Post-workout recovery is just as important as your actual workout. Recovery is where you reap the benefits of your efforts, allowing your muscles to repair and grow. A successful recovery process also helps you prevent injury, so you can continue to train and progress.
Yet recovery is easy to skip. We’re often too lazy to stretch after the workout and post-workout nutrition goes out the window when we see the leftover burrito sitting in the fridge. Unfortunately, without proper recovery, your training can’t reach its full potential.
The following common mistakes can be detrimental to your progress, whether you’re a recreational runner or active triathlon participant. Learn about why they’re problematic and be sure to never make them again.
Not Eating After Your Workout
Whether you think it will help you lose weight, you’re strapped for time, or you just don’t feel hungry, skipping your post-workout meal is never a good idea. The food you eat after your workout can help you get stronger and recover faster, but when it comes to post-workout nutrition, timing is key.
Often referred to as the “window of opportunity,” the first 30 to 60 minutes after a workout is the best time to eat. This strategy allows you to give your body with nutrients when it needs them the most. During this time, eat a meal or snack with protein and carbs, preferably a 3:1 ratio—3 grams of carbohydrates to 1 gram of protein.
- Potatoes, pasta or rice with chicken
- Turkey breast or salmon
- Apple with almond butter
- Protein shake
Eating too Much After Your Workout
While post-workout nutrition is important, you can also undo your hard work by eating too much food or the wrong types of food. While you need to eat enough calories to support an active lifestyle, this isn’t a free pass to eat whatever you want after your workout.
To combat ravenous post-run hunger that leads to poor food decisions, eat enough throughout the day. It may be smart to have a pre-workout snack as well, like a banana or whole grain toast with peanut butter.
Skipping the Cool Down
Post-workout, you want nothing more than to stop, catch your breath, and grab some water. Skipping your cool down, however, is a no-no. Luckily, the cool down can be the best part of your workout if you embrace it. After a long run, spend just five minutes walking or jogging at a slower pace and then take a few minutes to fully wind down with light stretching.
If you’re crunched for post-workout time, use a fitness watch to track your cool down—if you don’t have one already, you can buy one for as little as $45 according to a recent pricing analysis. Even the most basic models will allow you to track your heart rate, so you can cool down just enough and get on with the rest of your day quickly.
Not using Your Rest Day(s)
The phrase “less is more” rings true in physical fitness. While it may seem like working out more will help you reach your goals faster, it may actually be setting you back. Your body needs time to rest between workouts; this is when muscle synthesis happens, which takes 24 to 48 hours.
As such, you should put at least one full rest day between workouts, or, when training on subsequent days, focus on different areas of your body—Monday work on upper body, Tuesday lower body, Wednesday off.
With the proper recovery, including rest and nutrition, your body is able to get stronger and better support your active lifestyle. Don’t let recovery be an afterthought; build it into your life just like your workouts to see maximum results.
Bio: Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She’s a former associate editor of Active.com’s Fitness channel and has written for Athlete Network and Nike Women’s Blog. She earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University and when she’s not writing, she enjoys working out, running and hiking. Follow her on Twitter.