By Coach Meredith
Last time I discussed some pre-workout nutrition tips, so this week I would like to cover a few post-workout musts. Here are my top 3 post-exercise tips:
Static stretching is best reserved for after your workouts. Static means you will hold the position. Dynamic stretching involves a gentle flow or movement through a series of positions. When performed immediately after your workouts, static stretching helps to you cool down, increase muscle relaxation and potentially get tight muscles back to their resting length.
Exercise tends to shorten muscles through contraction and it is important to stretch them out afterwards. For example, runners will typically will have tight hamstrings or calves if they don’t consistently stretch after their runs. The tighter the muscles get, the more likely they are to develop injuries and lose their speed or functionality.
Immediately following your workouts, when your muscles are still warm, aim to spend at least 30 seconds to one minute stretching each muscle group that you’ve used or may feel particularly tight. The use of lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and resistance bands comes in handy here.
2. WEIGH YOURSELF and or DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Post-exercise, you shouldn’t lose any more than 2% of your body weight between the beginning and end of your workout. So, for example if you weighed 150 pounds at the start, you shouldn’t weigh any less than 147 pounds at the end. If your weight loss is greater than, it means you are on the road to significant dehydration. Improper water consumption can decrease your exercise performance and put you at risk of heat stroke as well as exacerbate symptoms of muscle soreness and fatigue.
Any drop in weight should be dealt with by drinking at least 8oz of water following your workout. If you’re dehydrated, it is also beneficial to hydrate with an electrolyte-containing drink or coconut water.
3. EAT PROTEIN AND CARBS
Muscle undergoes rapid remodeling and rebuilding, especially during the period following an intense workout. In order to push the muscle protein in a positive direction for growth and recovery, it is important to consume adequate protein, including branched-chain amino acids, after a strenuous workout.
How much do you need? It depends. Exercises like lifting or running tend to lead to more muscle damage versus low-impact exercises such as yoga or walking. It may be necessary to consume higher amounts of protein and BCAAs after intense exercises that cause more muscle damage in order to promote optimal muscle repair and recovery. Aim to get anywhere between 20 and 40 grams, consuming toward the higher end for the greater your exercise intensity or body size.
There is what’s called an “anabolic window” which is the post-workout time period in which the body can most effectively absorb protein and incorporate it into its muscle cells. This time period is typically 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
That being said, you may actually need more carbs than protein post-workout. Post-workout foods and drinks should have a 3:1-to-4:1 ratio of carbs-to-protein for ideal muscle recovery. This means, for every gram of protein you consume following a workout, you likely need three to four times as many grams of carbs.
Why is this so? Insulin, released by the pancreas when you eat carbs, helps amino acids from protein enter muscle cells for repair and recovery. Try choosing whole carbs from natural sources including fruit, whole grains, and dairy.