Aftercare is an important part of any workout. There are steps you can take that will help you to maximize on your workout, reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), limit swelling and inflammation, and quickly repair your muscles for increased strength. Here are several ideas for optimal post-workout muscle care.
While dynamic stretching is a great way to warm your body in preparation for a workout, static stretching should normally be done immediately after your workout. This is because warm muscles and connective tissues are more pliable and less prone to injury. Static stretches performed under tension and held for several breaths are excellent for increasing flexibility and range of motion. Static stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle being stretched. This promotes muscle healing and circulatory health. Yoga stretches are particularly effective. There are yoga poses that target virtually every muscle on your body. It is worth taking a class or watching an instructional video to learn proper ways of stretching, because improper stretching can lead to injury.
After a workout, your muscles need to heal from the micro-tears caused by the exertion placed on them. Additionally, your body is working to push lactic acid and other toxins from each muscle by pumping increased blood flow throughout your muscles. To maintain a balanced internal environment and successfully break down the lactic acid that causes soreness, your muscles need to be properly hydrated. Drinking water before your workout increases energy for better performance. Furthermore, without proper hydration, your joints have a higher risk of injury. When you drink water after your workout, you are replacing any fluids lost in sweat and assisting the muscular healing process.
Eat the Right Food
Eating the right foods after working out can stimulate muscle growth, increase the size of your individual muscle cells, and restore glycogen stores. To stimulate muscle growth, eat a good source of protein, such as Greek yogurt, eggs, or lean meat. Data suggests that dairy protein might be even more effective at rapid muscular protein stimulation than meat. To influence cell volume within your muscles, you need to eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The best sources for omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish, such as salmon and tuna. Other good sources are chia seeds, walnuts, and canola oil. If you can’t get enough omega-3 in your diet, you can supplement with fish oil capsules. Finally, after a rigorous workout, your glycogen stores are likely depleted. When glycogen levels plummet, you will feel fatigued and foggy. To restore glycogen stores, eat starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, grains, and fruit.
With the cold weather comes low air pressure, which can restrict your joints and muscles and exacerbate DOMS. Your workout boosted your metabolism and left you with a slow burn, so why not maintain that slow burn throughout your day by staying warm? There are many ways to keep that low burn going. Take a warm shower, layer up, and keep your house cozy. If you don’t want to crank up the heat on your thermostat, create a toasty smaller area in your home by zone heating. Space heaters and fireplaces are ideal choices for zone heating. Park yourself in front of the space heater or fireplace and bask in the warmth. Just remember the safety rules! A space heater should always sit upright, be free from debris, and stay out of the reach of pets or children. Also, a fireplace requires maintenance to keep clean and run efficiently.
Post workout supplements can aid in recovery, promote muscle growth, replenish energy, and restore electrolyte balance. You can get your supplements in shakes, smoothies, capsules, powders, and energy bars. Look for supplements that are free from sweeteners, low in sugar, and made from all natural ingredients. Because supplements are not overseen by the FDA, it is a good idea to choose brands that have been tested by a third party. Common supplements for strengthening and healing muscles are protein, creatine, and branched-chain amino acids.
Use a Foam Roller
Foam rollers relieve muscle tension, foster better blood circulation, and increase muscle elasticity. After a workout, foam rollers can speed the toxin elimination process, which minimizes soreness and accelerates recovery. Roll slowly along the muscle groups that you focused on during your workout/ When you get to your legs, you can increase the pressure by isolating each leg. This process can be quite painful, especially if you have any particularly tight muscles, but soreness will be decreased later on. There are many options when it comes to the diameter, texture, and rigidity of foam rollers. If you can, try some out before you make a purchase so that you can get the right type for you.
Soak in an Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate, and it works wonders on tired, sore muscles. Muscle strain from an intense or long workout depletes the magnesium in your muscles, which causes fatigue, pain, and inflammation. The magnesium sulfate in epsom salt restores this needed electrolyte, bringing your body back into balance. You will also benefit from soaking in the warm water, which can soothe your muscles and relieve stress. You can go one step further with aromatherapy. Simply pour a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the bath water and escape into bliss!
Get a Massage
Any excuse is a good excuse when it comes to getting a massage, but you definitely deserve one after an abnormally strenuous workout. Massage therapy improves circulation, which in turn reduces lactic acid buildup in your muscles. Massage can also relieve pain, improve posture, reduce inflammation, increase range of motion, and prevent future sports related injuries. While a professional massage is ideal, you can massage your own body with a good massage tool.
Get the most out of your next workout by developing good muscle care habits. By paying attention to what you eat, staying hydrated, stretching properly, supplementing wisely, and soaking or massaging your muscles after a workout, you can increase your strength more quickly and minimize delayed onset muscle soreness. Experience the synergizing effects of after-workout muscle care just once, and you will never look back!
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