3 Must-Dos for Proper Post-Workout Recovery

by | Updated: June 29th, 2018 | Read time: 3 minutes

There’s no way around it. If you’re putting considerable effort into your workouts, you’re going to be sore afterward. Muscle is built through a cycle of anabolism (protein synthesis) and catabolism (protein breakdown). During an intense workout, microtears in muscle tissue cause catabolism, and while your body begins to repair itself immediately after a workout, it needs your help.

Woman on Floor Stretches Hamstring to Speed up Muscle Soreness Recovery – Follow These Tips | Vitacost.com/blog

In order to recuperate safely, maintain momentum and see gains, concentrating on muscle soreness recovery is critical. Following tips like the ones below will help you get the most out of every workout.

Stretch & cool down.

When you stretch after a workout, you feel the benefit of both physical and psychological effects. Since lactic acid builds up while you’re working out, you commonly feel sore and worn out. Stretching after a workout helps to spark increased circulation, keeping your muscles engaged and focused on the healing process. Muscle soreness and fatigue is a common reason many people don’t follow through with an exercise plan. Think about it: if you’re less sore, you’re less likely to skip the next workout!

Stretching is also the perfect opportunity to relax your mind. It’s a time to slow down, take some breaths and be in tune with what your body is feeling. Paying attention to various aches and pains while stretching is key to targeting problem areas. Try using a workout app to help guide you through exercise-specific stretches and cool-downs. Or, schedule time after each workout to ensure you don’t skip.

Engage in active recovery.

After any intense training session, the body needs time to recover. Many people take rest days in order to recuperate. While this is a great way to give yourself a break and prevent injury, if not done properly, you could be setting yourself even further back.

Active recovery, when done correctly, can reduce muscle soreness, and speed up the recovery process. It’s not intended to burn that many calories or to up your weights and resistance. Active recovery is about physically and psychologically recovering from the muscle and body stress of intense exercise, as well as lowering your heart rate and improving form. You can even perform active recovery as part of your cool-down from a HIIT session. Try using very light weights, yoga, foam rolling, or even a slow, 5-minute run. Try incorporating one active recovery day into your routine per week and see if it works for you! Remember, if you’re suffering from an injury, passive rest days are still the best option. So make sure to pay attention to your body’s signals.

Eat carbs post-workout.

Your body’s ability to synthesize protein is greatly enhanced following a workout. That means it’s crucial to get the right nutrients in your body in order to slow down the breakdown process and repair those muscles. While you can probably guess that you’d need to eat something with protein in it, getting in carbs is just as important!

Carbohydrates replenish glycogen, which is the number one source of energy production for muscles. If weight loss is the aim, it’s okay to go for a lower carb snack or meal, like a protein shake or a healthy omelet with plenty of veggies. But if you want to gain weight or muscle, it’s important to have a bigger carb element, like a meal with rice, red meats and a healthy starch like sweet potatoes. 

Other nutrients important post-workout are potassium, magnesium and vitamins C, D and E. While naturally occurring in foods like milk, bananas, spinach, citrus fruits and whole grains, they’re also found in exercise supplements. Balancing nutrition and fitness can be difficult, but doing a little research and creating a meal plan will go a long way toward healthier choices and a speedier recovery between training sessions.

There are many factors contributing to muscle soreness and fatigue, but there are just as many recovery techniques to combat them. Remember to fuel your body properly through nutrition and hydration, stretch out your muscles and get lightly active during rest days (but know when to quit!). By making the most out of your post-workout time, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the results you want.