So you just got in a great workout and you feel awesome (and probably a little tired), but even though your sneakers are off, you’re not quite done yet! Proper recovery is extremely important to maintain muscle, flush out lactic acid, and stop your body from cramping later on after your workout.
Recovery is a time where proper nutrition is essential. Protein sources are required to rebuild muscle tissue and to supply the building blocks for various cells, tissues, enzymes, and hormones. But that’s just one aspect of recovery after working out; here are NINE things you should be doing after you work out that you may not have thought of — but will make a huge difference!
1. Chocolate (milk) is good for you!
Convenient and delicious! Chug some chocolate milk because the protein it contains will kick start your muscle recovery. And those chocolaty carbs have been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes for the body to get ready for its next challenge!
2. Cherry juice is sweet AND beneficial!
If you feel stiff from yesterday’s spin class or lifting session, try tart cherry juice and supplements! They help reduce the swelling that occurs when muscles are damaged, allowing our bodies to recover faster and with less pain.
3. Take an (ice cold) bath!
All serious athletes do it! It may sound scary at first, but research suggests taking a cold, full-body plunge after working out can significantly reduce soreness. Not to mention reducing inflammation for up to 24 hours after exercise!
4. Get that beauty sleep!
There have been multiple studies suggest sleep deprivation can have a significant negative effects on performance and recovery. Sleep is prime time for the body to undergo protein synthesis, so getting extra zzzs after a tough workout might make for stronger muscles and better endurance.
5. Water, water, water!
An obvious one, but a point that cannot be emphasized enough: hydration! Better recovery could be just a glass (or two or three…) away. Exercising while dehydrated can cause greater damage to muscles and reduce the body’s ability to repair itself. So grab a bottle of H2O to go!
6. Cut back on the Happy Hours…
Research suggests more than one or two drinks after working out could reduce the body’s ability to recover, so you may want to pass on those “post-yoga-happy-hours” if you know what’s good for you!
7. Make foam rolling your friend.
Rolling out muscles with foam or semi-rigid rollers—two forms of self-myofascial release—can help remove those knots and prevent muscle imbalances from forming. While foam rolling can be somewhat painful, the benefits are worth it! You’ll feel amazing very soon after, I promise!
8. Massage, anyone?
Recovery backrubs, anyone? Like foam rolling, massage helps break up scar tissue and reduce stiffness associated with muscle repair. Scented candles and relaxing tunes optional.
9. Compression garments may not be stylish…
…but they do wonders for your muscles! It’s important for a lot of athletes to quickly regain the energy to run, jump, or throw once again. Research suggests wearing compression garments can help decrease the time it takes for muscles to recover between intense bouts of exercise, so try some on!
Learn more about how to deal with pain from this Ask the Coaches response.
Get more food tips from Post-workout food ideas and this Ask the Coaches response about nutrition.