What you do after your workout is just as important for fat loss and muscle building as the workout itself. While you may be tempted to immediately go on with your day, there are things you can do that will ensure that your body recovers and heals as quickly and efficiently as possible. What and when you drink and eat, whether you cool down, and how much sleep you get will influence the fitness and health benefits you receive from your training sessions.
Replenish Lost Fluids: Drink Water Right Away
It's important to drink water immediately following your workout so that you replenish the fluid you lost during your workout. Even if you don't notice that you're sweating profusely, you're still losing fluids when you exercise as your body works to keep itself from overheating.
Your body needs fluids at all times to help regulate body temperate, transport nutrients and energy through the bloodstream, keep skin healthy by removing toxins, facilitate digestion and to lubricate joints and eyes.
Have a filled water bottle handy so it's ready once you've finished training. Try to drink 12 to 20 ounces of water (1 ½ to 2 ½ cups) of water. If you're exercising at the gym, you may be able to bring an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain. Energy drinks are fine, but keep in mind that they contain calories and water is just as effective for rehydrating. Morning exercisers may be tempted to hit up a coffee shop after working out. If you're determined to drink coffee, drink your cups of water before you do to ensure that you rehydrate first.
Refuel and Replenish Nutrients: Pack a Snack
After a workout, your body is low on nutrients and it's important to replenish them within 30 minutes after the completion of training. Research has shown that eating right after a workout significantly helps with recovery and leads to greater muscle building. Not eating right away can lead to extra sore muscles and fatigue the following day.
Pack a snack or have a meal ready at home so that you can eat soon after you're finished with your workout. The best meal is one that contains both carbohydrates a protein. For example, a piece of toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas will provide the nutrients your body needs to restore glycogen levels and fuel the muscle-building process.
Extend the Cool Down: Let Your Body Fully Recover
You're likely anxious to get on with your day after a workout, but you'd be doing yourself a favor by easing into your next activity. This is especially important if you're exercising in the morning. There's no denying that you're likely rushed in the morning and scrambling to get a workout in before you head to work or take on other obligations and responsibilities. Not taking time to truly cool down, however, can cause you to burn out.
Immediately following your weight lifting or cardio workout, take 5 minutes to walk slowly. This will allow your body to gradually and safely transition back into its resting state. Your heart and breathing rate slows and your body temperature cools. Follow that up with 5 minutes of static stretching. Especially target your glutes, hamstrings and lower back, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. If you can, take your time to ease into the day after training. Shower and relax for a few minutes before jumping right into the next thing.
Get Sleep That Night: Eight to Ten Hours
Getting adequate sleep is an essential component for successfully losing body fat and building muscle. It's when you're sleeping that your body adapts and develops in response to your workouts. All while you sleep, your body repairs muscles and tendons and bones, replenishes muscle and cell glycogen stores, rids itself of metabolic waste, and restores nutrients, optimal neural function and hormones. Growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis occurs when you're sleeping, and these responses are significant to the muscle-building process, occurs.
A lack of sleep, on the other hand, can contribute to overtraining, persistent muscle and joint soreness, and fatigue.
While the standard recommendation is eight hours of sleep per night, some days you may need nine or 10 hours of sleep after a particularly strenuous workout.