As you wipe the sweat off your brow having finished that last set off like a champion, you can’t help but feel good. You can’t wait to see the effects that all of this exercise is going to have on your body… But, it seems to be taking longer than you thought.
Your form may be great and your cardio on point, but - slowed gains may be because of what you’re doing after your workout.
In fact, the trouble starts seconds after you complete your last rep.
So, let’s talk about four common errors that could be impacting your results.
What’s in your drink mix?
If you pack away your equipment and immediately grab the bottle you’ve prepped with an electrolyte mix to drink after you’ve exercised, stop! There’s one critical mistake you’ve just made: that drink could be harming you in ways you’ve never even thought about.
Post-workout electrolyte drink mixes are marketed as being a healthy way to replenish fluid lost through intense exercise, but many of them contain unnatural ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Although often argued as an effective source of immediately available energy, HFCS is not a natural food source and is, instead, a highly refined sugar that is cheap to produce, difficult for the body to process and is a common ingredient in many foods without us even realizing.
Research has demonstrated high intakes of HFCS to be associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and heart disease1,2.
Unless you’re a professional athlete, plain water should suffice as an option to rehydrate after your gym workout. If you find you need something more, try adding raw, organic coconut water to your routine, which contains electrolytes naturally without the HFCS and artificial colorants that come along with common sports drinks3.
Now that you’ve hydrated after your workout, have you forgotten something else before you leave the gym?
Take a moment to stretch
Many people take the time to stretch or warm up before a workout, but they don’t take the time for a good cool-down and stretch after.
The thing is, stretching when the muscles are warm offers more benefit as it increases flexibility and range of motion. Without this flexibility and increased range of motion, the muscles shorten and can become tight. This issue means that the risk of injury, muscle damage and pain during exercise is greater which can hinder your exercise performance and results4,5.
It’s not necessary to stretch every muscle after each workout, however, simply taking a few extra minutes to stretch the group or groups of muscle and joints you have used during that particular workout is enough.
Passive stretching is best, which is when you hold the position for at least 30 seconds, without ‘bouncing’. If you feel that you can stretch a little more after the initial 30 seconds, do so for another 30 seconds. A good stretch should leave you feeling tension in the area, but never pain.
With your stretching session complete, what’s next on the agenda?
If your next move is to freshen up with a quick spray of antiperspirant and then to throw a top on over your workout gear, you might want to reconsider. When you stay in your warm, sweaty activewear, you create a breeding ground for bacteria who thrive in this type of environment.
Your skin is host to trillions of these little critters and, while they play an essential role in your overall health, there are some opportunistic species that can cause some issues like:
- Producing body odour
- Developing itchy skin rashes
One of the most common but misunderstood results of wearing warm, moist workout great for extended periods is acne, which typically develop on your back, butt, between the breasts and your neck6. Dermatologists suggest this is because sweat and natural body oils mix, causing it to clog the pores, which become irritated and inflamed as a result.
So, if you’re noticing that your healthy new routine isn’t doing your skin any favours - well, it’s best for you, and those around you, to spend even a few seconds under a shower head after your workout, drying yourself off thoroughly and changing into clean, dry clothes.
Hydration, check. Stretching, check. Clean and fresh, check! Next up? You have to eat!
Fuel, don’t feast
Another mistake many make after their workout is with food.
Yes, your workout has used up a considerable amount of calories - but, that doesn’t mean you have free reign to eat whatever you like. First off, you can over-consume excess calories, easily exceeding what you’ve burned off.
Second, your body doesn’t work on calories alone. It functions are based on the individual nutrients you consume. So, if you eat a sugary and fatty meal after you workout, there’s little your body can take and use to build and repair the tissues you’ve just stressed during your exercise routine.
Instead, the sugar and unhealthy fat can create more inflammation7, which inhibits growth and repair. What you need is a variety of vitamins, mineral and whole-food components to meet the demands you’ve just placed on your muscles and tissues to ensure they get bigger and stronger.
Say “no” to burgers, fries, pizza, doughnuts and sugary milkshakes and “yes” to natural protein sources, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables8. Additionally, all-natural foods tend to be naturally lower in calories - therefore providing your body with maximal nutrients and minimal junk.
Taking the time to hydrate, stretch, freshen up and fuel yourself correctly after your workout can bring you just that much closer to reaching your goals. With this complete approach to your training routine, you won’t just feel good after you’ve exercise - you’ll look good, too!
- Bantle, J. Dietary fructose and metabolic syndrome and diabetes. J Nutr. 2009. 139(6):1263S1268S.
- Malik, V., et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010. 33(11):2477-2483.
- Medeiros, A., & Medeiros, V. Therapeutic use of coconut water. Journal of Surgical and Clinical Research. 2013. 3(2):75-83.
- Phil, P. Current Concepts In Muscle Stretching For Exercise And Rehabilitation. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2012. 7(1):109-119.
- DeokJu, K., et al. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015. 27(6):1791–1794.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne: WHo Gets and Causes.
- Hert, K., et al. Decreased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages improved selected biomarkers of chronic disease risk among US adults: 1999 to 2010. Nutr Res. 2014. 34(1):58-65.
- Jager, R., et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017. 14:20.