What does your post-workout routine look like? In this blog, take a look at some key things to do after exercise, plus a few things to avoid, in order to support your fitness and avoid injuries or aches and pains.
Louise Baillie S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3 @ActiveLouise Ask Louise
18 June 2021
10 dos and don’ts after exercise
After exercise, there are a few things you should aim to do. Do eat protein and carbohydrate-rich foods, support the muscles, drink plenty of water, practise a cool down, and try relaxing activities. At the same time, do not come to an immediate stop after exercise, avoid alcohol, don't eat sugary foods and avoid another workout!
What should you do immediately after a workout?
Once you've completed a workout, there are a few things you can do to support your recovery. Let's run through what these are.
1. Eat unprocessed protein and carbohydrate-rich foods
The body's stores of protein are used up to power muscles during exercise. Meanwhile, carbohydrates provide the energy we need both before and after a workout. So, it is essential that we consume foods rich in both of these things after exercise.
Try to avoid pre-packaged protein bars and powders as these can be heavily processed and high in sugar. Instead, opt for ingredients that are packed with protein, such as nuts, beans, yoghurt and eggs.
Carbohydrates can be sourced from foods such as wholemeal bread, beans, potatoes, quinoa and oats.
You can incorporate these kinds of ingredients into a tasty homemade cereal bar for a straightforward post-workout snack. Our Muesli and Peanut Butter Bars are ideal, as they are rich in protein and are energy-boosting too – just what you need after a hard bout of activity!
2. Support your muscles
It is important to factor in a moment to tend to the muscles after a workout, in order to ease any aches and pains.
I would suggest easing off any tension in the muscles with a hot bath, a heat pad or even a little Atrogel Arnica Gel if any particular aches flare up after an activity.
If your muscles are feeling particularly achy, or there are any niggles you are worried about, then a sports massage can help to sort out these issues.
Replenishing your water intake is another essential task post-exercise. We obviously lose a lot of fluids through any form of vigorous exercise and these need to be replaced. Also, bear in mind that if you are exercising in warmer temperatures (even just a stuffy gym!) even more fluids will be lost. So, at this time your water intake may need to be topped up even higher.
Try flavouring your water with refreshing herbs and fruit for something a little different!
4. Practise a cool down
Make sure you factor in some time to cool down your body after a workout. You should bring down your heart rate gradually with some gentle activities like walking or, if your main workout has been quite intense, some jogging will do.
Next, move on to some stretches, making sure to focus on all areas of the body. You can follow my video below if you need further advice on what kind of stretches to do after a workout. After that, take a moment to notice how your body feels, rather than rushing straight on to the next thing on your agenda!
5. Try relaxing activities
Finally, make space for some relaxing activities to help your body adapt to the strains of a workout. You could do a slow Yoga workout, for example, spend some time reading, or take a stroll. These kinds of things are good to do in the evening following a workout, or the next day.
What should you not do after a workout?
Next, let's take a look at the things you should not do after exercise.
1. Come to an immediate stop
Issues like cramp, and even injuries to the muscles, are much more likely to occur if we come to an immediate stop after exercise. Also, there's a chance that you could feel light-headed if the body is forced to come to a quick stop. So, yet again, this is why it is so important to factor in time to cool down the body after an activity.
2. Have an alcoholic drink
As I previously mentioned, we are likely to be a little dehydrated after exercising, due to the increased loss of fluids through sweat. Alcohol itself is also dehydrating, so adding this on top of a body already low in fluids increases the potential for dehydration further.
So, it is best to keep alcoholic drinks for days where you aren't doing any exercise. However, if you do fancy a cocktail or a glass of wine after a workout, make sure to alternate it with plenty of plain, still water.
3. Eat sugary foods
Sugary foods are an easy go-to after a workout because they tend to provide a quick burst of energy that we may be seeking at this time. However, this boost in energy is usually short-lived and is likely to be followed by a sudden fall in energy levels. There's also very little nutrient value to be gained from high-sugar snacks such as biscuits, and this is important post-workout. You see, the muscles rely on nutrients like magnesium to work efficiently; plus, we lose lots of vital electrolytes during exercise that need to be replaced afterwards.
So, instead of a sugary snack, opt for fresh produce like a banana or some wholemeal toast. To keep stores of electrolytes topped up, consider Balance Mineral Drink which contains vitamin D, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
4. Go for another workout!
Give your body the opportunity to adapt to the demands of physical activity by incorporating some rest days in between workouts. This should ensure you approach your next bout of exercise feeling energised and strong. Rest days also decrease the likelihood of injury and delayed onset muscle soreness.
Once again, relaxing activities, such as those I have mentioned above, would be ideal to do during the course of a rest day.