The Post-Workout Recovery Mistakes You're Probably Making, According to Experts

Let’s face it: when it comes to working out, most of us are more focused on the preparation of it — i.e. getting mentally ready to step foot into the gym — and then the actual doing of it then we are with the post-workout part. It’s probably because when we think of exercise we think of changing our body composition whether it’s shedding a few pounds or getting more toned. But the success of your workout routine is just as dependent on your post-workout recovery as it is on the actual workout itself. After your next workout, avoid doing these common mistakes to ensure your workout is working for you and not against you.

Mistake: Drinking coffee post-workout.

According to Master Instructor Alissa Tucker from AKT, you should skip your java jolt after a workout.

“Physical exercise is a stressor on the body and when the body senses stress, Cortisol is released. Caffeine also increases Cortisol levels in the body,” she tells SheKnows. “While we do need cortisol, chronic high levels of cortisol can result in many health issues including inflammation and weight gain. So even though you are working out, you may not be seeing results.”

Instead Tucker recommends having your coffee before your workout. “Research has shown that caffeine pre-workout can improve performance, motivation and reduce muscle soreness during your workouts. Then post workout, opt for hydrating with water or coconut water instead.”

Mistake: Skimping on sleep

A solid sleep is an integral part of a good workout, says Jacqueline Kasen, CPT and Director of Group Fitness at Anatomy. “Having lack of quality and hours of sleep will have a detrimental effect on the body. While you are sleeping is when your body repairs the break-down of tissue and muscle from your workouts. This will allow your body to rest and have the ability to work out the next day at your most optimal level.”

Mistake: Overtraining

Think hitting the gym everyday is healthy for you and your bod? Think again.

“In most individuals it takes 24 to 36 hours for muscle recovery, but also understand that it takes ligaments and tendons up to twice as long to recover from an intense workout,” Dan Jonhenry, certified personal trainer and Fitness Director at Retro Fitness, tells SheKnows. “Ensure that you give yourself enough time to recover between workouts in regard to specific movement patterns and do not train on sore muscles. If you have sore muscles and were looking to train that movement pattern, hold off. Use that day as an active recovery day or adjust your training split.”

Mistake: Foam rolling too quickly (or not foam rolling at all).

“These days, most active people have heard of the benefits of foam rolling or self-myofascial release (SMR). While that is amazing, I still see the majority of people doing it incorrectly,” says Tucker. “The goal of foam rolling is to alleviate adhesions or trigger points (knots) in the fascia. While it may feel like a nice massage to just roll back and forth over a sore muscle, moving quickly doesn’t actually initiate the Golgi tendon organ to stimulate, which in turn doesn’t have any real beneficial effect on the body.”

Instead she recommends moving slowly then holding. “First you want to ‘scan’ the area for tight or painful spots. Slowly roll over the part of the body that you would like to release. Once you’ve found the spot with the most tension you want to stay there for at least 30 to 90 seconds, trying to relax the muscle that you are releasing.”

Mistake: Cold plunge right after hypertrophy training

If your workout session was hypertrophy [progressive strength training] Kasen says it is not best to do the cold plunge directly after. “There are many positives for the cold plunge such as decreasing inflammation, for your joints, recovery from a hot day, etc.,” she says. “When taking blood out of the muscle and encouraging all those adaptations to take place, it is best to not cold plunge right away.  The goal is to allow the muscles to do their job and not halt them. If you would still like to use the cold plunge, use it after another workout day other than hypertrophy.”

Mistake: Not eating enough protein or eating too much, too soon.

“The common mistake with the majority of gym goers is they do not hit their daily recommended amount of protein to recover properly, which is minimally .8g of protein,” says Jonhenry. “In the past, the perception was that you had to get a post recovery shake right after a workout in order to recover properly. However, in recent studies research has shown that it is not as important to get protein within a given window but ensuring that the overall protein requirement is attained throughout the day.”

Which means if you are working out that you minimally ingest .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight (for example, an 180lb person would need 144 grams of protein).

Stock up your workout recovery toolkit: 

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