painful.
This should be a given, but stay hydrated! Your body sweats a lot during and after your workout as a way to cool itself down, making hydration a top priority. Neglecting to replace the lost fluids will lead to dehydration which can negatively affect your performance and results, so it's very important to drink water (or electrolytes) after a workout. Not hydrating properly after your workout will increase your risk of delayed onset muscle soreness, muscle cramps, fatigue, and poor coordination.
So, rehydrate properly after your workout! Drink an adequate amount of water during and after your workout, or consider taking electrolytes. If you sweat heavily during intense exercise or are working out under extreme heat then it might be more effective to drink electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals, which include magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium, that help regulate muscle function and balance the fluids in your body. They help rehydrate you quickly and effectively while helping your muscles relax.
Refuel with muscle recovery foods
Despite contrary belief, you don't need to down a protein shake as soon as you drop your weight, but you should refuel within 1-2 hours after your workout. Post-workout nutrition is more important than you think, so choose carefully what you decide to give your body for fuel after hard work at the gym.
Whatever fitness goal you have, whether it's weight loss or muscle-building, you should focus on having a post-workout meal or snack that is rich in protein, carbohydrates, and also magnesium. These nutrients will help replenish glycogen stores and promote muscle protein synthesis to help your muscles recover and rebuild effectively.
So, what foods should you eat?
Your top priority should always be whole foods first! So, reach for foods like eggs, dark leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, sweet potatoes, chicken, bananas, yogurt, berries, and more. The key is to choose high-quality protein, complex carbs, magnesium-rich foods, and some healthy fats for taste and extra nutrients!
Consider taking a post-workout supplement
Do you need a workout supplement? Not necessarily. Your top priority is always to fuel up with what nature gave us, but workout recovery supplements have additional ingredients that can help give your body what it needs for better recovery. They're also great for those who don't have much time after their workout to have a post-workout meal.
The two best post-workout supplements are protein powder and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These post-workout supplements contain amino acids that help minimize muscle protein breakdown to help promote better muscle growth. Most protein powders are considered to be complete proteins and contain BCAAs, so if you're having a post-workout protein shake using our 373 Lab Chocolate Cheesecake Whey Protein Powder then you won't need to replenish with BCAA's. If you can't drink whey protein, or you just want something more on the refreshing side, opt to drink BCAA's during or after your workout and pair it with a nutritious post-workout snack to further enhance recovery!
These aren't the only two muscle recovery supplements. Other popular supplements that can help with recovery include creatine, essential amino acids (EAAs), L-glutamine, and even omega-3 fish oil. Choose the supplement that works best for you and your goals, and remember to always prioritize whole foods before reaching for your supplements!
Get good sleep
You don't need to immediately go to sleep or take a nap after your workout, but you should try your best to get a good night's rest, especially after intense training. Amazing things take place in your body while you sleep, in fact, it's when the real muscle-building happens. At night, during your deep sleep cycle, your body is working hard to recover by cleaning out waste in your cells, regulating your hormone levels, and even helping regulate blood sugar levels. Neglecting to get enough good sleep doesn't only make you feel groggy throughout the day, it also impacts your performance and results. Research published in Sports Medicine linked poor sleep to psychological responses similar to overtraining. This means not getting enough high-quality sleep can lead to experiencing symptoms like muscle soreness which can inhibit your performance.
If you have trouble getting good sleep at night then set yourself up for success by having a nighttime routine! Having a nighttime routine is just as important as a morning routine because it will ensure your body is relaxed and ready to sleep so it can start recovering. We suggest cutting off electronics and any blue lights at night (one to two hours before bed), cutting off caffeine after 4 p.m. or sooner, and try not to eat 1-2 hours before bed (digestion is slower at night and can disrupt sleep).
In summary, what you do outside of the gym is just as important as what you do inside of it. So, make sure you're maximizing your hard work by following the tips above and remember to implement an adequate amount of rest days in your workout routine! And if you really want to enhance your recovery then add 373 Lab BCAA's or Protein Powder to your supplement pantry!
Who are we?
We're 373 Lab Supplements – nice to meet you! Founded by Iulia Danilova (Fit With Iulia), and with a team filled with fitness enthusiasts, we've worked hard to bring a trustworthy supplement to the market! Supplements that are designed to help you achieve your fitness goals by giving you only the nutrients you need – no unnecessary fillers or additives!
Find what your pantry is missing at 373 Lab Supplements.