There’s no doubt workout intensity plays a big role in building your dream physique.  No great body was ever sculpted without buckets of sweat and sore muscles.  But what you do outside the gym is just as important.  Post-workout recovery is crucial because it allows your muscles to repair and come back stronger than ever.  It’s during this time, and not during your workouts, that you best prepare the body to make strength and endurance gains.  You might already be the master of the weight room.  Now it’s time to master recovery.

Don’t: Push Yourself to the Brink Every Workout

When you hit the gym or the trail, you want to get the most of your session.  However, there’s a difference between a challenging workout and exhaustion.  If every single workout pushes your muscles to fatigue, your body will focus more on repairing the damage than building up the muscle.  Recovery starts with a fitness program that improves your body without destroying it.

Do: Take BCAAs During and After Your Workout

Have you ever looked at the guys in the gym drinking a brightly colored liquid that looks like fruit punch?  They’re probably throwing back a healthy dose of Branch Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs.  BCAAs are natural supplements that aid in the protein synthesis process.  They’re your best friend for muscle recovery.  Consuming them during and after your workout can help you bounce back in no time.

Don’t: Skip Stretching

So many guys finish their last rep and walk out of the gym without a proper cool down or stretch session.  Though it seems like an annoying extra step, those stretches help keep your muscles loose so you can lift with perfect form.  For example, if your hamstrings are tight, you’ll have trouble maxing out your deadlifts and squats.  If your form is bad, you run the risk of damaging your lower back.  Set aside 20 minutes post-workout to tend to your muscles before you head home.

Do: Eat Protein & Potassium

There are several competing theories out there about post-workout nutrition.  Some schools of thought believe the timing of your nutrients doesn’t matter while others argue that it makes all the difference.  To play it safe, go with the latter school of thought.  Take in some protein and simple carbs shortly after workout completion.  The insulin from the carbs can help replenish your energy stores and speed up the protein synthesis process.  Potassium-rich foods will also help restore your muscular energy levels.

Don’t: Miss Out on Sleep

If you have a busy life, a full of night of sleep may seem like a luxury.  However, when you miss out on shut-eye, you deny your body some important downtime for muscle repair.  You should aim for at least 7 hours a night so your body has time to rejuvenate.  Without enough sleep, you run the risk of entering your workout in an unprepared state, which can lead to injury and frustrating plateaus.

There’s nothing wrong with planning out a killer workout.  Just be sure to put that same energy into your recovery.