The hours leading up to your workouts can be fun and exciting. You’re waiting eagerly for the moment you can step inside the gym, push yourself, and take one step closer toward your goals.
The workout itself is also great. You get to do your favorite (and not so favorite) movements, try new things, achieve minor goals, and set personal records.
But what about the post-workout period? Do you ever pay attention to what happens once you drop the weight and call it a day?
Many people forget about this, but it plays a significant role in your longevity and progress. Without further ado, let’s go over two critical things you need to pay attention to as you finish each workout.
Post-Training Nutrition - Are You Fueling Yourself Right?
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the post-workout anabolic window. Like most people, you either consider it essential for progress or not important at all.
While research doesn’t show proof of an anabolic window, how we choose to fuel our bodies following workouts is still essential (1). Most notably, our post-training meals should achieve three things:
- Prevent or slow down muscle protein breakdown
- Kickstart muscle protein synthesis
- Replenish lost glycogen
First, the protein lends amino acids that begin to repair damaged muscle tissue and prevent the body from breaking it up for energy. It also helps elevate muscle protein synthesis for up to 36 hours following training, contributing to growth and repair (4).
Second, carbs replenish the lost glycogen - the body’s internal reserves of complex carbs that fuel physical effort, including our workouts. This allows us to get back to the gym more quickly and exert the same amount of effort. Research also finds that glycogen depletion impedes muscle protein synthesis, which isn’t exactly good for muscle growth (5).
So, make sure to have a large meal consisting of protein (fish, eggs, dairy, meat, etc.) and some carbs (rice, potatoes, pasta, whole grains, etc.) within an hour or two of finishing your workout.
Post-Workout Stretches - Why and How
Stretching might sound as exciting as going in for a dentist appointment, but we need to do it because it offers excellent benefits.
Most notably, stretching our muscles after working out is a great way to make them more flexible and improve joint mobility (6). This would allow us to train more safely, move through space with ease, and feel greater comfort even on challenging movements like the deep squat.
Stretching may also improve blood circulation and allow for more oxygen and nutrients to enter our muscles following workouts (7). This can help speed up recovery and could reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Speaking of that, some people also report experiencing less muscle soreness if they stretch after working out. Though, research doesn’t offer conclusive evidence at this point (8). In any case, even if the effect is self-perceived, that could still be beneficial.
And finally, stretching your muscles after training is a great way to relax your mind and relieve some stress. This effect is further magnified by the flood of endorphins your body releases in response to training (9).
To reap these benefits, perform multiple stretches where you hold for ten to thirty seconds. It’s best to stretch the muscles you’ve trained, but you can also work on ones you haven’t.
Fantastic options include:
- Deep squat holds
- Ankle dorsiflexion stretches
- Pectoral stretches
- Overhead lat stretch
- Overhead tricep stretch
- Head to knee forward bend