Fitness Articles

What to Do After a Workout

When Exercise is Over, the Work Isn't

Many of us have a great pre-workout and workout routine. We drink plenty of water before and during exercise, warm up, stretch, work the entire body, and even get in some cardio training as well. Then, after the last exercise, we promptly head back to the locker room, change, and journey home.

What so many out there do not realize is the importance of what you do after you work out. You may have done the majority of the work, but how you treat your body in the minutes and hours after you exercise has a direct effect on muscle soreness, muscle strength and growth, and staying hydrated.

Cool Down
After your last exercise, your workout is not over. The first thing you need to do is cool down. Even if running was all that you did, you still should do light cardio for a few minutes. This brings your heart rate down at a slow and steady pace, which helps you avoid feeling sick after a workout. Walking on a treadmill for five minutes is a good and easy way to cool down.

Then, you should stretch again. This is one of the most important things you can do. After a workout, muscles naturally contract. Stretching again prevents them from shrinking. It allows your muscles to rebuild, growing bigger and stronger, and thus allowing you to get the full benefit from your efforts.

Stretching after exercise also relaxes your muscles, helps speed circulation to joints and tissues, and helps removal of unwanted waste products, thereby reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. Add mental sharpness and you have all the reasons you need to make sure stretching comes not only before, but after every workout as well.

Drink Water
Even when you are actually done exercising, you need to keep replenishing your fluid levels. It’s recommended that you drink another 2-3 cups within two hours after you have finished. Then, drink water regularly afterwards. You may not feel thirsty anymore, but you still need to replenish yourself to avoid getting dehydrated.

Eating is one of the last, but one of the most important, items to do after a workout. You have not only burned hundreds of calories and lost carbohydrates, but you have also actually torn your muscles. You need to repair your muscles and boost your energy level, and you need to do it fast. It’s recommended that you eat within 90 minutes of your workout, but the sooner the better. Look for foods that are packed with complex carbohydrates and high in protein. A perfect example is a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread.
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About The Author

Zach Van Hart Zach Van Hart
Zach is a journalist who regularly covers health and exercise topics.

Member Comments

  • I need to stretch more after my workouts. - 10/24/2014 5:01:57 AM
    Thanks for sharing this. - 4/1/2014 1:19:36 AM
  • After my workouts i usually shower then clean up my house, play with my kids and cook dinner then rest so im always moving :-)
    - 1/14/2014 2:25:30 PM
  • Thanks for sharing - 10/30/2013 6:14:28 AM
  • Never really thought about doing too much after a workout. Usually i go back to my desk , eat lunch and work (while eating). Now it'll be in my mind to make sure time is taken. Thanks. - 7/9/2013 9:30:18 AM
  • I will definitely be doing this. So far I just fall into a chair or bed after my work out and wake up sore and stiff the next morning. - 6/19/2013 3:16:42 PM
  • Great article. - 5/28/2013 1:52:29 PM
  • Great article! I loved this! - 5/15/2013 10:54:53 AM
    A visit to the Cheesecake Factory or other hypercalorific eating emporium may prance through your brain in a most fleeting way, but resist, resist, resist! - 4/25/2013 5:22:10 PM
  • And after all that, when you get home, reward yourself with a nice cup of tea and take a nap, right? - 1/20/2013 2:16:27 AM
  • I have recently read that pre workout stretching hasn't been shown to reduce the occurrance of injury. However, after 25 years of stretch, warmup, run, cooldown, stretch, I'm unlikely to change the routine that's kept me injury free through age 65. As long as the stretching is gentle and not done to the point of pain, I think it's OK to do it. Not every body is the same and mine seems to respond well to it. Staying active has never been my problem, but overeating is. - 6/28/2012 9:42:53 PM
    This needs to be updated. Stretching before a workout can cause damage to tissues and eating that much after a workout should be reserved for endurance athletes. The rest of us surely don't work THAT hard for that long, to require that much fuel to rebuild tissue. Besides if you have really broken down that much muscle you are endangering yourself not exercising. What happened to common sense? - 6/28/2012 3:45:48 PM
    I Agree You should always do a cool down after any workout, I myself do Turbo Kickboxing and after I am done the most important thing to do after all that kicking and cardio is a cool down with streches! :) - 6/28/2012 1:25:06 PM
  • MEEWOK78
    I love this advice. I usually work out during my lunch break 4-5 times/wk (I'm fortunate enough to work for an employer that allows me to take 2.5-hr breaks in the middle of the day). I've noticed a real change in my body, not only from exercising every day, but from doing 3 things right after my workout: drinking lots of water, eating plenty of protein & low-glycemic carbs, and avoiding the empty calories of sports drinks. This article is totally spot-on and a great reminder of how important mindful consumption of food and drinks is--especially for our post-exercise bodies! - 6/28/2012 1:02:16 PM
    Awesome - 6/28/2012 12:16:22 PM

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