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How to Recover after a Workout

Updated on February 24, 2013
Keep these tips in mind to get the best results as fast as possible!
Keep these tips in mind to get the best results as fast as possible! | Source

Learn These Tips

What happens after a big workout has almost as much effect on how much improvement you'll make as the workout itself. Muscles will not repair or grow if not given the right conditions and so it's really important that you know all of them. The following hub hopes to contain all of the proven and useful ways of reducing recovery time. If you have any additions with credible sources and empirical evidence then please do comment below! Don't forget to like, share and vote so that more people can learn how to recover.

During the Workout

In order to reduce the time you recover after the workout you have to think about what you're doing during it.

  1. Don't overtrain
    Despite what some people might believe, it is much better to have 3-4 moderate training sessions than one very intense one that will leave you bedridden for the following week. It is important to try hard and train hard, but you have to remember that there are natural limits of our cartilage, bones, and muscles. Overwork any three of those and you risk having to wait a verylong time before you can use them again, or even worse, permanent damage.
  2. Drink
    Replacing the fluid you're losing during your workout will make sure that you don't get dehydrated and can continue performing basicmetabolic processes that are needed for muscle growth and repair. One recommendation is to drink 20-24oz (half a litre) of water for every hour of working out.
  3. Take Breaks
    Giving 5 minutes for your muscles to get back to strength after 20 minutes of lifting weights or 1 hour of running will only improve your results. It is not better to work out constantly than working out with short interval breaks.

Immediately After

  • Cooling Down
    In order to get rid of the lactic acid that has just built up in your body quickly, you need to cool down. This involves doing less and less strenuous exercise until eventually stopping. This process should take around 5 minutes. Cooling down works by keeping you breathing hard and taking in oxygen so that you can break down more lactic acid.
  • Drink
    This most obvious advice cannot be stated enough because there are always people who forget to drink enough water. Make sure to constantly drink water or sport-specific drinks and not fizzy drinks which would dehydrate you further. Water is a key part of so many chemical reactions in the body that not drinking water will result in your body not being able to produce the new muscle cells that you need to repair and grow.
  • Massage
    Getting someone to give you a massage (family and friends can do it to great effect, but make sure to know the basic do's and don't to guide them) or self-massaging will not only warm up the fatigued muscles (increasing metabolism and so repair) and increase blood flow to those areas, but also relax you. Don't forget that you can use a variety of muscle ache relieving creams and ointments during the massage to even better relax and recover.
  • Within 30 minutes - Eating
    In order to replenish all of the glycogen stores that you used up during your workout, you need to eat high carbohydrate content foods within 30 minutes of your last exercise bout. You also need to start consuming protein at this time since your muscles need a lot of it to grow and repair (being composed mainly of protein itself). The best foods then are complete protein foods such as milk, eggs, fish and meat. Protein bars and protein powders are also good ways of economically purchasing high contents of these nutrients.
  • Cold Showers/Cold Baths & Hot Showers/Hot Baths
    Alternating between hot and cold showers is an excellent method of decreasing your recovery time. Showers are the best option because you can easily switch between temperatures. The principle is using cold showers to flush out the waste products that your muscles produced and causing your arteries to constrict, and then washing away the waste and opening up your pores to let it all wash away, dilating your arteries at the same time. Repeating this will also improve your blood circulation and immune system. Be sure to always finish on a hot shower because leaving your muscles cold is one of the worst things to do for muscle growth.
    To learn about the health benefits of Cold Showers see 10 Health Benefits of Cold Showers and for hot showers see 5 benefits of Hot Showers.
  • Stretching - Stretching immediately after the cooling down period has been known to show great benefits for recovery times. Customise the stretches you do to the muscles you just used in your workout. Gently stretch these muscles without stretching them to the point of putting yourself in agony. Incorporating stretching into your workout regime may also give you enhanced performance. See post workout stretches for some good examples.

Hours After and Beyond

  • Sleep
    The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is 8 hours and that is just for a normal day. For those who are doing strong workouts, even more sleep is necessary. 10 hours is recommended for the first sleep after your work out and more than 8 hours for every night until you're back to full strength. Since sleep is the time our bodies are naturally given for repairing, it is absolutely vital that you do not skimp on sleep.
  • Active Recovery
    Every once in a while (every 2 hours if possible), standing up, walking around and doing (very) minor exercise is another way of speeding up your recovery time. The principle here is to increase your blood flow around your body with these small exercises and thus increase the amount of nutrients your muscles are getting to grow and repair, all without causing any more damage to your already fatigued muscles.
  • Hot Showers and Baths
    Regularly after your workout, it is advised to take hot showers to increase the temperature of your body and so increase your metabolism. Of course, increasing your metabolism means speeding up the rate of reactions your body holds within it, including those that need to occur for new muscles to develop.
  • Not Training
    As well as sleeping and resting, it's important to remember that muscles take between 24-48 hours to repair. Therefore, working out the same muscle groups two days in a row will lead to negative results - causing your muscles to waste away. Make sure to leave at least 24 full hours before attempting to work out the same group of muscles. Overcome our natural limits by working out a different muscle group the next day (e.g. legs one day, arms the next).

A Quick Poll for All

How many hours do you usually sleep after a workout?

See results


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    • profile image

      Christiana 3 years ago

      I thuoght finding this would be so arduous but it's a breeze!

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 5 years ago from London

      Hey! Thank you very much KenWu :)! Nice to know people are finding use in my articles (:

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 5 years ago from Malaysia

      This is an awesomely great article. Although I'm not an exercise maniac but I have learned a lot with this reading.

      Thanks. Voted Up and Clicking all those buttons except of course 'funny' :)

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for this. I've been quite sore since starting a new training regime. I'll definitely be taking these tips on board.

      Thanks again.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 5 years ago from London

      Thank you very much MelChi, good luck with your training!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      This is a great article with very good tips. I'll be keeping some of those in mind. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!