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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

Post-Workout Recovery: The Simplified Do's and Don'ts for Optimal Results


Stretching before a run

Working out is only half the battle when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. The other half is recovering properly after your workout. Recovery is the process of restoring your body to its pre-exercise state, repairing the muscle damage caused by exercise, replenishing your energy stores, and adapting to the stress of training. Recovery is essential for preventing injuries, reducing soreness, enhancing performance, and improving your overall health and well-being.

But how do you recover effectively after a workout? What should you do and what should you avoid? Here are the simplified do's and don'ts of post-workout recovery that you should follow to get the most out of your training.

Do's of Post-Workout Recovery

  • Do hydrate yourself

One of the most important things you can do after a workout is to drink plenty of fluids. You lose a lot of water and electrolytes through sweat during exercise, which can lead to dehydration, fatigue, cramps, headaches, and impaired performance. To prevent these problems, you should aim to drink at least 16 ounces of water or a sports drink within an hour of finishing your workout. This will help replenish your fluid levels, improve your circulation, flush out toxins, and support your metabolic functions.

  • Do eat a healthy snack or meal

Another key factor in post-workout recovery is nutrition. Your body needs fuel to repair the muscle tissue that was broken down during exercise, restore the glycogen that was used up as energy, and support your immune system. Ideally, you should eat a snack or meal that contains a combination of carbohydrates and protein within 45 minutes of completing your workout. Carbohydrates will help refill your energy tanks, while protein will provide the building blocks for muscle growth and repair. Some examples of post-workout foods are:

- A banana with peanut butter

- A turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread

- A yogurt with granola and berries

- A protein shake with milk and fruit

- A chicken salad with quinoa and veggies

  • Do stretch it out

Stretching after a workout can help relax your muscles, improve your flexibility, reduce soreness, and prevent stiffness. Stretching can also calm your mind, lower your heart rate, and ease your breathing. You should aim to stretch all the major muscle groups that you worked on during your exercise session, holding each stretch for at least 15 seconds. You can also use a foam roller or a massage ball to release any knots or tight spots in your muscles.

  • Do get enough rest and sleep

Resting after a workout allows your body to heal itself naturally at its own pace. It also gives you time to recover mentally and emotionally from the stress of exercise. You should avoid any strenuous activity for at least 24 hours after a hard workout session, especially if you feel sore or tired. You should also get enough sleep every night, as sleep is when most of the recovery processes take place. Aim for at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night to optimize your recovery.

  • Do try active recovery

Active recovery is a type of low-intensity exercise that helps promote blood flow, oxygen delivery, nutrient transport, and waste removal in your muscles. Active recovery can also help prevent lactic acid buildup, which can cause muscle soreness and fatigue. Some examples of active recovery activities are:

- Walking

- Swimming

- Cycling

- Yoga

- Pilates

You can do active recovery on your rest days or between your hard workouts. Just make sure you keep it light and easy and don't overdo it.



Don'ts of Post-Workout Recovery

  • Don't push yourself too hard

While it's good to challenge yourself during your workouts, it's not good to push yourself so hard that you compromise your recovery. Overtraining can lead to burnout, injury, illness, and diminished performance. You should always listen to your body and adjust your intensity and frequency according to your goals, fitness level, and recovery status. You should also vary your workouts to avoid boredom and overuse of the same muscles.

  • Don't skip the cooldown

Many people tend to skip the cooldown after a workout, thinking that it's not important or that they don't have time for it. However, skipping the cooldown can have negative consequences for your recovery and your health. A proper cooldown can help lower your heart rate gradually, prevent blood pooling and fainting, reduce muscle soreness and stiffness, and improve your mood and mental state. You should aim to cool down for at least 10 minutes after a workout, doing some gentle cardio and stretching exercises.

  • Don't eat junk food

While it may be tempting to reward yourself with a burger, fries, or ice cream after a hard workout, eating junk food can sabotage your recovery and your fitness goals. Junk food is high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, but low in nutrients, protein, and fiber. It can cause inflammation, dehydration, blood sugar spikes and crashes, digestive issues, and weight gain. Instead of junk food, you should opt for wholesome foods that nourish your body and support your recovery.

