Get the greatest gains from your workout by avoiding these 7 easy mistakes!
No one is perfect, and that's perfectly ok. We all make mistakes, even when our intentions are good and we're trying our best.
That said, some mistakes are due to a simple lack of knowledge, and if only we were aware of the consequences, these mistakes would never be made. Well… maybe not never, but definitely a lot less!
Even after our best workouts, the little mistakes we make during that critical post-workout period can have a significant impact on our ability to reach our health and fitness goals.
Here are 7 common post-workout mistakes to look out for after your next training session.
1. You don’t have a post-workout meal strategy
Your post-workout recovery meals are essential to your progress. Although it might seem counterintuitive to take in calories after you've just burned them off, avoiding food after a workout puts your body at risk of going into ‘starvation mode.'
This means your metabolism will slow down and you might even hang on to extra water weight, which probably isn't your goal.
Without a post-workout meal strategy, we're in danger of either grabbing the first source of calories we see or failing to refuel altogether.
Before heading to the gym, know what you'll be eating afterwards and, if possible, have it prepared and ready to eat when you're done.
To get the most out of your training, make nourishing, whole-food meals that are rich in protein and carbohydrates part of your post-workout strategy.
2. You skip your cool down and stretch
If cooling down and stretching is your favourite part of a workout, then it may surprise you to know that you are a rarity and the rest of us just want to go home.
However, while many of us see it as the ‘boring part' of exercise, skipping the cool down and stretch can lead to debilitating muscle soreness and even injuries.
Pain and injuries keep us out of the gym for longer and seriously hinder our progress, so that extra 5-10 minutes at the end of a workout really is worth it!
The point of cooling down and stretching is to gradually return our heart rate, breathing and body temperate back to a point of rest, and to loosen up our muscles.
This practice enables us to get the most out of the workout we just did, improve our flexibility and range of motion for future workouts, and recover as quickly as possible.
3. You seek unhealthy ‘rewards’
People often overestimate how many calories they burn in their workout, and seriously underestimate how many calories are in that post-workout junk food.
While it's great to reward yourself for your hard work, it's important to establish whether your perceived ‘reward' is really all that rewarding.
When we workout, we're creating tiny little tears in our muscles, which rely on good nutrition in order to repair well. This means that exercise does not enable us to ‘get away' with poor food choices. Fortunately, there are many delicious and healthy alternatives to junk food that nourish our bodies, rather than cancel out all our effort in the gym.
4. You don’t rehydrate enough
During a workout, our bodies can lose a lot more fluid than we realise. Just as it's important to be hydrated before and during exercise, we also need to drink more water than usual after our workouts.
A well-hydrated body allows for faster recovery and less fatigue, so aim for at least one litre of water in the two hours after exercise.
To get even more nourishing liquids in, opt for soup or a smoothie for your post-workout meal.
5. You rely on sports drinks
Unless you're training for over an hour at a very high intensity or in extreme heat, it's very unlikely that you genuinely require a sports drink.
While they do replenish electrolytes, we need to look beyond the marketing and see sports drinks for what they really are.
In addition to artificial ingredients, they're also surprisingly high in artificial sugar and empty calories.
This makes sports drinks ideal if you've just run a marathon, but in most cases, pure and simple water is the better option for post-workout hydration, along with some whole salt.
The other great hydrating option that also replaces electrolytes is coconut water, which is a natural and tasty alternative that your cells will thank you for.
6. You’re not tracking your progress
After each workout, it's a great idea to make a record of what you've achieved.
Even if you weren't going for PB's, recording the weights, reps, distances and speeds you worked at will help you stay focused on progress, draw connections with things that might be slowing your progress, and provide you with more tangible satisfaction and motivation.
Without a track record of your fitness progress, it's difficult to set SMART goals for the future or bask in the glory of how far you've come. Don't miss out on motivation - write it down!
7. You’re neglecting your sleep
Are you hitting the gym, then hitting the club? If so, we have some bad news!
Perhaps you've noticed that sleep is a recurring theme in any discussion about fitness and wellbeing? Getting enough good quality sleep is not only a basic requirement to maintain a baseline level of physical and mental health, but it's also essential for our bodies to repair properly after a workout.
Now, we know you don't have to be pulling deliberate all-nighters to be missing out on the sleep you need. If you are struggling to get your overnight recovery in, then you may need to reconsider your bedroom vibe.
Have you created the perfect space for sleeping soundly every night? Do you allow TVs, computers and phones to enter your sacred sleep sanctuary?
Perhaps you need some fresh new bed sheets, or maybe it's time to level-up your mattress game?
Whatever it takes, sleeping well needs to be a priority, no matter how big or small your fitness goals may be.
Have you been making any of these 7 common post-workout mistakes? Well, here is some good news for you: You can expect better recovery, faster progress and more enjoyment from your workouts once you've tweaked your post-workout routine!