The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to optimize their health. That’s just the baseline. Many people have advanced fitness goals that require lengthy workout sessions at the gym several times a week.

Whether you’re a fitness pro or a newbie, you want to make sure that the hours you log working out have an impact on your health. That means establishing a solid post-workout routine, because what you do after you work out matters just as much as what you do during your workout. Read on to learn what you should do when you finish working out!

1. Stretch It Out

Everyone talks about how important it is for your to finish your workout by cooling down, but did you know that you need to stretch at the end, too? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just engaged in light exercise or a full-body boot camp, stretching your major muscle groups is important if you want to minimize post-workout soreness.

When you work out, you spend a lot of time tensing your muscles, which is how you build muscle and strength. You’ve probably noticed that your muscles feel tight and sore the next day, as a result. Stretching immediately after working out helps lengthen your muscles while they’re still limber.

This means less soreness and more flexibility. Focus on major muscle groups like your hamstrings, hips, core, and glutes. Try holding each stretch for 30-60 seconds without bouncing, or even longer if a muscle is particularly tight.

2. Protein + Carbs

Your body may not be a machine, but it definitely needs energy in order to operate. Intense workouts deplete stored glycogen and carbohydrates from your muscles, and they also cause microtears in your muscles. This leaves your muscles totally primed to start the repair process that results in muscle growth.

In order for that process to get going, you need to refuel your body between 30 and 60 minutes after finishing your workout. Ideally, choose something that is two parts protein and one part carbohydrate. For example, you could two hard-boiled eggs with a handful of whole-wheat crackers when you finish working out.

Don’t have time to eat? Consider a protein shake, instead.

3. Consider Supplements

Humans struggle to get in all of their daily micronutrients. This is especially true for people who are super active because they need additional support to help them with things like building muscle. If you feel like you aren’t hitting your micronutrient goals, then you might consider shopping around for post workout supplements.

For example, one supplement that’s super helpful after a workout is L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid that your body uses to build muscle. When you take L-glutamine after a workout, it primes your body to repair muscle damage, helping you make progress on your body goals.

Another great micronutrient to help with your recovery is magnesium. That said, it is better for you to eat magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, almonds, and avocado than take a magnesium supplement.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

You know that you should drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, but if you’re working out, then you need even more than that. Ideally, you’ll prep for your workout by drinking about 20 ounces of water two hours before hitting the gym. Once you wrap up your workout, drink 10 ounces of water.

One of the biggest risks associated with exercise is dehydration, especially if you’re working out in the summer heat. If you’re out exercising during the summer months, be sure to bring a drink with added electrolytes to help keep you hydrated during and after your workout.

5. Shower

One of the nicest parts of wrapping up your workout is jumping in a cool shower and getting clean again. For most people, anyway. You don’t have to shower at the gym, but at a minimum, you should get out of your gym clothes as soon as possible rinse off.


Working out causes you to sweat, and when you sit around in sweaty clothing, you’re priming your skin for uncomfortable fungal infections. Ditching your workout gear and hopping in the shower puts the kibosh on fungus, and it gets rid of bacteria that cause acne, too.

6. Self-Massage

Even the most practiced athlete deals with muscle pain after intense workouts. Don’t let muscle pain stop you from heading back to the gym the next day. One of the best ways to reduce the chances of muscle pain is through self-massage.

Foam rollers and things like tennis balls are a great way to increase blood flow to tight muscles and help them relax. Keep a few at home to help out when muscle pain shows up. If you’re dealing with a lot of muscle pain, or even muscle strains, consider seeing a professional massage therapist to help work it out.

7. Get Enough Rest

You might be surprised to learn that one of the most important parts of any post-workout routine is getting enough sleep at night. When you sleep, your muscles release amino acids at a higher rate than your waking hours. That means sleep is prime time for muscle repair and growth. 

In addition to that, when your body goes into the R.E.M. sleep stage, your body releases growth hormones that also help with muscle repair. Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to ensure you’re recovering.

Make Your Post-Workout Routine Count!

Putting in hours at the gym is a great way to optimize your health throughout your life. If you want to make sure that the work you did at the gym makes an impact on your body, then you have to follow these post-workout steps. Before you know it, your post-workout routine will be just as automatic as your actual workout routine!

You’ve established an exercise recovery routine, but you probably still have a ton of questions about how you can optimize your health. We can help you out with that. Check out the rest of our blog for tons of health and fitness inspiration!



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