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You just knocked out that final rep finally finished the last leg of your cardio, and completely worked your muscles. Now you would love nothing more than to collapse on the couch, grab a drink, and relax. You’ve been careful and avoided everything that you shouldn’t do right before and during a workout, but what about after? It’s tempting to give in to your cravings but post-workout is where many people tend to slip up the most.
Let’s be honest, everyone has justified some bad habits after a good workout. We think that we have “earned it” and feel like we deserve a reward for keeping to your goals and hitting the gym. While you definitely should feel pretty good about yourself after a successful training session, it doesn’t mean you have earned the right to inhale a box of doughnuts and down a liter of soda.
The thing is, your post-workout routine is just as important as the workout itself. You should know what you do and don’t do. Health is a habit that extends far beyond the gym, so don’t sabotage all the hard work, sweat, and tears you put in by giving in to these bad habits. You should read post-workout recovery tips.
Mistake #1: You Skip the Cooldown
The last thing you want to do after a long strenuous workout is walking for another 5 minutes, but taking the time to cool down is good for your health. Cooling down properly lets your heart and blood pressure return to normal at a steady pace and helps prevent the pooling of blood in your veins. It doesn’t need to be anything too complicated. It’s just a way for your body to slowly crank down from 11 gradually back to resting level. We mentioned walking as an example but a cooldown could also mean a couple of yoga moves, using a foam roller, or anything else that helps you relax the intensity. Getting into the habit of cooling down after a workout can help you be ready for the next workout by reducing your overall recovery time.
Mistake #2: You Forget to Hydrate
Most people walking around are pretty much dehydrated. It is essential to make sure that you always drink enough water, even more so if you’re exercising! You generally don’t have the time to drink enough water when you are busy lifting and lunging, so it’s important to make sure to make up for it post-workout.
How much should you be drinking? Well, studies show you should be drinking approximately 30-35 ml per kg of body weight per day. If you are exercising, add an extra 500-1000ml water bottle for every hour of exercise. This is very important if you sweat a lot! Be sure to stay hydrated before, during, and especially after the workout.
Mistake #3: You Hang Out in Your Sweaty Clothes
Get out of your damp gear as soon as you can. Even if you didn’t sweat all that much, damp clothing is a wonderful environment that bacteria love to cling to. Soggy clothes create great space for bacteria to thrive in and can lead to yeast infections or body acne. Even if you’re not able to get into a shower right away, changing your clothes, socks, and shoes can prevent bacteria build up on your body. Also if you have errands to run after the gym, stay away from cotton as it traps in moisture more easily than other fabrics. We recommend you buy high-quality workout clothes.
Damp clothes can also give you deep chills as it takes away heat from your body. Changing clothes can promote good circulation, in turn keeping your muscles warm and loose which can lead to a better recovery.
Mistake #4: Doing Nothing for the Rest of the Day
It’s easy to feel like you deserve a day on the couch binge-watching your favorite shows when you’ve given the gym you’re all for the past 2 hours. Don’t fall for this trap! While you really have earned some rest, you shouldn’t stay still the entire rest of the day. You’ll definitely want to start moving at some point during the day or your muscles are going to tighten up. Experts suggest having an “active recovery” and stretching. That means spending some time at 50 percent of your max heart rate, or what some would call a medium effort. Essentially you’re going to want to stay somewhat mobile. Maybe do some dynamic stretching, take the stairs, trade-in your desk chair for an exercise ball, or even just set a timer to remind yourself to go walk around every hour or so.
If you can’t do it during the day or after an early morning workout session, set aside some time in the evening or the following day. There are a plethora of different benefits in active recovery such as stimulating blood flow, relieving muscle soreness, or even just reinforcing better posture.
Mistake #5: Grabbing a Sports Drink
With so many different flavors and so many different brands of sports drinks, getting into the habit of grabbing one after a workout is easy to do. They’re marketed as the perfect post-workout drink, so it must be good right? Not necessarily. While some do contain some of the things your body needs after an intense workout, such as vitamins and electrolytes, there are better alternatives to replenish your body.
The problem with energy drinks isn’t that their claims are false, it’s that they forget to mention that they are loaded with unhealthy sugar and calories that typically outweigh the benefits of the drink. Unless you’re running marathons or having intense workout sessions every day, you’re most likely better off reaching for a classic bottle of water to rehydrate yourself. If you’re really worried about electrolytes, some coconut water is a fantastic, healthier alternative as well.
Mistake #6: You Wait too Long to Refuel
You should always plan to eat and drink after your workouts. If you are someone who isn’t hungry after a workout or trying to cut calories to lose weight, this isn’t the time to do it. No matter the reason, not eating after a workout is a huge mistake. Your energy stores have been depleted and your body needs something to rebuild and start the recovery process. After a workout, your body is in great need of nutrients, especially amino acids and carbohydrates. Your body needs these in order to replace and repair the damaged muscle cells and feed the exhausted nervous system. In order to give your body the best chance at recovery, try and eat a healthy snack after every workout.
There is plenty of debate over what timeframe after a workout is the most ideal, but the general consensus is that you should be refueling within an hour after finishing your workout routine. If you are headed straight to work or have other commitments immediately after a workout, plan to pack a bag with some healthy snacks beforehand to make it easier on yourself. Some grab and go snacks are great and you can even eat them in the car.
Be mindful that your snacks include protein, some complex carbohydrates, and a little bit of fat for the best results. Some good options are a banana, nut butter, low-fat chocolate milk, almonds, fruit, yogurt, a turkey sandwich, etc. There are plenty of good choices so play around and see which you like the best. Just make sure it has the right stuff to fuel your body!
Mistake #7: Perform Excessive Cardio
There isn’t anything wrong with doing some cardio after some weight training, but it shouldn’t be excessive or you’ll impede the effort you put into lifting weights. But in general, these should be treated as two different full workouts and should be performed on different days. It’s better to train harder and fully focus on one if you want to get the best results out of each. If you insist on doing both in one day, your best bet is to separate heavy cardio and weight training by about 5 hours so you don’t overwork your muscles.
Mistake #8: You Touch your Face
While this one doesn’t really relate to your muscle gains or nutrition, it truly is among the worst things you can do after a workout. Touching your face after leaving the gym is the last thing you want to do. All that used gym equipment is a breeding ground for unwanted grime which is full of germs and bacteria.
Gyms probably don’t make the list for cleanest public places, so always be sure to wash your hands after your workout and be mindful to not touch your face in between sets. It’s recommended that you wash your hands and wipe your face with a clean towel post-workout if you’re not able to shower for a little while.
Mistake #9: You Forget to Record your Progress
Keeping a record of your workouts and meals may seem like overkill for some, but knowing what you’re doing and eating can do wonders for your overall growth. This step can separate those serious about making some big gains from the casuals. Keeping track of your workout is the best way to monitor your progress and help you gauge where you are plateauing.
Mistake #10: You Skimp on Sleep
In a perfect world, everyone could sleep, have their muscles fully recover, and feel well-rested when they wake up. But in the real world, it’s much harder to get the seven to nine hours adults need to be fully rested. But sleep is one of the most important things you can do after a workout.
When we sleep, our bodies go into full repair mode. It repairs damage to your tissues, replenishes energy stores, releases hormones to help grow your muscles, and much much more. Adequate snooze time is essential for muscle recovery just as it is important to living a healthy lifestyle. When you don’t get enough you are just putting yourself at a greater risk for stress and irritation. So why not give your body the best chance it can to recover and enhance those gains you made in the gym. Exercise is only effective if the body gets adequate rest to allow the recovery process to take place.