After training in the gym, if you’ve had a great workout, you should be sweaty, you are tired, and your muscles should be sore and aching. You may think that by pushing yourself during training, that you’ve done enough to help build yourself a body to be proud of, when in actual fact, it is what you do after your gym session that matters the most.
Post-workout nutrition and recovery is vital, and if you aren’t careful, you will do your body more harm than good. Here’s a look at a few essential things you should do after completing any training session.
Stretch and cool down – One common mistake that a lot of people seem to make when it comes to ending their training sessions, is failing to take the time to stretch and cool down once they’ve finished. The minute your workout is complete, don’t make a beeline for the door because you won’t be finished just yet.
You see, you need to cool down and stretch your muscles to help prevent injuries from occurring and to help get your heart rate under control. Take a gentle walk on the treadmill for five minutes, and spend a further 5 minutes stretching your muscles. This enhances mobility and flexibility, plus it helps ensure that you’re far less likely to suffer a pulled or torn muscle afterwards.
Drink plenty of water – After any workout, it is essential that you ensure you’re well hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty. During exercise, obviously you will have lost fluids through sweat, as well as important electrolytes which your body needs to function optimally.
Dehydration causes muscle cramps, it can lead to pulled muscles, it can damage your internal organs, and it will leave you with a headache and feeling awful. When training make sure you have been sipping on your water during training, and at the end of your session, ensure you get a good glass or so down you.
Always consume a protein shake – After training in the gym, your muscles will be tired and sore because you’ve damaged the tiny muscle fibres they’re made up of. In order for your muscles to repair themselves bigger and stronger, they need access to the right nutrients, which is where a post-workout protein shake is so important. Protein is essential for the growth and repair of muscle tissue, and to help initiate the post-workout recovery process, opt for a fast-release protein source such as whey protein. One scoop of protein is plenty, though make sure you mix it with water as milk would slow down the absorption process.
Include a simple sugar with your protein shake – When at the gym after training, a lot of bodybuilders will add a scoop of dextrose sugar powder to their protein shakes. They aren’t doing this to simply sweeten up the taste, there is actually a very good scientific reason for why they’re mixing protein with dextrose. You see, when you train, your muscle glycogen reserves will be empty, and the cells in your muscles will be slightly swollen and will be primed to absorb more nutrients than they would ordinarily be able to take in. They don’t stay like this forever however, typically they only stay like this for an hour at the most, and this is known as the ‘anabolic window’.
Bodybuilders consume a simple sugar with their protein because the sugar causes a sudden spike in insulin. Insulin is used to transport nutrients into the awaiting muscle cells, and the quicker you can get these proteins and amino acids into the cells, the easier it is to ensure you take advantage of the anabolic window. Basically, sugar causes insulin to force the protein and nutrients into your muscles quicker, and as the muscles can absorb more nutrients temporarily, more of the protein is utilized by the body rather than going to waste. If you don’t have access to dextrose, a few pieces of fruit, or even candy, when consumed with your protein, should also give you that much-needed insulin spike.
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