When it comes to fitness, even experts make mistakes, but, as it turns out, many of us commit mistakes because we don’t actually realise we’re making them in the first place. So, we’ve compiled a list of the five most common post-exercise mistakes you might be doing without knowing it.
1. You reach for a sports drink to rehydrate
Sports drinks contain calories and carbohydrates the body needs to refuel and rehydrate as quickly as possible. These drinks are designed for athletes or anyone that trains hard or workouts for more than an hour at a time. They’re not designed for the average gym goer (no matter what the ads say).
“[Sports drinks] contain almost half the calories and sugar of fruit juice or regular soda, and can quickly add calories to your diet, causing you to basically defeat the purpose of a lot of that hard work you just put in.” says Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
So unless you’re training for a marathon, or doing moderate-to-high intensity exercises for more than an hour, stick to drinking plain water to rehydrate. You can also try coconut water as it contains more electrolytes to help your body refuel faster post workout.
2. You don’t eat after exercising
Or maybe you wait too long to eat after your workout, thinking that consuming anything would put all your hard work to waste. You’re wrong. Exercising burns through your energy stores and causes micro-tearing in your muscle fibres. The former needs to be replenished, the latter needs to heal. The only way you can help your body to do both as quickly as possible is to eat carbohydrate and protein-rich food within an hour after your workout.
Not eating or waiting too long to eat can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, which then leads to feelings of fatigue and disorientation. Your metabolism slows down and you’re not helping your body to burn through excess fats, much less helping it to recover from the intense activity you put it through. Carbohydrates replenish your energy, protein helps muscles heal. So you need to eat.
Remember: You’re not sabotaging your exercise efforts by eating carbs and proteins within an hour after working out as long as you’re making healthy food choices (stay away from your favourite burger joint…).
3. You don’t keep track of your progress
Even if you’re not training for the Olympics or getting paid to stay buff, keeping track of your timing, reps, weights, etc. from day one helps you focus. You not only get to see how far you have gone into your training, but you also identify areas where your progress is slowing down.
By not keeping track of your progress, you may lose motivation to keep going. And if you’re working hard in the gym five, six days a week, a progress tracker helps you know where you are and how much more you need to go.
4. You don’t cool down after a workout session
Much has been written and said about the importance of warming up before exercising. After all, you have to prepare your muscles for the beating you’re going to put them through. But cooling down is just as important as it helps your body recover from exercise and keep muscle soreness at bay. Problem is, not everyone does this.
Cool downs are low-intensity cardio exercises and static stretches that bring your heart rate back to normal levels. Skipping them causes your muscles to stop contracting and blood to pool to your lower extremities. Your body then struggles to pump blood back to your brain and your heart causing you to feel lightheaded and dizzy.
Apart from stretching, another effective way to help your body cool down after exercise is getting a massage. Not only does a post-workout massage feel good, it stretches the muscles and breaks down lactic acid build up. The result is you feel less sore and achy, and ready to take on the next day’s workout session.
Not all gyms offer post-exercise massage services, though. Those that do offer it are either expensive or not really doing that at the moment because, y’know – Covid. What many gym rats do to still get that much needed post-exercise massage is use percussive therapy devices, a.k.a. massage gun.
These handheld massagers mimic deep tissue massages and in fact, new brands like HYDRAGUN have made quite an impression on many fitness enthusiasts and even athletes. But, just like any new technology and brand, make sure you check out reviews first so you can decide whether or not this would also work for you.
5. You don’t get enough sleep
You need to get at least seven hours of sleep after working out. Sleep is crucial in your body’s ability to repair itself after the strains of exercising. If your muscles don’t get enough time to heal, you won’t be able to exercise properly on your next session.
We know that for some, getting to sleep quickly is easier said than done. If this is the case with you, we suggest starting a bedtime ritual to prepare your mind and body for rest. Take a warm bath or shower, keep your phone and laptops away from your bedside table. Turn off the TV. Make sure the room is dark and quiet. If you have a thermostat, set it between 19 – 21 degrees Celsius, to encourage relaxation.
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