What to do Before and After Exercise

What to do Before and After Exercise

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Are You Searching to Maximize Fitness Gains and Recovery?

In our comprehensive pre and post exercise best practice guide, we explore key strategies that can help you attain peak fitness.

No matter if you are an elite athlete or simply starting your journey toward getting fitter, this guide aims to equip you with all of the knowledge and techniques that will take your workouts to a whole new level.

Warm-up routines designed to optimize performance will be covered, along with cool-down strategies designed to support recovery.

In addition, proper hydration, nutrition and rest will help fuel your body and promote muscle recovery.

Additionally, we will explore the many benefits of stretching, foam rolling and other recovery techniques as ways to avoid injury and promote overall fitness.

By including these best practices into your exercise regime, not only can you increase performance and decrease injury risks - you also promote long-term fitness! Get ready to elevate your fitness journey with this comprehensive guide!

Pre-exercise best practices

Exercise is an integral component of leading a healthy lifestyle, but before embarking on any physical fitness regime it is wise to seek advice from qualified health professionals such as doctors, physiotherapists or sports trainers.

Speak to someone about realistic exercise goals you can set, your current fitness levels and any health conditions which could pose risks when undertaking an exercise program.

Prior to engaging in physical exercise, it is crucial that your muscles be warmed up with dynamic stretching exercises to reduce injury risk and enhance workout results. Failure to take this step could increase your risk and make workouts less effective.

Hydration is also essential when exercising. Experts suggest drinking at least 0.5L two hours prior to exercise; the exact amount will depend on its duration and intensity. You can establish your sweat rate, here

Warm-up exercises and stretches

Warm-up exercises serve a vital function by increasing your body's blood flow, loosening muscles and joints and prepping them for intense physical activities. Without an effective warm-up session beforehand, your risk of injury becomes significantly greater.

An effective warm-up routine begins with low-intensity aerobic movements like walking, light jogging or jumping jacks; dynamic stretching exercises targeting major muscle groups you plan to exercise later; followed by static stretching exercises lasting 10-30 seconds at each stretch hold point. This is often referred to as a 'RAMP' warm up. 

Stretching can help maintain flexibility which in turn may reduce muscle soreness after exercise sessions while improving future sessions.

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Hydration and nutrition before exercise

Hydration is key in supporting the body during and after exercise. Hydration helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, transport nutrients to fuel muscles and replenish glycogen stores in muscles.

Rehydration after extended exercise sessions can help restore body fluid levels to pre-exercise levels and help avoid performance decrease and cramps. 

Electrolyte-containing drinks may also help replenish salt and potassium lost through sweat during exercise. While athletes may prefer sports drinks as an energy boost, they include sugar to maintain your muscle and liver glycogen levels.

Athletes should arrive to their gym sessions optimally hydrated--neither hyperhydrated (with excess water weight) nor hypohydrated (at loss of fluid volume).

Achieve this state will improve strength, power, aerobic and anaerobic performance during exercise according to research published in Nutrition & Metabolism."

Post-exercise best practices

Post-exercise recovery is essential to muscle and tissue repair and growth. A solid workout recovery routine can make or break fitness gains and prevent injuries.

Eating a snack or meal that includes both carbohydrates and proteins within an hour after exercising can significantly enhance recovery time.

Carbs provide essential energy-restoring carbohydrates while proteins help muscle repair and growth while also decreasing exercise-induced inflammation and oxidative stress.

Hydration is also essential in post-exercise recovery. Aim to consume 1 liter of water every half-hour that you exercise or opt for an electrolyte replacement drink if you experience heavy sweating.

Icing can help reduce soreness and enhance your next workout by applying an ice pack to any sore areas for approximately 20 minutes post workout.

Contrast water therapy - taking alternate hot and cold showers - also promotes blood flow while eliminating waste products, and is particularly helpful for leg soreness due to lactic acid buildup.

That said, research suggests that water immersion techniques offer no further benefit than active recovery exercise or stretching.

Finally, making sure you get adequate rest is also key for recovery.

