Workout Recovery Guide for Intense Sessions
The fitness industry tends to cycle through different trends. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage at the moment. CrossFit was on the bleeding edge of the workout world a few years ago. There’s always something stealing the spotlight and soaking up the attention of fitness gurus and gym rats alike.
In most cases, regardless of the specific kind of fitness or exercise taking place, you should follow it up with one crucial activity: recovery.
Why Do You Need to Recover From a Workout?
There are multiple reasons to spend purposeful time recovering from a workout. For example:
After a round of high-intensity or strength training, your muscle tissue requires time to repair and strengthen for future efforts.
Your body needs time to physically recover from the stress of a workout and recharge its energy.
Your mind often requires a mental break to psychologically reset and prepare for another workout.
There are typically two stages of recovery. The short-term phase focuses on the first few hours after a workout or fitness event. This is the cool-down portion that often requires short, calming bursts of stretching and specific activities to help the body relax.
Long-term recovery is often more structured. It is a planned period during which high-level athletes, in particular, take multiple days or weeks to let their bodies recover.
How to Recover From an Intense Workout
Even if you aren’t a professional athlete or a fitness guru, it’s still important to spend the time properly cooling down from an intense workout. Here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the short-term post-workout phase.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Water is a critical part of a good workout. Proper hydration can help you regulate your body temperature, digest nutrients properly, and cushion vital organs during exercise. In addition, it can help you maintain peak physical and cognitive performance.
This doesn’t just mean you should chug a glass of water before you start a workout, either. Truly hydrating is a practice that should start well before you begin to exercise and extend right into the recovery period.
Everyone’s water needs vary. However, it’s recommended that you drink between 17 ounces and 20 ounces of water a couple of hours before your workout. Once the workout begins, you should continue to consume 7 ounces to 10 ounces for every 15 minutes of exercise.
After the workout, your water consumption should vary based on one critical factor: how much you sweat. Try to weigh yourself before and after your workout. Then, drink around 20 ounces of water for each pound that you lost due to sweating.
People often think of stretching as a pre-workout activity. You loosen up your muscles, warm up your body, and generally get ready to put your all into your workout routine.
After you’re done with that routine, the last thing that you want to do is stand still and stretch again. The truth is, though, stretching post-workout is another important part of the recovery process.
When you finish a workout, many of your muscles will be in a shortened state. If they’re left that way, they can tighten up, leading to stiffness and soreness later on. The best way to avoid this issue is to stretch these areas so that you can keep your body limber and speed up recovery before your next workout.
It’s also important that you use dynamic stretching rather than static stretching. The latter typically involves holding a specific position. Conversely, the former helps your muscles loosen up with gentle motions that mimic the exercises you just completed. This is a much more effective way to stay lithe and supple for your next workout.
Stretching directly impacts your muscles. Water keeps you hydrated and in peak form. But it’s the foods you eat that will ultimately fuel (or not fuel) your body’s recovery after a workout.
When it comes to recovery, in particular, you want to make sure to include healthy proteins, fats, and carbs. You can get these through a variety of culinary options that span the gamut from oatmeal and tuna fish to avocados, nuts, yogurt, and even chocolate milk.
Timing is also important here. It’s recommended that you eat at least a combo of protein and carbohydrates as soon as possible after a workout. Ideally, you should get all of your post-workout recovery foods ingested within 45 minutes, as well.
Supplements are another great way to get the most out of your post-workout recovery. Remember that it’s always wise to discuss any supplements you want to take with your primary care provider.
A few good examples include:
Vitamin B12 to help with brain, nerves, and circulatory functions;
Protein supplements to help with muscle growth;
Glutathione serves as an antioxidant that fights free-radical damage from intense workouts.
Supplements can be extremely helpful recovery tools; remember to use them with the approval of a medical professional.
Other Tips for Workout Recoveries
Food, water, stretching, and supplements are all major factors in the recovery phase. However, there are many other ways that you can bolster your short-term healing. For instance, you can:
Avoid overtraining: Overtraining may hurt your muscles in damaging ways. Make sure to give each muscle group 48 hours to rest between workouts.
Be careful in hot temperatures: Exercising in the heat makes it much easier to lose too many fluids. Make sure that you’re very hydrated if it’s hot out.
Get a massage: Massages don’t just feel good. They can also improve the circulation in your muscles and help you relax your body post-workout.
Sleep is just as important: Sleep is a major part of recovery. Make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of high-quality sleep each night.
Don’t forget to rest and relax: Once you’ve stretched after a workout, give your body a break. It needs a chance to recover some energy and heal in peace.
There are plenty of ways to properly recover from a workout. The key factor is investing in a post-workout recovery routine that suits your needs the best.