After a particularly grueling run or an intense session of lifting weights, there are activities you can do to maximize your time spent post workout. Adding a little strategy to the time you spend after a workout can not only improve the positive benefits of exercise, but it can also help to improve your recovery time and reduce stress on your body.
1. Replace Your Fluids
While it’s easy to get into the habit of jumping on the scale after a difficult workout to see the immediate results of your exercise, the pounds you “lose” don’t represent actual weight loss. Any pounds that seem to disappear after your workout are simply lost fluids that are the result of sweating.
While taking a look at your weight before and after a workout isn’t a good way to determine whether you’re losing weight (monthly weigh-ins are much more accurate for that purpose), keeping track of your weight can actually aid in keeping you properly hydrated. Depending on the intensity and length of your workout, it is advisable to drink (not gulp) water or another hydrating fluid after exertion so your weight is the same before and after you work out.
2. Don’t Eat a Fatty Meal
Although there are countless suggestions on what to consume after a workout, there’s no reason you need to restrict the meal you eat after a workout to a particular type of food. The best thing to remember is that the meal you eat shouldn’t be high in fat since fat is used for storage and not replenishment.
By consuming a healthy, balanced meal that contains protein and carbohydrates, you can ensure your body is receiving the proper fuel to replenish glycogen stores and repair fatigued muscles. A salad with a healthy portion of grilled chicken is a great option, as is some tuna and brown rice.
3. Take a Cool Shower
While setting the temperature on your shower’s dial to “lava” might sound like a terrific idea to soothe aching and stressed muscles, turning the temperature to a medium or cool level is generally a better idea after a harsh workout. The longer and more intense your workout, the colder your water should be. However, going to the extreme with an ice bath isn’t really required for anyone but the most dedicated bodybuilders.
Conventional wisdom suggests that cold water will assist in reducing potential swelling of your body that may occur after a workout (especially workouts that last more than 90 minutes). The longer you wait after a workout, the warmer your shower can be without causing stress or unneeded swelling.
4. Use Your Mind
The rush of endorphins your body will receive after a workout can be responsible for improving your mood and giving you a temporary psychological boost. Putting that mental energy to use after a workout can be extremely valuable for finishing tasks around the house that you might otherwise push off to another day. Completing tasks after a workout can enhance the feelings of success and accomplishment you feel after a session of exercise.