The best method for increasing muscle mass involves creating a disciplined exercise routine, sleep schedule, and nutritious diet. While you may be taking some steps prior to working out that can help build muscle, are you consciously incorporating healthy post-workout habits as well? Follow these post-workout muscle-building steps, and you’ll start to notice results while providing your body with a healthy daily routine.

Drink A Post-Workout Protein Shake

During your training in the gym, your muscles are exerting energy gained from amino acids found in protein and breaking down as you perform each exercise. Because protein fuels muscle regrowth, many experts recommend drinking a protein shake immediately after a workout to speed up the healing process. Your muscles crave protein after breaking down because this is what helps to heal them and grow stronger. If you’re already in the habit of bringing a protein shake in your Ice Shaker bottle to the gym to drink before your workouts, try drinking half your shake before exercising for an extra stamina boost and finishing the other half post-workout to rebuild muscle.

Pay Attention to What You Eat Before Hitting the Gym

pre-workout meal

Though we’re trying to focus on actions you can take after the gym to help build muscle, it’s important not to ignore your pre-workout meal. What you eat before hitting the gym has an effect on your post-workout results. It’s recommended that you drink a protein shake within 30 minutes of working out if you’re just going to opt for a shake.

Others prefer to eat a snack before exercising. Snacks high in protein are the best for a pre-workout meal. Try munching on a protein bar, oatmeal with a high protein content or a banana. Though bananas are not a source of protein, they do contain a high amount of potassium, which your body sweats out during exercise.

Don’t Skip the Carbs

Because of the popularity of low-carb diets, many people are under the impression that cutting carbs out of your diet altogether is a healthy practice. However, for those looking to build muscle, carbs should be an essential part of your diet. When performing high-intensity muscle-building exercises like weightlifting, much of your energy comes from your muscles breaking down glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates. After you’ve completed a workout session, your glycogen levels—the form in which glucose is stored—are depleted. Immediately following your workout, you should pack in plenty of carbs to replenish the glucose you burned off and provide your muscles with more energy for the next workout session.

Be Sure to Stretch Post-Workout

This vital step is often overlooked by even the well-trained athletes. After spending an hour or so pushing your muscles to the limit, it’s easy to glaze over your post-workout stretches because you’re tired and ready to let your muscles relax. However, ignoring these stretches could cause problems later on in the form of stiff or sore muscles.

As we age, stretching becomes even more important because our muscles need more care and time to recover. When you work out, your muscles are constantly contracting, which causes them to tense up. Setting aside at least 10 minutes after your workout to really stretch out your muscles will help to relax them and decrease the chance of pain.

Get the Proper Amount of Sleep

getting enough rest

No matter what your fitness goals are, you should make getting enough sleep a top priority because lack of sleep can affect many aspects of your health. Most researchers recommend every adult person should aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep not only leads to decreased energy levels but can increase your risk of developing diseases and shorten your lifespan.

The amount of sleep you get each night will also affect your appetite, and since diet is an essential aspect of a well-rounded fitness plan, this should be a top priority. When you sleep, your body’s need for food is diminished, which is one reason some fitness experts recommend drinking protein shakes with casein before bed to help your muscles re-build while your metabolism slows down. If you’re not sleeping enough during the night, your brain will send signals that you’re hungry, leading to additional and unnecessary food consumption.

Though sleep is important to a healthy schedule for all these reasons and more, when trying to build muscle quickly, your body needs a higher level of testosterone. Studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to decreased hormone levels, testosterone in particular, which in turn will make it more difficult for your body to gain the muscle mass you’re looking for.

Allow Your Body Time to Rest Between Workouts

Hitting the gym every day can be tempting for those trying to build muscle quickly but allowing time between workouts is actually more effective for muscle growth. You should never try to work out the same muscle group more than once within a 36-hour period. Even if your workout schedule consists of two on days before one rest day, you need to be sure that you break up these days. For example, day one can focus on your upper body while day two hones in on lower body or core.

The process through which your body builds more muscle is called muscle synthesis. This does not begin until your body goes into an anabolic state, which occurs after you’ve consumed a source of energy. During a workout, your body goes into the opposite state known as catabolic, which means your muscles are being broken down and your body is losing energy.

So, contrary to popular belief, your muscles are only beginning to build up after your workout when you’re resting. This is why it’s imperative to avoid working the same muscle group two days in a row—you’ll likely interfere with this natural process and end up stunting your muscle growth instead.

foam roller on tight muscles

Use a Foam Roller on Tight Muscles

Similar to stretching after your workout, using a foam roller can help to relax your muscles and relieve you of any stiffness or pain. Adding this to your post-workout stretching routine is also a great way to promote muscle recovery.

Author Bio: Chris Gronkowski

A former 3-year starter in the NFL for the Cowboys, Colts & Broncos, Chris Gronkowski is now the CEO of Ice Shaker. Ice Shaker has been featured on ABC's Shark Tank, Good Morning America, HLN morning express, Forbes and countless other publications. Chris is the middle of the 5 Gronkowski brothers and has recently started writing about his athletic and entrepreneurial experiences.

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