You've just finished an incredibly challenging workout. You set a new personal best. You're exhausted. All you want to do is hit the shower and hit the bed, but your work isn't done.
What you do after your workout is just as important as what you do before and during training. Having the proper post-workout diet and plan will help you recover better and keep progressing in your workouts. Skip this important part and you leave yourself open for serious injury.
Your body has some demands after strenuous activity that it makes pretty well known. Instead of ignoring them, make sure you pay attention to the six things your body really needs:
1. Water -- All that sweating after strenuous activity means your body is really in need of hydration. No matter how fancy the sports drink, the best solution will always be water. Those drinks are often packed with sugar and artificial ingredients that make them such cool colors. Keep it natural and gulp it down (you should be drinking water during your training as well).
2. Electrolytes -- As we sweat, the body also loses valuable minerals, known as electrolytes. Electrolytes are found within the fluids of your body, including the blood, and carry an electric charge. The most common electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sodium and they affect muscle function, among other things. The only way to get more electrolytes back is by consuming them. Coconut water is a great alternative to sugary sports drinks that is packed with electrolytes.
3. Protein -- Protein is essential after a workout to encourage muscle recovery and the development of lean muscle tissue. If you're looking to shed fat and gain more muscle, protein is the best way to go. You can try a bar or shake (either premade or homemade). Great sources of post-workout protein are nut butters, seeds, lean meats, beans and low-fat dairy products, like Greek yogurt.
4. Carbohydrates -- Now, this doesn't mean grab a donut and you need to be careful of any carbs found in bars or premade shakes. Your blood sugar will drop when you exercise so you need carbs that with get into the body quickly, also known as fast-acting carbohydrates. Good options include honey, fruit juice, dried fruit (like raisins) or milk. You can add any of these to a shake or other post-workout meal.
5. Stretching -- Your muscles are beat after running, lifting, dancing or whatever you do to stay fit. Prevent them from locking up or becoming too sore the next day by taking time to gently stretch. Don't push your body beyond its limits and be sure to breathe throughout.
6. Rest -- Don't drive yourself to exercise fatigue. You finished your workout, now take some time to rest and be excited about that. This doesn't mean you don't train again for a week, but allow yourself 24 hours to recover if you can and alternate your training days between strength and cardio. If you do combination workouts, taking a day to rest in between can prevent overexertion and injury.
Combining all of these things creates a solid post-workout routine. First and foremost, you need to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel. If you experience an injury, give it the proper time to heal and eat when you feel you need it -- those abs will be just as flat as they were when you finished your set after your food has digested.
There's no prize for working out more than your buddies every week if you end up sidelined later on by injury. Talk with a trainer, your doctor or nutritionist to help you determine the best way to give your body what it needs while still reaching your fitness goals. Shop eVitamins' selection of workout products to round out your routine and keep you healthy and active.
eVitamins recommends that you do not rely on the information presented in this article as diagnosis for treatment to any health claim. Content and information on this site is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for advice given by a physician, pharmacist, or other licensed health-care professional. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Contact your health-care provider immediately if you suspect that you have a medical problem. The information and statements in this article have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. eVitamins assumes no liability for inaccuracies or misstatements.