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5 Things You Should Do After Every Workout

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5 Things You Should Do After Every Workout

You crossed the finish line, crushed your circuit routine or cranked out your last set at the squat rack — but you’re not done yet. For optimal health and exercise results, you need to cap off every sweat session with these five post-workout tasks.

1. STRETCH ANY MUSCLES YOU WORKED

Static stretching (Think: bend and hold) is best reserved for after your workouts. A comprehensive review published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports concluded that pre-exercise static stretching can reduce levels of strength, power and explosive performance during the subsequent workout. When performed immediately after your workouts, however, static stretching can help you cool down, increase muscle relaxation and potentially get tight muscles back to their resting length.

“Many exercises shorten muscles and it is important to stretch them out after the workouts,” says Todd J. Sontag, a board-certified physician with Orlando Health Physician Associates in Florida. “For example, runners typically will have tight hamstrings if they don’t consistently stretch after their long runs. The tighter the muscles get, the more likely they are to develop injuries and lose their speed.”

Immediately following your workouts, when your muscles are still warm, aim to spend 30 seconds to one minute stretching each muscle group that feels particularly tight.


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2. WASH UP

One study, by FitRated.com, found that free weights are covered in 362 times more bacteria than a toilet and a treadmill in 74 times more bacteria than a water faucet. Once trapped on your skin and in your workout clothes, those germs thrive in hot and sweaty environments.

The best way to nix them is to get those sweaty threads off ASAP and scrub up with an antibacterial wash, says Philip Tierno, PhD, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU School of Medicine. While taking a shower right at the gym is your best bet for combating any viruses stuck on your skin and preventing yeast infections, it’s a good idea to keep shoes on your feet at all times, according to a position statement from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

If possible, keep your dirty workout wear separate from other belongings and wash them using your washing machine’s sanitize cycle (if it has one), hot water or (if you’re working with whites) bleach. The heat setting on your dryer can also help kill any germs that weren’t washed away.

3. WEIGH YOURSELF

Ideally, you shouldn’t have lost any more than 2% of your body weight between the beginning and end of your workout. (So, if you weighed 150 pounds at the start, you shouldn’t weigh any less than 147 pounds at the end.) Weight losses greater than that point to significant dehydration, Sontag explains. Apart from decreasing your exercise performance and putting you at risk of heat stroke, getting dehydrated during your workouts can significantly exacerbate symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness, per the Journal of Athletic Training.

While any drops in weight should be dealt with by guzzling fluids (Sontag recommends drinking at least eight ounces of water following any workout) if you find that you’re dehydrated, it’s beneficial to hydrate with an electrolyte-containing sports drink or coconut water.

4. EAT SOME PROTEIN

“Skeletal muscle is a highly plastic tissue that can undergo rapid remodeling, particularly during the periods following an intense workout,” says Neerav Padliya, PhD, vice president of Research Alliances at Qurr. “In order to push the muscle protein balance in the net positive direction so that muscle growth and recovery can take place, it is important to consume adequate protein, including branched-chain amino acids, after a strenuous workout.”

As far as how much protein you need — and how fast you need to eat it — it depends. “Exercise like lifting or running tends to lead to more muscle damage than [low-impact] exercise such as yoga,” he says. “Therefore, it may be necessary to consume higher quantities 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, skewing toward the high end the greater your exercise intensity or body size.

What’s more, research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that the “anabolic window,” the post-workout time period in which the body can most effectively absorb protein and incorporate it into its muscle cells, is much longer than previously believed. Researchers conclude that, as long as you aren’t working out on empty (which we don’t advise in the first place), you can likely get your post-workout protein a few hours after your workout without sacrificing any muscle-building results.

5. DON’T FORGET CARBS

Following workouts, you may actually need more carbs than protein, with most studies showing that post-workout foods and drinks with a 3:1-to-4:1 ratio of carbs-to-protein are ideal for exercise recovery. That means, for every gram of protein you consume following a workout, you likely need three to four times as many grams of carbs.

Why so many? Research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition demonstrates that insulin, which your pancreas releases when you eat carbs, helps amino acids from protein enter muscle cells for repair and recovery. Opt for whole carbs from natural sources including fruit, whole grains and dairy.

Written by K. Aleisha Fetters, a health and fitness writer, and a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA. You can read more from Aleisha at kaleishafetters.com or follow her on Twitter at @kafetters.

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  • David Moore

    Wash Up ? No kidding!!! unless of course your in Ranger School and this isn’t an option.

    • Foxx Drake

      Hahahahaha…fucking idiots. Next, what to do after taking a dump. 1) Wipe that grin off your face, 2) stop eating, 3) ask if someone can spare a square, just one square, come on man, have some freaken humanity, 4) wipe, unless it’s ranger school and then use a penguin or tortoise (the environment always suffers in combat operations), 5) commit seppuku (death before dishonor).

  • jl

    Please stop the insanity regarding bleach and antibacterial washes. It’s not good for the environment or for us humans. I’ve never heard of anyone dying because clothes weren’t clean enough after laundering. A simple soak with vinegar should do the trick if your workout clothes need extra care.

    • K Leszczynski

      i agree with you..so back in the 70s as a kid my mother bleached and inhaled bleacg AND then she use to mix bleach and ammonia omg the smoke and stench to clean with…she never thought about it…in 2002 she passrd from a carcinogen linked to tocic, bleach, bleach and ammonia. died at 57 yrs old

    • shawnsBrain

      soap and water is just fine

    • Ozzo

      It’s as if there is a war on bacteria, as if we need to be 100% sterile. I honestly can’t believe a microbiologist wrote that. Bacteria are essential to the gut, the skin, the nose and the mouth. We’re seeing that bacteria are essential to our health. I hate this mentality that we need to kill it. Sure you don’t want an o overgrowth of a pathogen, and the guaranteed way to get that is by repetitively allowing only the strongest bacteria to survive. You want diversity. Think rainforest, do they have overgrowths of the same weed.

  • Healthy Muscle

    For carbs: Fruits? Check! Whole grains? Check! Dairy? What the hell? This stuff is poison for the body and is the worst source for carbs!!