Pushing yourself hard at the gym? If you want to reach your goals, it doesn’t end there. In fact, muscles do their growing after your training session. That’s why it’s important to look after them post-workout. When you workout, you create microscopic tears in your muscle fibre and it’s during recovery that your body begins to repair that damage and grow back stronger.

Once you’ve completed your workout, you have a short window for getting nutrients on board. Miss this and your muscle growth and recovery will be compromised. Your post-workout needs will depend largely on what your training goals are but the short answer is to ensure you get the right mix of nutrients to replenish your energy, repair muscle tissue and kick start protein synthesis.

For resistance training, we recommend a protein supplement within 30 minutes of completing your workout followed by a meal 90 minutes to 2 hours after your session.

If your goal is weight loss and you’ve just completed a cardio session, in this case we would recommend a protein supplement within 60 minutes after your workout.

Whatever your goal, the four key elements to focus on when it comes to your post-workout routine are cool down and stretching, post-workout supplements, hydration and electrolytes, and nutrition.

 

Cool down and stretching.

To get the recovery process under way, end your workout with a cool down of 3 to 5 minutes on a stationary bike. Spending time with a foam roller or massage ball is a great way to smooth out knots and prevent muscle imbalances from forming. Roll each area for a couple of minutes, concentrating on any sore spots.

Finish off with some static stretching to maintain flexibility. Muscles can shorten and become tight unless you get stuck in there with at least 10 minutes of post-workout stretching. Static stretching can increase your range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.

Incorporating mobility exercises and stretching into your post-workout regimen helps to bring nutrient rich blood to muscles during recovery. Mobility exercises also clear muscle adhesions and improve range of motion, helping to increase muscle strength and function.

If your muscles are still sore, try cooling off with a contrast shower. 30 seconds hot, 30 seconds cold, for 8 sets. Alternatively, a 15-20 minute ice bath plus rolling it out on a foam roller will reduce inflamation after an intense leg workout.

 

Post-workout supplements.

You have a short window after your training where you can boost protein synthesis by simply consuming some protein. Many athletes and bodybuilders choose to consume their protein via a shake because it can be digested fast and is easy to prepare. Post-workout supplements can help with recovery, muscle repair and growth, energy replacement, and fat loss.

You can create the ideal post-workout designed especially for your needs and based on your specific goals. Start with the essentials protein, carbs and hydration, then you can add on from that. But first, let’s look at the essentials:

 

Protein.

Consuming protein post-workout helps speed up recovery and promotes muscle growth. Whey protein is the most popular protein supplement as it offers rapid absorption, which is just what you need after an intense training session. Casein is a slow release protein so if your protein powder of choice is derived from casein, consider swapping it out for a fast release post-workout protein such as Horleys 100% Whey Plus, which contains the two fast digesting proteins, whey concentrate and whey isolate.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) protein powders with naturally high levels of the branched chained amino acids (BCAAs) like Horleys ELITE ICE WPI, stimulate protein synthesis and assist with recovery so that you can bounce back fast.

 

Carbohydrates.

Following an intense workout, your body is severely depleted of glycogen (stored energy) and glucose (useable energy). You need an immediate source of fast-acting carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen and energy levels. Especially after a workout where your body starts tipping towards a catabolic state.

Some protein supplements include medium to high glycaemic index (GI) carbohydates (fast carbs) and if your goal is weight or mass gains, we also recommend HUGE (weight gain) or MASS (mass gains). These supplements contain higher quantities of carbohydrates to help you get the results you want.

Other protein supplements are very low in carbohydrates so you may need to add some. Add some whole food fast carbs to your post workout shake like a ripe banana or some berries. Alternatively try using Horleys Replace, which will supply your body with fast carbs and electrolytes while helping to rehydrate.

 

Supplements.

Along with your protein powder of choice, there are many other post-workout supplements you can add to your programme to specifically cater for your own individual goals. Here are some of the main ones:

 

BCAAs.

WPI-based protein supplements, such as Horleys Elite ICE WPI, are high in naturally occurring BCAAs. Additional BCAAs can also be stacked with these or your current protein powder with an anti-catabolic supplement like BCAA Max, which delivers the optimum 4:1:1 ratio of the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine, for fast muscle recovery, repair and growth. If your goal is to gain weight or mass, try stacking BCAA Max with a protein powder like HUGE or Elite Mass.

 

Creatine.

This is another great supplement to include in your post workout. Creatine hydrates and restores your muscle cells enabling you to work longer, harder and more often. Including creatine in your supplement regimen will, over time, help you lift more, which will then lead to increases in lean muscle mass.

Click through to read our more in depth article on creatine.

 

L-Glutamine.

L-Glutamine plays a key role in protein synthesis. It helps metabolise body fat and supports new muscle growth. It is particularly good if your goal is to reduce body fat without losing any muscle. L-Glutamine is added to protein supplements like Elite Ripped and 100% Whey Plus or alternatively you can include L-Glutamine in your post workout by stacking with BCAA Max.

Click through to read our more in depth article on L-Glutamine.

 

Hydration and electrolytes.

Stay well hydrated after your workout by replenishing your fluids immediately. If you’ve trained for over an hour or in hot conditions, you might like to consider an electrolyte drink like Horleys Replace. During any kind of exercise or lifting, you use electrolytes like potassium and sodium, and these need to be replenished for optimal recovery.

Click through to read our more on Hydration.

 

Nutrition.

Your post-workout nutrition needs to be taken seriously in order to provide your muscles with the fuel they need. Some athletes and bodybuilders will break their post-workout meal into 2 parts – a protein shake stacked with the supplements designed around their goals immediately after a workout, then a whole food meal within 90 – 120 minutes. If you’d prefer a meal to a protein shake, go for fast carbs and protein i.e. a chocolate milk or a banana and some yoghurt. Follow that up with a full sized meal no more than 2 hours later.

A whole food post-workout meal of carbohydrates will refuel your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to recover and power up for your next training session. But not just any old carbs – as tempting as it is to tuck into a cheat meal or reward yourself with some processed junk food, this can stop you from achieving your goals.

Research points towards a post-workout carb intake of 0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight, and a protein intake of 0.2 to 0.4 grams per kg to maximise glycogen synthesis and accelerate protein repair. But while your post-workout meal should be rich in protein and carbohydrates, keep your fat intake down. Consuming fats post-workout will slow down your digestion and absorption of protein and carbs.

 

Key points to remember.

What you do post-workout can make or break your results but with a bit of planning and determination, you’ll smash your goals in no time. To keep on track, focus on these points:

  • At least 10 minutes of post-workout stretching
  • Keep your fluids up after training
  • Tailor you post-workout supplements to suit your goals
  • Have a post-workout supplement within the first 30 minutes, or 60 minutes for weight loss after cardio
  • Have a meal 90 – 120 minutes after your workout
  • Keep your post-workout meal high in protein and carbs, and low in fat
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