When it comes to getting in shape, no matter what your goals, if you really want to see great results, it’s not what you do in the gym that counts, it’s what you do after. Post-workout protocols are so essential for so many different reasons that listing them all in great detail would take an age. Rest assured however, post-workout nutrition and routines are vitally important. Following your workouts, not only will you be looking to fuel your muscles and kick-start the growth and repair of your muscles right away, but you may also be looking to reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and to improve your flexibility in the process. People have all kinds of weird and wacky post-workout strategies in place to help them achieve their goals, and whilst some may be useful, for the most part, many of them are not only not needed, but they could even perhaps be detrimental. Below we’ll be listing a few common post-workout mistakes that people make, and will be looking at why you should ensure you aren’t guilty of making the same errors.
Using ice baths immediately after training
For those of you who consider yourselves to be hardcore, and who take your training seriously, you may be brave enough to take an ice bath immediately after you train. After an intense and gruelling workout, your muscles will be sore, tight, and stiff, and you may experience very bad DOMS. Some people out there will tell you that taking an ice bath is the best thing to do to avoid DOMS, but this is not true. Ice baths actually do not work for eliminating DOMS at all. They are however, very useful for people suffering from injury, but if you are injury-free and are just ridden with DOMS, ice will not help. Ice assists with injury healing by causing the blood vessels to constrict, resulting in them becoming narrower. This in turn means that less blood can accumulate on the site of the injury, so inflammation will not occur. The problem with post-workout recovery however, is that this actually slows down the healing process, so your muscles will not recover as quick as they should, so your soreness will last longer, and your muscles will not be as large as they could be. Ice baths are very beneficial, but not immediately after training. Ideally you should take ice baths if you are dealing with a minor injury, or on days when you are not training.
Not drinking enough water
After you train, you should ensure that you drink enough water following your workout, otherwise you run the risk of suffering with dehydration. You see, whilst you exercise, you are of course losing water and electrolytes whilst you sweat, which is why you sip on water. However, once you cool down slightly, your sweating becomes less profuse, and less obvious, so you cut back on the water. You do however, continue to lose fluids and electrolytes for a long time after you workout, which is why it’s vital you get enough water inside you. If you don’t, your muscles will not recover as quickly as they should, and your athletic performance will take a real hit in the process.
Not getting enough sleep
As you probably know, in terms of muscle growth and recovery, we do much of our growth and repair when we rest, primarily when we sleep. When we sleep, our bodies have less to do and so they can focus on prioritizing certain tasks, which in this case is repairing your damaged muscles following a workout. As far as your body is concerned, your damaged muscle fibres are a form of injury, and so it will focus on repairing them, which is how they are rebuilt even bigger and stronger than they were before. Much of this is done at night whilst we sleep, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body has less time to repair your muscles. Aim to get around 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night, and get yourself into a regular sleeping pattern and routine. A lack of sleep not only hinders your muscle growth and repair, it also affects your athletic performance, and leaves you feeling mentally drained as well.
Skipping a post-workout shake
Whether you are trying to build muscle, get fitter, get healthier, or anything else, following any form of physical exertion, it is always advised that you consume a post-workout protein shake after training. After training, your glycogen levels in your cells are severely depleted, and your cells are actually anabolically primed to absorb more protein, amino acids, and nutrients than they would ordinarily. After damaging your muscles whilst exercising, you need to give your body the fuel and nutrients required to kick-start the recovery process, which comes primarily in the form of protein synthesis. A whey protein shake with water is ideal, as it is rapidly absorbing and so can make its way into your system almost instantly. For even more absorption, add a scoop of dextrose or a simple carb source to cause an insulin spike, which will result in more of the protein and nutrients being shuttled into your cells in larger quantities.
Eating junk as a reward
If you’re not overly concerned with losing fat, your diet may not be super-clean, which is fine, for the most part at least. The problem here is that many people will use the fact that they have exercises, as an excuse to eat junk as a reward. They may tell themselves that they have earned junk food because they worked so hard in the gym, when in actual fact, too much junk will not only undo their hard work, it may even harm their health and well-being as well. A treat now and then is fine, but for the most part, your post-workout meals should consist of fresh, healthy, natural, wholesome, nutrient rich foods.