Many of us have a great workout routine. We drink plenty of water, warm up, stretch, work the entire body, and even get in some cardio. Then, after the last exercise, we promptly head back to the locker room, change, and journey home.
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: The first thing you need to do is cool down. Try some 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.
Stretch: Stretching allows your muscles to rebuild, growing bigger and stronger, and thus allows 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.
Drink Water: It's recommended that you drink another 2-3 cups within two hours after you have finished exercising. You may not feel thirsty anymore, but you still need to replenish yourself to avoid getting dehydrated.
Refuel: 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 protein. A perfect example is a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Exercise Extra: The longer you cool down after a workout, the less sore you will be the following day.