Training can really wipe you out. Believe me; I understand the pain, fatigue and incredible hunger that accompany hard workouts. But don’t let any of that stop you from achieving your fitness goals!
There are many simple ways to help your body recover faster after working out. Let’s take a look at what you can do to maximize your time spent in the gym as well as reduce your recovery time.
Eat Right Away
It’s vital to fuel your muscles after finishing a workout. Not only that, what you decide to eat will have a major impact on your training results as well as how you feel for the rest of the day.
There are a couple guidelines to keep in mind as you reach for your post-workout food. First, the harder your workout, the more nutrients you will need to replenish. So, make sure you are eating a meal (even if it’s a smaller meal) instead of just a light snack.
Second, eat right away after your workout. Ideally, this means eating within 15 to 30 minutes after you’ve finished training, or within 45 minutes at the very least. Try to keep post-workout food in your gym bag to eat on the way home if you find yourself waiting too long for food after training.
The first 60 minutes after exercise are known as the “carbohydrate window,” where your muscles convert carbohydrates into glycogen roughly three times more rapidly than usual. Making post-workout meals a part of your training routine will not only help your muscles refuel, it will also help you avoid feeling drained later on in the day.
Carbs & Protein
The types of foods to eat ultimately depend on your fitness goals, but a good rule of thumb is to go for a fast-digesting carbohydrate and protein. After a workout, your muscles need carbohydrates to refuel and protein to rebuild as well as get stronger.
Protein helps bolster amino acids that you lose during your training sessions as well as repair muscle damage. The protein-carb combo (typically a 1:4 ratio of protein to carbs is recommended) after a workout is important because it builds muscle and can improve glycogen synthesis. Improved glycogen refueling promotes recovery and can reduce post-workout soreness.
Post-Workout Food Choices
If your training was a shorter workout or consisted of light cardio, choose low-glycemic fruit and protein for your post-workout meal. An example of this would be egg whites or protein powder and your choice of one of the following: berries, grapefruit, an apple, orange, or a pear.
If your workout included weight training or was more vigorous, then you can include more carbohydrates. If you have been battling cravings, you could also indulge your sweet tooth in moderation! After weight training is the best time to include a small cheat if you have to, since your muscles can process those sugars more efficiently.
Other Ways to Recover
What and when you eat affect your training results a great deal, but there are many other things you can do to support faster recovery:
- Drink plenty of water – water is vital for a healthy body and it supports the transfer of nutrients. I tell my clients to shoot for drinking a gallon of water a day.
- Stretch or use a foam roller – stretching, foam rolling or even getting a massage all increase blood circulation to your muscles, helping you recover more quickly. For more info on foam rolling, check out my previous blog post, The Benefits of Foam Rolling.
- Get enough sleep – our bodies do amazing things when we’re asleep! Getting plenty of rest is essential after a tough workout. Our bodies also produce Growth Hormone (GH) while we’re sleeping, which helps with tissue growth and repair.
- Listen to your body – avoid overtraining. Hit it hard in the gym, but make sure you give your body adequate time to rest and recover.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to post-workout recovery is to eat immediately after training. Stick to carbs and protein after your workout for optimal glycogen refueling. Also make sure that you drink plenty of water and get adequate rest in between training sessions. Do this every time you train and you’ll make the most out of your time at the gym!