The best ways to bounce back after a tough workout

If you're not doing the right things post-workout, you may not be getting the most out of your efforts.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You can log the miles, do all your sets and reps, push your limits, and sweat buckets. But it doesn't stop there. The recovery period is crucial to maximizing the healthy changes your body goes through in response to a workout.

It takes more than binge-watching a new show to do recovery right. Here's what you should be doing after your cool-down.

Keep a water bottle within reach

Most people finish exercise at least somewhat dehydrated, so replacing those fluids is the first order of business. To get back to baseline, you'll need to consume more fluid than what you sweated out.

But there's no need to chug. As long as your next workout is at least a day away, sipping water regularly and eating normal meals is typically enough to restore balance.

Just skip the alcohol, which can worsen dehydration and slow muscle repair.

Get some fuel

While it's a good idea to eat something with both carbohydrates and protein after training, there's no need to add extra calories — especially if you're trying to lose weight. Timing a regular meal or snack so you eat soon after your workout may help your body fill its tank and get to work on recovery.

Replacing your muscles' energy stores is an essential part of recovery. It takes both time and fuel to get back in balance, so the hours after a grueling workout aren't the time to overly restrict eating. Try to incorporate both healthy carbs and protein to optimize muscle rebuilding.

Don't skimp on sleep

You probably already suspected that you don't perform at your best when you're tired. It turns out you may not recover as well, either.

In one study, researchers found that even a single night of partial sleep deprivation impaired recovery from a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session. Cyclists' who only slept half their usual amount after the workout had as much as five times the decrease in their power output the next day compared to those who did the workout and slept normally.

Less next-day power may not seem like a big deal if you aren't an elite athlete with back-to-back competitions or training sessions. But feeling sluggish the day after won't speed your recovery — and could rob some of your workout momentum.

Keep moving

Speaking of maintaining momentum, a light next-day workout can do just that and more. Instead of getting into a boom-and-bust cycle — that is, going all-out and then waking up so sore the next day that you can't think about exercising again for a week — make sure to schedule easy sessions just like hard ones.

"Easy" varies from person to person, but it might mean walking or jogging with a friend at a conversational pace, going for a casual bike ride, stretching or doing a light yoga class.

Getting off the couch to undertake a lighter activity the day after a hard one increases blood flow, loosens up tight muscles and can ease soreness (albeit temporarily).

Plus it's a good reminder that healthy physical activity doesn't have to leave you gasping for breath.

Nov. 01, 2018 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Slide show: 5 smart exercise choices for psoriatic arthritis
  2. 6 tips for an active getaway you'll remember
  3. Accentuate the positive to make lasting health changes
  4. An appointment to exercise? You bet!
  5. Are you ready for a workout?
  6. Balance training: Boost your long-term health with these exercises
  7. Barriers to fitness
  8. Blood Doping
  9. BMI calculator
  10. Body fat analyzers
  11. Boot camp workout
  12. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  13. Safely exercising with COPD
  14. Core exercises
  15. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  16. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  17. Toning shoes
  18. Does fitness trump thinness?
  19. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  20. Dress smart for winter workouts
  21. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  22. Exercise benefits
  23. Exercise and chronic disease
  24. Exercise and illness
  25. Stress relief
  26. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  27. Exercising with arthritis
  28. Exercise smarter, not longer
  29. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  30. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  31. Fitness program
  32. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  33. Fitness motivation
  34. Fitness ball exercises videos
  35. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  36. Fitness for less
  37. Fitness ideas for the entire family
  38. Fitness program
  39. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  40. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  41. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  42. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  43. Fitness training routine
  44. Fitting in fitness
  45. Going up? Take the stairs
  46. Golf injuries
  47. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  48. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  49. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  50. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  51. Heart rate
  52. Heat and exercise
  53. Hockey Flywheel
  54. How fit are you?
  55. How much exercise do you really need?
  56. 3 easy ways to get started with yoga
  57. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  58. Keep your workout fun
  59. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  60. Late-day exercise
  61. Marathon and the Heat
  62. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  63. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  64. Natural movement: Going back to basics
  65. Need a gym to get fit?
  66. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  67. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  68. No pain, no gain? No way!
  69. No time for exercise? No way!
  70. Office exercise
  71. Overuse injury prevention
  72. Pregnancy and exercise
  73. Ready to get in on the aquatic fitness movement?
  74. Simple tips for staying active and mobile with osteoarthritis
  75. Core-strength exercises
  76. Guide to stretches
  77. Balance exercises
  78. Fitness ball
  79. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  80. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  81. Stay fit and healthy — without breaking a sweat
  82. Stay fit at any age
  83. Travel and work
  84. Strength training: How-to video collection
  85. 5 common sports injuries in young female athletes
  86. To stay fit, embrace the power of play
  87. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  88. Too sick to exercise?
  89. Fitness tips for business travelers
  90. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  91. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  92. What it takes to be agile at any age
  93. Winter blahs? 4 pro tips to get you off the couch.
  94. Cold-weather exercise
  95. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  96. Working out? Remember to drink up
  97. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!