No, I’m not talking about stretching.
I think we all can agree that working out is exhausting. You push your body to its limits, sweat buckets, and leave the gym looking like you just took a shower. Still, you return day after day, because you know you are getting stronger, staying healthy, and you love the way that sweat session makes you feel.
And if you are anything like me, the first thing you want to do when you get home is plop down on the couch and rest for hours. Unfortunately, doing so could actually hinder your fitness gains.
Therefore, before I lay down and rest, there are three essential things I always make sure to do that you should try out as well. Not only will they aid in your recovery, but they’ll also ensure that you are maximizing your results without having to put forth much additional effort.
I am going to blow past the obvious, like re-racking your weights and stretching, and focus on three specific ways you can get the most out of the time you are already putting in. Here they are.
1. Eat the Following
The content and timing of the food you put in your body directly after a workout is critical. It may seem like it doesn’t make a huge difference, but that’s actually not true.
According to Women’s Running:
There are many purposes to fueling correctly after a workout, such as to replenish glycogen stores and restore energy reserves, maintain blood sugar, rebuild protein stores, and decrease inflammation, among others. Most experts still recommend initially following the 30- to 60-minute rule, meaning aiming to refuel within 30 to 60 minutes of activity.
It is worth noting that there is some flexibility to this rule, and it also depends on the type of workout you did, the duration, etc.
Therefore, refueling after your workout with a protein and carbohydraterich snack is key to becoming a stronger athlete and staying healthy. Get something in your body as quickly as possible, and make sure it contains those key macronutrients for optimal growth and repair.
2. Hydrate in This Specific Way
While it’s universally understood that staying hydrated is very important, especially if you’re active, it is still a practice that is often neglected.
Michigan State University states that:
“Drinking water is the best way to rehydrate and cool your body from the inside out. Rehydrate after exercise by drinking enough fluid to replace fluid losses during exercise. Sport experts suggest that re-hydration is very important to restore your electrolyte balance which is lost (sweat loss) during intense workouts and competition.”
Furthermore, they provide a very specific hydration strategy to optimize results.
- drink 15 to 20 ounces of water one to two hours before you workout
- drink between 8 and 10 ounces of water 15 minutes before you start
- drink 8 ounces every 15 minutes during your workout
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t drink water while I’m out running. If you’re the same way, you can still benefit from this strategy by recognizing just how much you need to replenish after you exercise, especially if you’re working out in warm conditions.
The key is to remember that you are losing a lot of water while you’re exercising, so make it a priority to start rehydrating directly after you finish.Or, if you’re doing something like lifting weights, you could bring a water bottle and use the method above.
3. Take a Hot Shower
Ok, so this one might seem like it’s more for hygienic purposes than anything else, but there are some awesome benefits to be gained when you take a hot shower specifically. Plus, taking a shower right after you exercise feels incredible.
According to Kristin Maynes, P.T., D.P.T.,
“If you are active in aiding your recovery after an intense workout [with] stretching, foam rolling, yoga, etc., then adding an alternating hot shower or an ice bath is going to help.”
Honestly, there’s nothing better than coming back from a chilly fall run outside and jumping in a hot shower. So, why the hot shower as opposed to an ice bath? Well, I personally can’t stand taking an ice bath. I tried it in college and it just wasn’t for me.
But beyond that, hot showers have also been shown to potentially stimulatethe brain. According to a 2018 study which researched the effects of hot water immersion on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF):
“One group took a 20-minute bath in hot water with a temperature of 107.6°F (42°C). The other group took a 20-minute bath in warm water with a temperature of 95°F (35°C). Participants who took the hot bath had significantly higher BDNF levels.”
While this study was very small (just eight men), the difference between the two groups was substantial. And since I already enjoy hot showers, the potential brain stimulation is just a bonus.
I’ve also noticed that some of my best thinking occurs while I’m taking a hot shower, although that could also be attributed to my ability to clear my head since showering is a pretty mindless task.
Still, getting into the routine of taking a hot shower could become a super powerful practice, so give it a try and see if it’s for you.
How you recover outside of your workout, and especially directly afterwards, is crucial in helping you boost your fitness gains.
The hydration factor alone has helped me feel more energized each day, and dialing in on my nutrition was key in boosting my athletic performance when I was running collegiately.
If you are already putting in the work, you might as well spend a few extra minutes performing simple tasks that will help you recovery properly and maximize results. In the end, you will be thankful you did.