A properly designed exercise program is the key to meeting fitness goals. But the main workout is not the only component to achieving optimal results. To best reach your health and fitness goals, you need an effective post-workout routine.
When clients first begin a fitness program, their focus typically focuses on the workouts only. They have yet to learn that a proper workout routine is all-encompassing: nutrition, pre- and post-workout routines, and recovery.
Many trainers believe rest periods are more important than training periods. This is because when you are in the gym muscle fibers undergo wear and tear. The other 23 hours spent outside the gym determine how your body recovers from muscle damage.
Let’s explore what the best post-workout routine is to achieve optimal recovery.
What to do Immediately After a Workout?
Directly after a tough workout, the body is warm from muscle contractions. Part of this process is vasoconstriction and vasodilation. Vasodilation occurs when blood vessels expand or widen. And blood vessels constrict or narrow during vasoconstriction.
Constant muscle contraction and vasodilation increase blood flow to working muscles in the body. Stretching, foam rolling, and amino acid consumption can help you recover from an intense workout.
As you exercise, your body produces lactic acid. Lactic acid is a chemical produced in the blood as a result of anaerobic respiration. Cooling down and performing static stretching post-workout helps eliminate accumulated lactic acid in the body. Flushing out this excess lactic acid and dead muscle cells allows aching muscles to relax. This tells the body your workout is complete.
Cool downs ensure a slow heart rate recovery and regulate blood pressure. This prevents dizziness and nausea by avoiding blood pooling. If you have ever felt like passing out after a workout this is because you went too quickly from an intense burst of effort to stopping completely. It causes a large drop in heart rate.
It is crucial to keep moving and gradually let your heart rate recover. The goal is to ensure optimal blood flow and regulation of resting heart rate.
Otherwise a buildup of blood gathers in the veins once your muscles stop contracting. A proper cool down should last 3-10 minutes and consist of low-intensity movements.
Once you properly cool down, you can foam roll major muscles worked that day. Areas that are more tender have more adhesions. Focus mainly on these spots.
Foam rolling stimulates blood flow in problem areas bringing more oxygen to the muscles. Oxygen during exercise helps muscles convert sugar into energy. The same principle applies after; it brings nutrients into the muscle to help speed up muscle recovery time.
Check out these secrets to foam rolling.
Lastly, it is crucial to replenish lost nutrients after a workout. When you exercise, you burn through the energy from your pre-workout meal/snack and the stored energy in the body. Replenishing lost nutrients aid the body in repair and recovery. It eliminates further muscle breakdown. Consuming whey protein and other nutrients helps the body build lean muscle. Chocolate milk is a popular post-workout drink because of the protein and carb content.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are in certain foods and come in supplement form. They are made of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are responsible for promoting muscle growth, preventing fatigue, and increasing performance.
Consuming these directly after a workout stimulates protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis occurs throughout the entire day. But right after a workout, it is at its highest and the body will end up absorbing more nutrients. BCAAs can help start the muscle repair process and prevent protein breakdown.
Nutrition to Enhance Recovery
You might consider implementing a BCAA supplement post-workout. This does not mean you can stop eating well throughout the day or that you can skip eating after a workout.
Aim to consume a healthy, recovery-focused meal within an hour of finishing your workout.
High amount of lean protein
Moderate amount of complex carbs
Low amounts of healthy fats
Workouts deplete muscle glycogen stores. Protein may seem obvious, but to rebuild muscle tissue, you must also nourish the body with carbohydrates and fats. Carbs help transport protein to your muscles via the blood. Healthy fats high in omega 3 fatty acids reduce the level of muscle soreness by reducing inflammation.
Putting it all Together: Creating a Post-Workout Routine
After an intense workout, cool down by lightly walking or jogging on the treadmill. A good speed is 3.5-4.5 MPH for 10 minutes. This is dependent on how intense the workout was and the clientele.
Aim to work at a low intensity—lower than the workout itself. Gradually lower the intensity and speed to bring the body to a resting state. The goal is to avoid going from a high heart rate to a low heart rate too quickly.
Once heart rate decreases, perform one round of the following stretches:
Runners Lunge: 15-30 seconds each
Child's Pose: 30 seconds
Cat Cow: 20 seconds
Cobra: 30 seconds
Arm Cross Body Stretches: 15-30 seconds each
At this point, the body is completely cooled down. Foam roll tender, fatigued, and sore muscles to help break up adhesions and promote blood flow to major muscles. Focus on the quads, hamstrings, calves, and back for five rolls each. Rolling reduces your total fatigue and enhances recovery.
While you finish your workout and perform these post-workout routines you can drink your BCAA supplement. Have it already mixed in a shaker cup for convenience. Or drink it on the way home before your post-workout meal.
Choose protein food over protein supplements. Remember to eat a well-balanced meal made up of approximately 50% carbs, 35% protein, and 15% fat.
Are you looking to use your passion for health and fitness to help others? Build a fitness career by becoming an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer. This will allow you to customize training programs including recovery techniques for clients in need.