Nothing beats that feeling when you've run your personal best, smashed that yoga session, or aced your gym workout. You're riding high on endorphins and ready to take on the world. But have you ever woken up the next day stiff, sore, and exhausted? EVERYTHING hurts and you can barely drag yourself out of bed, let alone face exercising again. The result? Your fitness levels take a dive, rather than building on those excellent gains. But it doesn't have to be this way. Cooling down correctly, taking the right supplements, and eating the best meals for post workout could make a massive difference.
Try these 6 tips and you'll be able to keep on improving your athletic performance and rarely need to take an extra rest day again. Result!
1. Make protein a key part of your meals for post workout:
When you exercise, your muscle tissue gets broken down and you might experience tiny 'micro tears' (especially if you've been weight training). Including plenty of high-quality protein in your meals for post workout is a must to fix and strengthen your muscles. Protein helps to repair those damaged muscle fibres and stimulate muscle protein synthesis, essential for muscle recovery and making gains in the future.
According to Andrew Huberman, one of our favourite scientists on all things health, this can be something as simple as "three or four scrambled eggs, or a piece of grass-fed meat or chicken, or some fish." Salmon is an excellent choice for your protein fix, because it also contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. These will also improve your heart health and help reduce damage and inflammation in muscle cells.
Ricotta cheese is another ideal post-workout protein. It offers around 14g of protein in a dessert spoon serving. And it’s also a good source of whey protein, which Huberman recommends in particular. This is because it's high in the essential amino acid leucine, an essential for promoting muscle growth.
Vegan or vegetarian? Try quinoa. Rich in protein, quinoa also contains plenty of fibre, may help to balance your blood sugar. AND it's high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
2. Always cool down:
Yes, it’s an extra 10 minutes to factor in, but don't tempted to skip your post-work out stretches. Warming down properly helps to restore muscle length, kickstarts muscle recovery, and helps bring your body back to a resting state. Sack off the stretching and you prolong how long your heart takes to return to normal levels. AND increase the risk of injury, which could stop you training for weeks. Total buzz kill.
Alongside eating the right meals for post workout, a gentle cool-down can prevent this. There's no need to make things complicated. Try some basic stretches (there are tons online) and gently stretch each of the main muscle groups for 10 to 15 seconds. A few simple yoga moves, a foam roller, or a walk through an easy cool-down on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes are great too.
Andrew Huberman recommends an ice bath (for the very brave) and cold showers (for us mere mortals!) after a resistance training workout to improve strength and endurance. But to really ace your workouts, try taking a cold shower BEFORE you exercise. Huberman says: 'You can induce a big surge in cortisol, adrenaline, epinephrine, and dopamine with deliberate cold exposure. (It's) a huge elevator for mood and alertness and wellbeing throughout the day." Another 'Wow' Huberman hack!
3. Pick the right supplements to add to your meals for post workout success:
Did you know that the right supplements can work wonders if you add them to your meals for post workout? You've probably already heard of protein powder. But there’s so much else out there that athletes swear by for more gains and fewer rest days.
First up is COQ10. Studies have shown a COQ10 boost can up your aerobic power, improve energy levels and reduce muscle recovery time after exercise. You'll also want to include magnesium. Essential for transporting blood sugar to your muscles and it also disposes of lactate, which can cause fatigue if it builds up during exercise. B vitamins are a must, because they maximise energy production in your cells, so you can exercise harder or longer before fatigue sets in.
And definitely don't forget Ashwagandha! Recent research showed this herbal helper can significantly increase muscle mass and strength and help to reduce body fat. Want to get your hands on all these miracle workers in one go? The Endurance Max patch is packed with all these ingredients and more.
You should also check out hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate. Renowned for promoting muscle growth and performance, it’s often taken alongside amino acids glutamine and leucine, which have both been proven to help aid muscle repair and reduce injury risk. The Ultimate Trainer patch contains all of these must-haves, plus betaine, which helps the body metabolise amino acids. So you'll get the very most out of these game-changing ingredients. Win!
4. Keep on drinking (water!)
It's not just your meals for post workout you need to think about. Rehydration is just as important because you can lose as much as two litres an hour when exercising. Don’t top this fluid back up and you'll feel tired, dizzy, and your heart will have to work harder to pump blood around your body.
As a general rule, it's recommended you drink 120 to 240 ml of fluid after exercise. Everybody is different though. We think you can get a much better idea of what you need from this very cool equation, which Professor of Human Performance Andy Galpin has come up with. Just divide your body weight in pounds by 30 and this will give you the number of ounces you need to drink every 15-20min. Magic!
And make sure you rehydrate with water or a sports drink. Alcohol post-exercise is a definite no-no. Any kind of alcoholic drink will slow your recovery, increase your risk of dehydration and reduce the benefits of your workout.
5. Don't forget to include carbs and fibre in your meals for post workout too:
Lots of training plans tell you that carbohydrates are not your friend, but carbs are essential to help your body make more glycogen – the fuel your muscles get their energy from to function. During exercise your muscles can use up their glycogen stores. This can lead to proteins in your muscles being broken down and damaged, so it's very important to top up again if you want to recover well.
Quality carbs like whole-grain bread, oats, and sweet potatoes are all worth eating. Andrew Huberman also recommends fruit like an orange, as citrus fruits contain carbs but aren't full of starch that can make you feel sleepy.
You could also try adding a serving of veg like beetroot and corn into your meals for post workout. They're a great source of healthy carbs, rich in fibre, and also contain loads of antioxidants, which will help to protect your cells from exercise-induced damage.
6. Make sure you know the wrong meals for post workout you should avoid:
After exercise, it can be tempting to grab the first thing you see in the fridge – you’re starving! But eating the wrong meals for post workout could do more harm than good.
Don’t eat spicy foods, because they are hard to digest, and put your body under extra stress when it's already in a state of repair. Anything with high-fat content is also out, because fat can slow digestion and delay the delivery of nutrients to your muscles. Refined sugar also has to go. That cake, or soft drink will spike your energy and then cause a blood sugar crash. Uh oh.
Lastly, don't ever be tempted to skip eating altogether after working out. This will leave you battling low blood sugar, delay your body’s repair process, and drive fatigue. And it can also decrease your performance the next time you exercise – just what you don't want!