So you’ve just finished today’s workout. (Awesome job!) What now?
Well, the best post-workout habits will depend in part on what kind of exercise you did and for how long, but there are some basic principles that apply to every post-workout situation. Here are seven things you should do when you’re done exercising to support your body and help you reach those fitness goals.
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
All that sweat? That’s water leaving your body, so you want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids after your workout. Staying properly hydrated can also improve flexibility and strength, as well as helping prevent sore muscles and support recovery. Water is always a great option, as is coconut water, or choose a sports drink with added electrolytes (you can even create a custom Buddy Nutrition protein powder blend that includes electrolytes for an added boost of hydration) — essential nutrients that are also lost through sweat.
2. Cool Down With a Stretching Routine
Cool-down exercises are crucial after a workout. Make sure to stretch out all your muscles, especially those that you worked particularly hard so that they won’t be sore the next day or be at risk for injury. If you’re not sure how to stretch certain parts of your body, you could look up stretches on YouTube and find the ones that work for you. Introducing a foam roller into your post-workout routine could also help you loosen up tight muscles.
3. Replenish That Protein
Eating protein soon after your workout is essential to maximize the benefits of exercise. If you’ve done a weight lifting session, you should eat a protein-rich snack or meal within 30 minutes after working out. For lighter aerobic exercise, aim to eat within an hour afterwards.
In both cases, a protein shake is a super practical and delicious way to replenish those much-needed nutrients. To ensure you’re getting exactly what you need, make a shake using Buddy Nutrition’s personalized protein powder, which blends the best type of protein powder for you with macro ingredients and boost add-ins (ranging from digestion-boosting probiotics, soothing turmeric and glow-enhancing collagen) — and it comes in seven tasty flavors.
4. Get Some Carbs, Too
When you exercise, your body dips into your glycogen storage for energy (glycogen is the main storage form of glucose in humans). Consuming carbs is the best way to restore your glycogen level and assist with recovery; a suggested ratio of post-workout carbs to protein is 3:1. An easy way to get them is to add fruit like a banana or some strawberries to your protein shake. You can also make a meal that includes brown rice or quinoa.
5. Mix It Up
Don’t do the same workout every time. Instead, mix it up with upper body strength training one day, running the next, HIIT the next, and so on. This allows you to work different muscle groups so that you’re not putting excess strain on one set of muscles. Mixing it up also means switching intensities. If you’re really sore from a strenuous workout, you should let your muscles recover by doing lower intensity activities like hiking or yoga in the following days.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is non-negotiable if you’re working out on the regular. If you don’t, this could prevent your muscles from recovering properly and even cause you to lose muscle mass, according to one study. Most adults need between seven and nine hours, but make sure to listen to your body and get some rest if you’re feeling overtired.
7. Take All the Rest Days You Need
Finally, don’t feel like you need to work out every day, especially if you feel tired, sore or sick. If you don’t take enough rest days, this could be counterproductive to your fitness gains. Not only do rest days help your muscles grow, recover and avoid injury, but taking enough time to rest will also improve your performance the next time you do work out.
What you do after a workout is just as important as the workout itself. Creating a healthy post-exercise routine using these tips will help your muscles grow, heal and make your workout more effective. Recovery is self-care!
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with 6 years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in InStyle, Stylist, SheKnows, Cosmopolitan, Alma, Her Campus and more.