Showing up for that spin class and pushing yourself through tough intervals is the most important aspect of your fitness regimen—but what you do after you sweat can have a major impact on how your body responds to the work you put in.
“From the foods we eat to the amount of rest we get, the decisions we make post-workout all impact the way our body recovers, repairs, and even grows,” says Julius Jamison, a top trainer at New York Health and Racquet Club. Which is why it makes sense to avoid these five big mistakes active people (AKA probably you) make all of the time.
Originally posted October 20, 2016. Updated June 16, 2017.
Scroll down for five common post-workout mistakes.
1. Forgetting to hydrate
You generally don’t have time to get enough water when you’re busy lifting and lunging, so it’s essential you drink more water than normal right after to re-hydrate says Rebecca Kennedy, a master trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp and the creator of A.C.C.E.S.S. She also recommends reaching for a recovery drink after a particularly sweaty workout (her favorite is WellWell). “You’re going to need to replenish your glycogen levels and replace electrolytes, both of which assist recovery,” she says.
2. Eating fatty foods
“Fats slow down the digestive process, so you never want to consume too much after your workout,” Jamison explains. “You want to eat ‘fast-acting’ nutrients that are able to enter the bloodstream and get to the cells quickly.” That means refueling quickly, as in 20 to 30 minutes after you work out, with quality protein and carbs to feed your muscles.
3. Skipping the stretch
Sure, sometimes you have to run out to get to that meeting, but after your muscles have been contracting for an hour, getting in a few good stretches for at least 10 seconds at a time is crucial. “Failing to stretch post-workout could cause limitations in your range of motion, which could make you more susceptible to injuries,” Jamison says.
4. Sitting still for the entire rest of the day
“You definitely want to start moving at some point or your body’s going to tighten up,” Kennedy says. Of course, you can’t escape your desk job entirely, but she stressed the need for “active recovery” in addition to stretching (especially if you’re doing intense workouts like a HIIT bootcamp). That means spending some time at 50 percent of your max heart rate (so medium effort) doing things like dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and functional body-weight and core work.
If you can’t do it during the day after a morning workout, dedicate a few minutes in the evening or the following day. “There are all different kinds of benefits—like stimulating blood flow, relieving soreness, reinforcing good posture, and more.”
5. Skimping on sleep
The day you PR during your CrossFit WOD is not the day to cheat your body of the rest it needs to repair and recharge. “Our bodies recover and rebuild the most when we’re sleeping, so proper rest is key,” Jamison says. Overall, “what you do after your workout is not going to make or break it, but it will enhance it and make it worth doing,” Kennedy says. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
More smart fitness advice: How to breathe properly during all different workouts and what you really need to know about working out while pregnant.