The journey to lean down and tone up doesn’t end the moment we leave the fitness studio — in fact, lifting is really only half the battle. And while every fitness regimen will vary slightly depending on your specific goals (i.e. are you looking to spur severe muscle growth, burn fat, or tone), there are veritable health habits everyone can implement on a daily basis to maximize your efforts on the bench. Let’s dive in!

 

Re-hydrate

Proper hydration is a vital component of your fitness routine; the more you work up a sweat, the more water you are losing, and it needs to be replenished. When your muscles are parched, they tend to tighten and cramp up, hindering performance and potentially causing fatigue and dizziness. So how much H2O should you throw back before, after or during a workout? The American Council on Exercise gives us some basic guidelines to follow:

 

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising
  • Drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

 

Refuel

 

Most fitness experts agree that the rule of thumb is to eat between 30 minutes – one hour after your workout to boost your progress and refuel your body, at typically a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio. We’ve grabbed a few simple and benefit-packed recipes for your post-workout snack, each tailored to a morning, afternoon or evening class.

 

AM – Coffee Protein Shake

Coffee is actually a great post-studio snack, as it helps reduce muscle pain and cramping, but it only works if you’re hydrated (if not, the caffeine serves as a diuretic and can make your muscles even more thirsty). And for protein powder – remember that your body can only process 30 grams of protein at one time. Any excess is wasted, so avoid powders that boast all the way up to 100 grams per serving.

 

Afternoon – Sweet & Salty Energy Bites

Laden with Omega 3s and protein, these easily portable energy bites from healthy food blogger Gimme Some Oven sport hordes of natural energy, and the healthy fats will keep you full for hours.

 

Evening – Chickpea, Mango and Curried Cauliflower Salad

If you’re going home for dinner after class, we’re super into this totally vegan salad from Cooking and Beer, made with antioxidant-packed spices like turmeric and coriander (for easing inflammation) and other nutritional rockstars like chickpeas, cauliflower, and spinach.

 

Refresh

Right after a sweat-ridden workout sesh, your muscles are warm and loose, but they might also be filling with lactic acid, which leads to soreness and fatigue. Stretching and massaging while your muscles are still warm help to dissipate the amount of acid buildup and ease any oncoming fatigue. You can also try massaging with a foam roller, lacrosse ball or rolling pin.

 

If you’re experiencing any post-workout muscle inflammation, treat yourself to a hot epsom salt bath – these efficacious little crystals are absorbed through the skin, soothing muscular achiness and reducing swelling and inflammation.

Repair

 

If you break something down, you need to give it time to rebuild, and that’s exactly why rest and refresh days are so important. At LIFTONIC, we divide our workouts into four major sections of the body — Arms & Abs, Chest, Shoulders & Back, Legs & Butt, and Full Body — to prevent you from overworking the same muscle group two or more days in a row. Radan Sturm, LIFTONIC founder and trainer, tells us why.

 “Muscle fibers can take up to a full week to truly recover. That is why we segment the workouts into different body parts. With this approach each muscle group is worked for longer ensuring that after 10-12 sets your muscle is 100% fatigued. This is the secret to building muscle for a strong, lean physique.”

Your muscles, bones and tendons need time to then recuperate and rebuild, or you will actually impede your progress. Chris Varano, an NYC Fitness Specialist, gives us the lowdown on other negative side effects of overexertion.

“When you perform excessive amounts of exercise without proper rest and recovery you may experience some harmful side effects including decreased performance, fatigue, altered hormonal states, poor sleeping patterns, reproductive disorders, decreased immunity, loss of appetite, and mood swings.”