By Ann Sullivan
Exercise workouts can become part of your regular routine, with many benefits for staying in shape and good health. The time you put into your workout can be easily destroyed if you do certain things afterwards. It’s just as easy to get into bad habits as good ones. If you’re going to put the effort in, you should make certain to maximize your results to keep your body healthy. Doing or neglecting or doing certain things could very well defeat the purpose, and damage the results, or worse! Here are 9 things you should never do after working out if you want to maximize the benefits and stay healthy at the same time.
1) Wear Your Workout Clothes
Men’s Health advises, even if you didn’t sweat much during your work out, damp clothing is a breeding ground for bacteria. Keeping your workout clothes on can also create a deep chill in your body, which can be difficult to shake off. Whether you can shower immediately following a workout, it’s important to change your clothing. This will aid in keeping your muscles loose and warm. It also promotes good circulation, which is part of the recovery process. It is further recommended that you put on a pair of supportive shoes, especially if your legs are feeling tired and your muscles are sore. In addition, you may end up with skin problems such as yeast infections, acne and other skin irritations. Give your skin time to breath. Don’t shower and put your clothes on while your body is still damp. Be sure to air out and dry off well.
2) Wait too Long to Eat
After intense exercise, your body needs to replenish vital nutrients in a timely manner. Amino acids and carbohydrates are necessary to repair muscle tissue and restore an exhausted nervous system. During a workout, your muscles burn stored carbohydrates and some proteins. Your body will naturally try to rebuild these, which is why it’s important to eat within the proper timeframe. Eating the right carbs and proteins after a workout will help your body accomplish this. It will decrease muscle protein breaking down, increase muscle growth, and aid in muscle recovery. Since exercise breaks down muscle proteins, consuming an adequate amount after working out allows your body to absorb the amino acids necessary to rebuild and repair those proteins. It also provides a solid foundation to building new muscle tissue as well. 20-40 grams of protein about 45 minutes after exercising is recommended to recover after a workout.
3) Reward Yourself with Bad Food
Another common trap is to convince yourself you’ve earned a treat, since you just burned so many calories! Going out for a burger and a beer is a definite no, no. Part of your fitness plan should include knowing what foods and beverages to consume after working out – and avoid anything loaded with sugars and unhealthy fats. Drink water, not sports drinks loaded with sugar. Eat foods which are high in protein and fiber. Fruits are also a good option. Don’t head for your local greasy spoon if your plan is to eat out afterwards. Head to your local smoothie shop and choose something healthy. Have a plan, as part of your fitness routine, and keep foods on hand that you know will be beneficial after working out. This will make it easier to incorporate this as part of your routine, and lessen the chances of eating the wrong foods.
4) Do Heavy Activities
It may seem like a good idea, since you’re already sweated, to do some heavy chores after working out. After all, you may not have showered yet (but should have!) It is highly advised not to do this. Your muscles are tired and this can cause strain, especially if you haven’t rehydrated and refueled your body yet. Doing any type of heavy lifting can cause injury. Part of your workout routine should include several hours of recovery time which incorporates the proper elements of an after-work out regime. Heavy projects should be done while your muscles are at full strength capacity, not when they are tired from working out. If you do end up with an injury, you could set your fitness plan back considerably. You won’t be able to work out or do heavy chores if you’ve caused yourself injury, and will have to wait until you heal.
5) Push Yourself Too Far
If you are a doing high-intensity workout routine, it’s recommended that you not exceed three times weekly. If you don’t allow your body to fully refuel and recuperate after an intense session, you could do more harm than good. If you are at the gym, and you feel like you’ve had enough, hit the locker room! If you continue to push yourself beyond your limits you may be defeating your original intention. It may seem like a good idea to go the distance and push for a longer workout. Don’t do it. Keep your routine disciplined and stop when you have completed what you are capable of without feeling strained. Over estimating yourself could backfire and become counterproductive. Slow and steady wins the race! So, make sure to listen to your body and don’t think pushing yourself beyond comfort is going to benefit you more.
6) Skip Quality Sleep
It’s equally as important to get enough rest and quality sleep as it is to spend time working out. Your body needs time to recover and prepare for further activity. Lack of sleep can also cause you to eat more, or grab the wrong foods in a fit of hunger. This can throw your routine out of balance. Having a disciplined sleep routine is as important as your workout plan. This is especially true on your workout days. Proper sleep allows your body to restore energy. It also allows for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue. Professional athletes know this as part of their training. Proper rest is essential to high-level performance. That’s why rest days are built in to an athletes training schedule. So, as part of your planned routine, be sure to get good quality sleep and plan for rest days to maximize the benefits of your efforts.
7) Forget to Rehydrate
Hydration is a very important factor to maximize the results of your workout. When you sweat during a workout routine, your body loses essential hydration, and the nutrients that fuel your muscles and tissues in the process. Water fuels your body. You can’t function properly without it. So, after a workout it is imperative that you restore hydration. A simple way to tell if you aren’t hydrated enough is by the color of your urine. If it’s dark in color, it’s a sign of dehydration. Light to clear is a good sign that you’re drinking enough water, not only after working out, but during off days as well. Being properly hydrated always, and especially after a workout, will keep your body energized and keep up your strength under exertion of any kind, especially exercise. A general rule is half your body weight multiplied by ounces of water per day.
8) Neglect Cooling Down & Stretching
If you’ve ever watched a runner after a marathon, as exhausted as they look, when they come to a grinding halt they continue moving around. This is to decrease muscle spasm, soreness and help in the recovery process. Cooling down and stretching after an intense work out is necessary to keep your muscles from going in the opposite direction. Stretching will bring them back to neutral territory where they are neither strained nor over-active. It’s recommended to stretch slowly, immediately following your workout while your muscles are still warm. This helps your breathing and heart rate return to normal gradually. It also helps lower your body temperature gradually to its normal level. If it’s not gradual, you can become dizzy, feel sick or even faint due to the blood rushing in the larger muscles. Stretching also helps in reducing the buildup of lactic acid, which can cause cramping.
9) Get Lazy
It’s easy enough to convince yourself that, since you’ve had a good workout, it’s time to hit the couch and binge watch your favorite programs. Light activity is best after a heavy workout. This will keep your blood moving and refuel your body in the process. Becoming sedentary after a workout can cause your muscles to stiffen and tighten up. It’s recommended to do light stretching, or go for a walk, to keep your muscles loose. If you must do something, such as go to work and sit at your desk, or sit in your car to commute, set a reminder to stop and stretch or walk. Muscle recovery is an important aspect of your workout routine, and should be taken seriously. If possible, leave time in your schedule so after your workout you have the option to remain lightly active, rather than having to be somewhere immediately.