Three ways you can help your body recover after a workout

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With restaurants limiting services, many of us have hesitantly replaced Margarita Mondays with a Zoom-based exercise class. Instead of meeting friends at a trendy cycling studio, we are now gathering at local parks for group workouts.

Since the pandemic started, many people have increased the amount of physical activity that they are getting on a regular basis – in hopes to fend off boredom, support their mental health, and burn calories. Self-isolation baking has not been kind to our waistlines.

Sports medicine and family physician Dr. Atif Kabir offers advice on how you can help your body adjust to the upsurge in exercise and recover after a challenging workout.

(Dr. Kabir is available for an e-consultation through the Tia Health website for sports medicine and weight-loss services.)

Stay well-hydrated

Even if you don’t get impressively sweaty or feel thirsty during a workout, you still need to be mindful of your water intake. “Fluid loss from sweat during exercise is generally about 600 to 1,200 millilitres per hour but that can vary depending on exercise intensity and ambient temperature,” says Dr. Kabir. “Replenishing fluid is vital for the body to recover as it allows waste products to be eliminated and for nutrients to be transported to tissues damaged during exercise.”

He suggests that you take a water break every 15 to 20 minutes to avoid dehydration, which leads to decreased athletic performance, cramps, and heat stroke in severe cases.

Eat differently before and after your workout

Before exercising, fill up on foods that contain healthy carbohydrates but are low in fat. Additionally, make sure you have adequate time to digest or else you’ll experience those dreaded stomach cramps.

Even though your heart yearns for a giant donut post-workout, your muscles require a meal with more sustenance. “Excellent post-workout foods are brown bread with peanut butter, brown rice with lean chicken meat, nut butter, and yogurt,” he says. “Consuming foods that are high in protein and contain antioxidants will make you feel better after a workout.”

Dr. Kabir suggests adding calcium, vitamin D, iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 to your supplement regimen if you want to achieve peak performance. These supplements assist with bone strength while supporting red blood cells and nerves. He also notes that taking magnesium glycinate will boost muscle function and prevent muscle spasms.

Prioritize rest days and sleep

Not only does getting a solid eight hours of sleep per night support your metabolism, brain function and mental health but it also helps your body recover after exercise. Dr. Kabir states that your muscles, stressed bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and arteries all need sufficient rest upon completing a workout.

“The muscles and tissues worked out during exercise need about 24 to 48 hours to recover fully,” he says. “If you exercise too frequently, there’s not enough time for the muscles to repair themselves and become stronger.”

On rest days you can stretch, go for a light walk or use a foam roller to massage your muscles. You’ll reap the positive benefits of movement without overworking your body.

Canadians can arrange an e-consultation with Dr. Atif Kabir by scheduling an online or phone appointment through the telehealth platform Tia Health.

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@nowtoronto