Everyone who works out knows the feeling of the day-after muscle soreness, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is a common effect of working out but severe pain can mean training too hard or lack of an after-workout routine. Cooling your muscles down, stretching, and consumption of the right nutritionally balanced foods can make a difference between severe DOMS and a satisfied "burn".
A cool down period is essentially a brief period, between five and ten minutes, of light cardiovascular exercise aimed at bringing down your heart rate from your routine. Even if you finished off your workout with resistance training, a proper cool down will help redistribute blood throughout your body to allow maximum recovery.
Promoting a supple and flexible body isn't the only benefit that stretching has. After a workout, your muscles contract and shrink. When you stretch after a workout, you lengthen and relax the muscles which reduce the amount and length of soreness during recovery. It also allows oxygen into the muscles, strengthens the ligaments and removes unwanted waste products.
Equally important during your workout as after is replenishing your water levels. You can sweat up to two pounds of water through a rigorous workout and that can leave you feeling nauseous and dehydrated. You should drink from 8 to 16 oz. of water afterwards to rehydrate your system.
Refueling your body should be done within 15 to 90 minutes post workout. If you are aiming at muscle growth, sneaking in a high protein, low carbohydrate shake within 45 minutes will dramatically decrease your recovery time by fueling your body with muscle building power. It can also help decrease muscle soreness by allowing the healing process to begin immediately. Eating a proper meal shortly after your protein shake that contains a lean source of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates will help restock your body with energy.
A complete workout doesn't end once you've put down the weights or stepped off the machine. By following an after-workout routine also, you will be allowing your body to recover quickly.