As important as training is when it comes to building a strong and healthy body, it is often what we're doing after our training that can either support or sabotage our efforts. From protein shakes to puffing on a cigarette, here are the top five things you should avoid doing after your workout.
1. Not eating
Even if fat-loss is your goal, you should always try to consume a proper meal within an hour after your training ends. Depriving yourself of some much-needed calories post-workout is a sure-fire way to stall your efforts. You'd want to consume foods with enough whole carbohydrates and protein. There's no real need to worry about the glycaemic index or load of the carbohydrates because your body's level of insulin sensitivity is in a heightened state of around that time, allowing you to handle carbohydrates more efficiently. If time is short, you can always pack some protein powder along with some oats (or buckwheat, if being gluten-free is your thing).
2. Being inactive
If you think that hour spent at the gym means you can become a couch potato for the rest of the day, you'd be sorely mistaken. You can't expect to see any real progress in your physique if you spend the majority of the day doing nothing. If the day's session left you feeling brutalised, feel free to take a nap, but don't use it as an excuse to veg out. Doing some light physical work, or non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) is a great way to support your usual training regimen and promote recovery. Activities such as walking the dog, taking the stairs, or a relaxing bike ride are some examples of NEPA.
3. Not stretching/foam-rolling
Most people still believe that stretching should be done prior to your workout. While a good warm-up is essential to every training program, stretching or even foam-rolling should not have a strong presence in it. However, the period after training is where stretching and foam-rolling are really important. Studies have shown that muscle-releasing techniques such as massages and static stretching activate the parasympathetic response system in our body, which is responsible for facilitating recovery. If you can't spend the time to stretch immediately after your workout, try doing it at night before you sleep.
I've seen it happen before; a person who thinks that their rigorous training session has somehow earned them a reprieve from the harmful effects of smoking. It's not so much about the effects tobacco may or may not have on your body; smoke-inhalation is bad for your lungs. Period. After training, your body is typically starved for oxygen. Smoking not only depletes your oxygen levels, it also replaces it with carbon dioxide. Smoke-inhalation also shrinks the airways in your lungs, which reduces the amount of oxygen available to the blood. All in all, smoking is bad for you.
5. Supplementing with anti-oxidants
Having anti-oxidants is a great for fighting inflammation. However, the quest to reduce the likelihood of experiencing muscle-soreness (which is technically inflammation) has led people to believe that consuming enough anti-oxidants to completely eliminate inflammation is a good idea. Truth is, a little bit of inflammation is beneficial for us. The presence of inflammation gives our bodies something to adapt to, which ultimately pushes us to recover faster while making us stronger. Cutting inflammation completely out of the picture is akin to depriving a competitive boxer of sparring – no way to improve. Using anti-oxidant supplements can also hamper exercise's ability to increase insulin-sensitivity. If you're worried about getting enough anti-oxidants for health support, sticking to whole foods for your dose will be plenty enough.
Like most things in life, what you do outside of your pursuit of a goal can play a part in the final scene. Stay smart, and avoid these traps when it comes to your pursuit of a better, more resilient body!
- Zainuddin, Z., Newton, M., Sacco, P., & Nosaka, K. (2005), “Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling, and recovery of muscle function”, Journal of Athletic Training, 40(3), 174-80
- Inami, T., Shimizu, T., Baba, R. & Nakagaki, R. (2014), “Acute Changes in Autonomic Nerve Activity during Passive Static Stretching”, American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2(4), 166-170
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion & Office on Smoking and Health (2010), “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioural Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General”, Pulmonary Disease, 7. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53021/
- Ristow, M., Zarse, K., Oberbach, A., Kloting, N., Birringer, M. & Kiehntopf, M. (2009), “Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 8665-8670
- Close, G. L., Ashton, T., Cable, T., Doran, D., Holloway C. & McArdle F. (2006), “Ascorbic acid supplementation does not attenuate post-exercise muscle soreness following muscle-damaging exercise but may delay the recovery process”, British Journal of Nutrition, 95, 976-981
- Leeuwenburgh, C. & Heinecke, J. W. (2001), “Oxidative stress and antioxidants in exercise”, Current Medical Chemistry, 8, 829-838