Whether you’re looking to slim down or bulk up, what you do after the gym is just as important as all the weights, treadmills and yoga balls. Recovery is a major part of the fitness process, and skipping it can not only halt your progress – it can actually cause damage and injuries.
Below are 6 recovery tips to keep your body in top health, while you work toward your body goals, whatever they may be.
1. Don’t overdo your workout
It seems logical that the more you lift the bigger your muscles will grow, or that the more you run the smaller your waistline will shrink. But pushing too hard actually forces your body to focus on repairing damage from being overworked, and it can’t heal your muscles appropriately.
That means fewer gains, and a longer period of soreness, keeping you from getting back to the gym to keep working out. You only want to push yourself a little bit past your comfort zone, so that you can make progress without tearing your body apart and causing long-lasting damage. Make sure your regimen is sustainable, too — you don’t have to go every day, and the focus should always be on health and feeling good, not body shape.
2. Don’t skip stretching
Stretching doesn’t seem too important if you’re just focused on size, but it actually has major effects on muscle growth and blood flow. Spending 10-20 minutes stretching the muscles you just worked out activates receptors that increase gains, and reduces the amount and duration of soreness you’ll feel in the days following your workout.
Not only that, but loose muscles are able to be worked out more fully, meaning you can get more out of your next workout than if you let them tighten up. And the increased blood flow that comes with stretching helps your muscles recover more quickly and healthily, and can help with overall arterial health.
3. Pack in some protein
Everybody knows the cliché of chugging a protein shake after a hard workout, but there’s more to it if you want to maximize effectiveness. For starters, know that you only need between 20-50 grams of protein post-workout – women require less, while men require more to aid muscle repair. Second, try to get that protein in you 30-60 minutes after you finish working out, otherwise the effects will be decreased.
After you’ve had your protein, eat a carb-loaded meal, and be sure to hydrate. Pasta, rice, bread – anything with some complex carbs will restore your energy and keep you going rather than feeling tired. And pick up a sports drink to recover some electrolytes, which water can’t help you with.
4. Get some sleep
This can be done during the day with mini naps (15-20 minutes) as well as with an early bedtime. Your body does most of its recovering while you’re asleep, and not getting enough sleep can cause your body to feel more stiff, achy and exhausted in the days following a workout.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is ideal, but it’s also important that you get to bed at a decent time. Sleeping from 2am-9am won’t leave you feeling as rested as sleeping from 11pm-6am.
5. Do some “active recovery”
Many people take rest days in between hard workouts, but even in those days a little light exercise can help keep your muscles loose and your blood flowing. Try going for light walks or bike rides, or doing some simple body-weight workouts on your days off.
If you’re not the type to take rest days, you should consider at least going lighter on your workout periodically. Take a couple of days or a week where you only do about half the weight you normally lift, or half the time and intensity you normally do for cardio. Your body will wear down otherwise, and you won’t be able to make any progress at all.
6. Reduce stress
Physical fatigue isn’t the only concern at the gym – being stressed out mentally and emotionally can wear your body down as well. Make sure you’re taking care of all of your health needs, if you want to have fully functional body.
Feeling overworked or unhappy at work or at home can even cause you to come down with illnesses like colds. If you’re doing everything you can to remain physically healthy, and steel feel worn down, consider giving us a call to see what else might be ailing you. We’re here to help with your overall health.