4 THINGS TO AID IN YOUR POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY (and they’re all free!)
When it comes to #gainz, the things we do outside of the gym 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 at work and during our workouts. Over the past couple years I have implemented each of these things into my post-workout routine and it’s made a huge difference! What I love about all of them is that they don’t take much time and they are all free!
While I’ll be sharing the basics and what I’ve learned from my experience over the years, there’s a ton of research out there to support each one of these points if you’re interested in digging a little further.
1 | EAT A MEAL WITHIN AN HOUR
Eating as soon as possible after your workout helps to refuel your body and jumpstart your recovery. As soon as I'm done working out I drink a protein shake, which is made with about 15 grams of simple carbs - think sugar. 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.
Following this up with well-balanced meal is key. Your meal should include protein and carbs (YES CARBS!) to continue refueling your muscles. 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 of finishing your workout is a good habit to get into to continue with the replenishment and recovery process.
Keep in mind that this point depends on your goals, too. If you’re looking to build muscle, intake as soon as you’re done training is of the utmost importance. If you’re looking to stay in shape or lose a little weight, your window to eat post-workout is a little more flexible. Either way, you want to get in a meal within an hour of finishing your workout.
Here’s a little blurb from the guys over at Barbell Shrugged (check out episode 178, Window of Gainz, for their take on it):
“How much time do I have before the window closes? There’s no hard and clear threshold for when the opportunity to re-feed passes, but typically, you should have a carbohydrate and protein rich meal down within 30-60 minutes of your final repetition of the day. Eating that meal right away maximizes the amount of carbohydrates stored in the muscles as glycogen, instead of fat. This is when your insulin sensitivity and capacity for proper carb utilization and storage are at their highest. Just remember, sooner is better. For that reason, you might choose to sip on a shake during your workout. This accounts for digestion time, so those nutrients hit your muscles right when the Window of Gainz is opening. That’s ideal.”
2 | STRETCH
This one is simple, but it has been a game-changer in my 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're just more likely to stay committed when someone tells you what to do (you need accountability) I have 3 solution options for you:
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 brunch 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 (read: stretching). 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.
3 | TAKE A HOT BATH
When my body is feeling like it's been hit by a truck (and run over), a hot bath is my go-to fix. If you're on a budget, this is also my free version of getting a massage. Even though each muscle isn't getting specific attention, like in a massage, the overall feeling afterwards is similar. I recommend adding some good smelling something to the water to aid in relaxation and help with muscle recovery.
My hot bath recipe goes something like this:
1 | Get the water nice and hot. When the tub is about half full, add a little bit of bubble bath or a bath bomb and a cup of Epsom Salt. Epsom is used for sprained muscles, so it's great for helping with muscle soreness. I use Dr. Teal's Eucalyptus bubble bath and epsom salt and I love any bath bomb from Lush.
2 | Grab whatever book you're into right now and a big, cold glass of water. I get really hot when I'm in the bath and the salt tends to be a bit dehydrating so I try to make sure I'm drinking water while I relax (you may opt to trade wine for water :)).
4 | SLEEP
Ideally, we would all get 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Some nights or even most nights this may not be in the cards. But sleep plays a huge part in how our body recovers each day after a tough workout or even just a long day of work. Not only does it aid in promoting recovery, it's also just important for healthy well-being. If you're interested in the science-y behind it, check out these articles: source 1 & source 2.
Work on making it a habit to 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, I recommend using the Bedtime feature within the clock app to hold you accountable and keep you consistent. It also helps to start powering down about an hour before you plan on going to bed. Try to be off the computer and your devices within an hour of bedtime to help your body prepare for a restful sleep.
MY POST-WORKOUT RECOVERY ROUTINE:
1 | protein shake as soon as I finish my workout
2 | dinner in the oven as soon as I get home from the gym
3 | romwod while dinner is cooking
4 | hot bath (when my body is craving it, but try to do it about once per week)
5 | in bed by 10pm
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, etc. (or even share it in the comments below!)
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!
I'd love to know in the comments below which thing you plan on implementing first OR if there are other ways that help you recover. Let me know!