So you just finished a workout. Go you! After catching your breath and jumping in the shower, you can just go about your day like normal, right? Or better yet, down a cup of chocolate milk for that needed protein? Sorry, no. That’s not what you want to be doing to get the most out of your workout. You put all that effort into exercise, you want to keep that good thing going and get the most out of it. Here’s what you should be doing post-workout to get everything you deserve out of your hard work.
Stretch it out
There’s a lot of uncertainty about if it’s better to stretch before or after a workout. The Social‘s fitness expert, Nadia Cordick, says stretch after. Stretching helps with your range of motion, balance, flexibility and prevents injury. You should be doing a full-body stretch after every workout, even if you didn’t workout your whole body. It might add extra time to your routine, but your body will thank you.
Roll it out
When you workout, you starve your muscles of oxygen which produces lactic acid (don’t worry, that’s what’s supposed to happen). Stretching is one thing, but using a foam roller helps you stretch while also flushing out that lactic acid that’s built up in your muscles. Plus, have you ever tried rolling out your back? Glorious!
Replenish key minerals
To help with recovery, muscle soreness and cramping, you’re going to want to replenish the minerals, magnesium and potassium in your body. You can find supplements for both these guys, but you could also eat foods rich in them post-workout (you’re going to be hungry anyway). You can get magnesium from peanut butter, almonds (and almond butter) and spinach.
Potassium offers the additional benefit of replenishing electrolytes along with its muscle-friendly properties. You can find it in abundance in bananas, chickpeas and kale.
Get your Protein
You always hear about post-workout protein. You don’t have to be one of those body builders in the gym downing protein shakes like they’re water, but you should definitely have some post-workout. It’s a common nutrition myth that you need to have protein within an hour of working out to get its muscle-building benefits though, you don’t actually have that much of a time-limit. Consuming protein is important to build and repair your muscles (which tear when you workout) but having some with your next meal is just fine.
If you’re not into protein shakes, you can get good protein from chicken, eggs, almonds, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and spinach.
Also important for rebuilding muscle is replenishing glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid in your muscles which is a building-block for protein in your body. You can get it in a powder, but it occurs naturally in sweet potatoes, bananas, black beans and beets.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Everyone knows you need water to survive and when you’re expending a lot of energy, you need even more. You should be drinking before, during and after your workout and consuming one to two bottles of water during that time.
Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff you should be doing after you exercise, but if you want an easy way to get all those nutrients at once, try throwing everything into a post-workout smoothie. Just remember, you don’t want to overdo it on protein, sugar or portion size when you make your drink. Make sure you do your research and are getting the right amount of everything for your body.
Oh, and about that chocolate milk: sorry, but it looks like all those athletes that are lauding it as the best post-workout snack aren’t quite right. Cordick says that while milk has a good amount of protein, the sweet chocolate–which is the real draw anyway–is too much sugar for chocolate milk to be your best option. Apparently the bad outweighs the good on that one.
Don’t worry though, you can definitely make yourself a smoothie that’s just as good and way more nutritious.