Cool-down exercises and stretches

The cool-down phase is essential in safely returning your heart rate back down to resting level after exercise.

It should last approximately 10 minutes and include light exercise such as light jogging or walking as well as static stretching - make sure not to overdo it though, or the risk of injury increases dramatically!

Stretching exercises can help increase flexibility and decrease muscle soreness. They may also prevent an accumulation of lactic acid produced during exercise that requires time for your body to expel from your system.

Cool-down exercises provide another benefit of incorporating them into your physical workouts: They can help your body return to a resting state after intensive activity. This may prevent dizziness and fainting after physical exertion.

Stretching can be an excellent way to unwind after a workout, from simple wide-toe touches or arm-cross shoulder stretches, helping muscles recover from their exertions and aiding with joint mobility and elasticity.

By adding stretching as part of their fitness regimen, stretching can maximize their fitness experience.

Importance of recovery and rest

Exercise's many benefits are well documented; however, its importance goes beyond simply attending gym classes and working up a sweat. Recovering is just as crucial.

As an athlete or weekend warrior, it is vitally important that your body gets time to recuperate in order to experience strength, endurance and agility gains that result from all your hard work.

Recovery includes more than just rest; it includes hydration, nutrition and techniques and actions designed to facilitate repair.

Examples include eating proteins and carbohydrates; using heat/ice packs; massaging/self-myofascial release techniques; stretching/proper posture work; stress management/compression methods etc.

Sleep is essential, both to maintaining energy levels and to allow muscles the opportunity to recover after exercise. Aim for at least 7-9 hours of quality rest every night in order to boost energy and give muscles time to heal themselves properly.

Nutrition and hydration after exercise

Nutrition and hydration after exercising is just as critical to overall fitness and recovery, just like before it. Hydration helps re-hydrate your body from within, while eating carbohydrates and proteins post workout can repair muscles while fueling future workouts.

Sweating causes your body to shed fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium, which play an integral part in keeping systems working smoothly and maintaining proper temperature regulation. Without replenishing these vital fluids, your body could become dehydrated - leading to headaches or fatigue as a result.

To prevent dehydration during workouts, make sure you drink plenty of water prior to, during, and after. Your fluid needs depend on factors like the weather, environment, fitness level and personal preferences - but in general aim for starting each workout in an euhydrated state (euhydration) with consistent water intake per sweat rate.

A great indicator of how hydrated you are is by the color or scanty nature of urine: light yellow or clear indicates your body is sufficiently hydrated while dark or scanty urine indicates dehydration.

Within one hour of finishing a workout, practice, or game, aim to consume a post-workout snack or meal that includes protein, carbohydrates and fat - such as whole eggs, lean meats, fish, peanut butter, Greek yogurt or milk - in order to maximize nutrient absorption. Select foods with simple digestion processes in order to accelerate this process more rapidly.


No matter if your goal is building muscle or simply maintaining good physical condition, eating the appropriate fuel before and after workouts is critical to success.

Consuming healthy food will make you stronger and more energised during exercises; eating well also makes staying on your exercise plan easier; however if your consumption exceeds necessary limits or you neglect recovery efforts altogether, your results could suffer greatly.

Your prior and post exercise habits play a key role in maximizing results from each workout session, so take time to learn about fueling and prepping your body for maximum performance, as well as post workout recovery techniques to ensure maximum recovery.

In general, it is wise to consume a meal that includes both carbohydrates and protein approximately three or four hours before exercising in order to provide your muscles with energy while helping avoid sudden drops in blood sugar during your workout session.

This will provide sufficient fuel to fuel them properly as well as prevent sudden decreases in blood sugar during an intense physical exertion session.

When time isn't on your side to prepare a pre-workout meal, opting for carb-rich snacks or beverages such as whole fruit, low calorie sports drinks or carb-rich shakes is a smart solution.

Once your workout is over, it's essential to replenish lost fluids with some cool water or sports drink and stretch as part of a post-workout routine. Stretching will help preserve flexibility while decreasing muscle soreness.

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