  • Don't drink alcohol

Another thing you should avoid after a workout is alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with your recovery in several ways. It can dehydrate you, impair your muscle protein synthesis, disrupt your sleep quality and quantity, increase inflammation and oxidative stress, impair your immune system, and affect your hormone balance. All of these factors can slow down your recovery and compromise your performance. If you do drink alcohol after a workout, limit yourself to one or two drinks and drink plenty of water.

  • Don't neglect your sleep

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of post-workout recovery. Sleep is when your body repairs itself from the damage caused by exercise. It's also when your brain consolidates the memories and skills that you learned during your workout. Sleep can improve your muscle growth, strength, endurance, coordination, reaction time, mood, motivation, and cognition. On the other hand, lack of sleep can impair all of these factors and increase your risk of injury and illness. You should aim for at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night to optimize your recovery.


FAQs

  • How long does it take to recover from a workout?

The answer depends on several factors, such as the type, intensity, duration, frequency, and volume of your workout, as well as your fitness level, nutrition, hydration, sleep, and genetics. Generally, it takes about 24 to 48 hours for your muscles to recover from a moderate-intensity workout, but it can take up to 72 hours for soreness to subside completely. However, this doesn't mean you have to wait that long before you exercise again. You can train different muscle groups on different days or do low-intensity or active recovery workouts in between.

  • How can I speed up my recovery?

There are some things you can do to speed up your recovery and enhance your results. Some of them are:

  1. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout

  2. Eat a balanced diet that includes enough protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

  3. Stretch and foam roll your muscles after your workout and on your rest days

  4. Get a massage or use other recovery tools like compression garments, ice packs, or heat pads

  5. Take supplements that support recovery, such as creatine, BCAAs, glutamine, omega-3s, turmeric, or tart cherry juice

  6. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other substances that can impair your recovery

  7. Manage your stress levels and practice relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises

  8. Listen to your body and take rest days when needed

  • How do I know if I'm recovering well?

There are some signs that indicate that you're recovering well from your workouts. Some of them are:

- You feel energized and motivated to exercise

- You perform better and make progress in your workouts

- You don't experience excessive soreness or pain in your muscles or joints

- You sleep well and wake up refreshed

- You have a good appetite and digestion

- You have a positive mood and outlook

On the other hand, there are some signs that indicate that you're not recovering well from your workouts. Some of them are:

- You feel tired and sluggish all the time

- You perform poorly and plateau or regress in your workouts

- You experience chronic soreness or pain in your muscles or joints

- You have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

- You have a poor appetite and digestion

- You have a negative mood and outlook

If you notice any of these signs, you may need to adjust your recovery strategy or consult a professional for advice.


Final thoughts

Recovery is a vital part of any fitness routine. It allows your body to heal from the stress of exercise and adapt to the demands of training. By following the do's and don'ts of post-workout recovery, you can optimize your performance and health. Remember to hydrate yourself, eat a healthy snack or meal, stretch it out, get enough rest and sleep, try active recovery, and avoid pushing yourself too hard, skipping the cooldown, eating junk food, drinking alcohol, and neglecting your sleep. By doing so, you can recover faster and stronger from your workouts and achieve your fitness goals.


If you need professional help with your post-workout recovery, you can book an appointment with Jubilant, a team of experienced physical therapists who can provide you with personalized and effective treatments. Whether you have an injury, or pain, or just want to improve your performance and health, Jubilant can help you achieve your goals. Visit https://www.jubilant.rehab/book-online to schedule your consultation today and get ready to feel better and stronger.




References:

- American College of Sports Medicine. (2013). ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (9th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

- Cheung, K., Hume, P., & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 145-164.

- Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2014). NASM Essentials of personal fitness training (4th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

- Howatson, G., & van Someren, K. A. (2008). The prevention and treatment of exercise-induced muscle damage. Sports Medicine, 38(6), 483-503.

- Kellmann, M., Bertollo, M., Bosquet, L., Brink, M., Coutts, A. J., Duffield, R., ... & Hecksteden, A. (2018). Recovery and performance in sport: consensus statement. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(2), 240-245.

- McHugh, M. P., & Cosgrave, C. H. (2010). To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20(2), 169-181.

- Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. (2013). Is postexercise muscle soreness a valid indicator of muscular adaptations? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 35(5), 16-21.

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