4 Expert Tips on How to Recover Well After a Workout

Recovery from workouts is part of the training load: it is as important as the training itself. A body that reaches muscular and nervous exhaustion will eventually underperform.

Carbohydrates are essential for replenishing energy stores, but choose them wisely – think whole grains, beans, vegetables – and always refuel within a few hours of a workout to reduce muscle soreness. Getting enough sleep also helps with recovery, and adding relaxation rituals, such as mindful breathing, to your nightly routine can aid in reducing muscular fatigue.

1. Hydrate

Hydration helps your body recover from exercise when muscle repair is important and when post-workout hydration is beneficial. Armed with this knowledge, you can be a better athlete and meet your goals more effectively.

As you exercise, your body releases water in the form of sweat, which can cause dehydration, leading to a myriad of problems. But proper hydration can help you avoid muscle cramping and generally help you perform at your best so you can knock it out of the park at your next workout.

To ensure hydration, it’s necessary to replace both the water and the electrolytes that have been lost through sweating – that is, sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium. For optimal hydration, seek some of these minerals from a sports drink. You also need to take in some of these minerals through your diet in everyday fruits and vegetables such as bananas and oranges.

2. Stretch

OK, a few minutes of stretching is a relatively gentle way of giving yourself a break. Stretching loosens muscles up a bit so that you’re less likely to injure yourself, and also makes it easier to gradually wind down after exercise.

With each workout, you subject your muscles to physical stress, it tears at the muscle fibres through micro-tears, which in turn produces stronger, bigger muscles, as long as you’re recuperating in between each assault.

If you want to get the most out of your exercise, you have to focus on proper recovery after you’ve finished your session – not by lying down in bed all day or spending hours on the couch eating ice-cream, but by being thoughtful about how you recover, and making it a priority. The muscles we strain with high-intensity exercise will not be able to repair themselves well, and not grow to their fullest potential, if they receive no rest.

3. Eat

But few understand that eating correctly, especially after exercise, is crucial for maintaining and optimising muscle mass. Consuming carbohydrates and protein, at the right time, after exercise can aid recovery, helping to replenish depleted carbohydrate stores and provide the necessary protein to rebuild damaged muscle tissue and generate new tissue.

Yes, it’s important to fuel up after exercise, but it’s equally important not to gorge yourself, as a large meal or even a big snack right before or right after your work-out will lead to stomach upset, bloating and possibly diarrhoea.

You also need to avoid sugary options such as cookies and candy, foods rich in fat or a high-protein, low-carbohydrate option (since some packaged whey protein products can be low in carbohydrates too). Instead, look for whole-grains, fruits and lean proteins (eggs, poultry, fish, soy, nuts), and a small dose of healthy fats both in your meals and snacks. Make sure you get your branched-chain amino acids too, such as valine, isoleucine and leucine. All three promote muscle growth and repair, and can help reduce muscle soreness. The better dietary choices likely will be different for you, and will require experimentation, to find out what your body tolerates best.

4. Sleep

Nothing would be as important as getting back home for a healthy recovery: you’d better get enough sleep if you ever want to repair broken down muscle and reap the benefits of your workout. Give yourself between seven to nine hours of shut-eye every night, with an optimal sleeping schedule and no stimulants anywhere near your bed.

In a workout, you force your muscles to bear more tension than they generally do. That imposes a kind of microscopic tearing up of your fibres. In a sleep phase, the protein-building process starts to support these tears. At the same time, hormones that spark growth are released.

Remember that everyone’s level of recovery is different too. Your current fitness level, how well you’re sleeping and what you’re eating all impact how much recovery you need after a workout session, and this may vary between active recovery (like

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