Must-Haves for Optimal Recovery
In a perfect world, we’d end a workout feeling energized, hydrated, and with our muscles already recovered and fresh for the day. However, since we’re not comic book superheroes, and most of us live busy lives, it’s imperative for us to jump on the recovery train after our workouts. Not all of us have time to do those zenful yoga poses or make it to the smoothie bar before rush hour traffic, so here are some must-haves to jump start your post workout recovery.
Stretches and Rollers
Key Takeaway: Five minutes stretching + five minutes rolling
The first and most important thing you should do following a workout is stretch while your muscles are still warm. This makes for a smoother transition to your normal recovery state, which can help prevent muscles from locking up later in the day. Stretching also promotes an active range of motion and increased flexibility. Rolling out assists blood flow and reduces muscle tissue adhesions.
If you take the time to give your muscles what they need after a workout, you’ll save time when you don’t have to go to the doctor later! Dedicate at least five minutes of stretching your muscles (after your workout, not before) and five minutes of rolling with a massage ball, foam roller, or with a massage stick. Keep a spare roller and stick in your trunk so you don’t have an excuse.
Refuel for Recovery
Key Takeaway: Hit your 30-minute refueling window
Make sure to take in food shortly after your workout. The ideal window for your muscles to absorb nutrients is within 30-60 minutes, so you should double-down by refueling as you stretch and roll. This will help speed recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and help you feel better during the day and feel better before your next workout. Something as easy as packing a small cooler, a snack bag, or having protein powder (like Recovery Drink Mix) in your car is an easy way to ensure you’ll be able to refuel no matter where you are.
Our recommendation? Go with GU Recovery Drink Mix to check all the boxes:
- Quick digesting carbs to replenish your depleted glycogen stores
- Fast-acting proteins (such as whey) to provide crucial amino acids, which repair damaged muscle tissue
- Sodium to replace the primary electrolyte lost when you sweat
- Fluids to get your rehydration on!
Pair this with a piece of fruit to recover on the go!
Other favorites for the cooler/snack bag:
- Dry roasted edamame
- Pretzel twists
- Hard boiled eggs
- Fruit and yogurt
- String cheese
- Crackers and cheese or turkey slices
Check out our blog post, Tips for the Traveling Athlete, for other tasty (and power-packed) options:
- Tuna pouches – They are lightweight and can make any meal more satiating.
- Protein powder – GU Recovery Drink Mix can keep you feeling satisfied on the go.
- Nut butter pouches – Squeeze on a banana, a piece of toast, or right into your mouth.
- Stroopwafels – Two stroops’ with a smear of almond butter make a pretty dope post workout snack.
Forgot your food at home? We got you covered. Roctane BCAA Capsules are great when you’re in a pinch. Take four to six capsules post workout to kick start muscle recovery, reduce muscle breakdown, and decrease muscle soreness. Always keep a bottle in your car, and you’ve got a great back-up plan!
Water! Replace the Fluids You've Lost
Key Takeaway: Replace the sweat you lost with plenty of water that’s balanced with electrolytes
You tend to lose a lot of fluid during exercise. While you should be replacing it during exercise, topping off after exercise is an easy way to boost your recovery. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body, and having plenty of water will improve your body’s ability to do both. Adequate fluid replacement is even more important for endurance athletes who lose large amounts of water during hours of sweating. Aim for 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during exercise.
If you want to level up your water, add electrolytes (via Hydration Drink Tabs). Not only does the added sodium (which you should be replacing after heavy sweat losses) help you hold on to your hydration better, having a lightly flavored fluid also makes you more likely to want to drink.
rest & relax - bring dry clothes
Key Takeaway: Get warm, get comfortable, and put your feet up
Time is one of the best ways to recover after a hard workout. Your body has an amazing capacity to take care of itself if you let it. Resting and waiting after a hard workout allows the repair and recovery process to happen at a natural pace, so try to give yourself some down time after working out. In addition, keep an extra pair of clothes in your car so you can change into something warm and dry. If you let your muscles get cold immediately after a hard workout, you might miss out on your body’s healing metabolic activity. Keep them warm and loose until you find a few moments to stretch each of your major muscle groups. Try adding some compression garments to your daily bag or even keep in your car in times of need.
Here are some other tools we always have in our cars post-workout:
- Towel, face and hand wipes – Clean up with the face wipes, and the towel will keep your ride fresh (no sweaty seats)!
- Flip flops – Switching from your athletic shoes to flip flops feels great, even if you’re only a five-minute drive from home.
- A separate bag to store your sweaty clothes and muddy shoes.
- An extra bottle of plain water to mix with your Recovery Drink Mix and a GU Shaker Bottle!
- Wet shoes? Try stuffing them with old newspaper. The paper absorbs excess water, which dries out your shoes and prevents them from smelling later!
Recovery is a crucial yet underappreciated aspect of training, and good recovery on-the-go can be a big challenge. However, you’ll be more likely to recover better if you have the necessary tools always at the ready.
Have any other tips we didn’t cover? Drop them in the comments below!