After a killer boot-camp class, you’re dripping with sweat and feeling the burn—time to shower and congratulate yourself on another great workout, right? Not so fast. To help you get the most out of your workout (and nix any next-day aches), we tapped the experts about the most common post-workout mistakes. Here, seven blunders to avoid.
1. Not getting enough sleep
“Sleep is your body's guaranteed rest period,” says Courtney Roselle, a personal trainer and founder of Iron.Grace coaching. “It is your time for your muscles to recover and to put your body on reset, both mentally and physically.” So, make sure that you clock in at least seven hours after a workout, got it?
2. Chugging protein shakes
“Post-workout protein shakes aren’t really necessary,” reveals Stan Dutton, head coach at personal training platform Ladder. “If you’re eating enough protein throughout the day, the timing of that protein is largely irrelevant. For example, if you’re planning on starting off your Sunday with a tough spin class, then heading straight to brunch, there’s no need to choke down an expensive shake in between. You’re likely better off opting for a higher quality protein source from real food in your post-workout meal.” Scrambled eggs on toast it is.
3. Reaching for coffee instead of water
You hit the gym before work and now you need your morning caffeine fix, asap. Bad idea, says personal trainer David Middleton from Punch Run Lift. “I see a lot of people reaching straight for a coffee after a workout and that’s a big no-no from me. Rehydrate your body with water first before any caffeine.”
4. Forgetting to stretch
“One of the biggest post-workout mistakes that I see people make is skipping a cool down stretch or leaving before the end of a group fitness class,” says Jonathan Tylicki, certified personal trainer and director of education for AKT. “Stretching will help prevent soreness, relax the nervous system, promote mobility and flexibility and can even improve your next workout.” But you knew this one already, right?
5. Not eating after a workout
“The number one fitness goal for most people is to lose weight, and they’ll try to cut out calories from their diet to achieve this goal,” says Michelle Chuang, a certified fitness instructor at The Bar Method. “However, not eating properly after a workout will actually hinder your weight loss as it will reduce your energy level and impact your metabolism in helping you optimize calorie burn.” Here are the best foods to eat after a workout.
6. Forgoing carbohydrates
Protein gets a lot of attention post-workout, but carbohydrates are equally important, says registered dietician Rachel Fine. “Carbohydrates are critical for replenishing muscle glycogen stores. Only when muscle glycogen is replenished adequately the body will repair and rebuild muscle. The goal is to pair lean proteins with carbohydrates post-workout. For example, adding some ground flax or wheat germ plus fruit to a protein smoothie helps to boost the carb content, allowing for adequate fuel to repair. Furthermore, the healthy fats in ground flax will help to reduce inflammation, which occurs naturally from intense exercise.” Duly noted.
7. Being inconsistent
You clocked in three 60-minute sessions at the gym last week and, well, nothing at all this week. “Schedule workouts on your calendar with alerts and no excuses,” advises personal trainer and nutritionist Ashley Walter. “Try not to tie it all into two days a week for hours and have too many days between gym time. Less time at the gym but with more frequency is better than the occasional long workout.”