Leaving dirty laundry in the car. Popping pimples. Incessantly snubbing underwear for the full effect of summer free-balling. All are considered bad habits in anyone’s language, but today we’re looking at a different kind of bad habit – the ones that are often practiced after a solid weights or cardio session at the local gym.
From lighting up a cigarette to skipping stretching, we’re outlining the worst things that you could possibly do to your body post-workout with the expert help of Paramount Recreation Club’s head dietician and personal trainer, Jordan Ponder.
Think you’ve been a naughty gym junkie? Read on.
You came, you stretched, you did your supersets and now it’s time to go home. Wrong. Stretching after a workout is one of the most important and often overlooked practices in the gym.
The reasoning behind stretching the muscles you just worked will aid the recovery phase. More specifically, stretching will enable your muscles to recover quicker, hence aiding muscle growth whilst keeping them in peak condition.
When you’ve just completed an hour’s worth of weight training, it’s a bad idea to follow it up with an intense session of cardio.
“If you’re training certain muscle systems – fast twitch vs. slow twitch and you’re working explosive movement patterns, you’re not going to get the muscle recovery,” says Jordan Ponder.
“You’ll exhaust them.”
Ponder explains that whilst it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is if you’re training for muscle hypertrophy (the increase in size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of its component cells). In effect, tacking a cardio session to the back of a weights session will not get the results you want.
Experts say that some cardio after a weights session is fine so long as it’s in the region of 20 – 30 minutes max. If you need to do both in the same day, separate weight and cardio sessions by around 5 hours.
“Often with training, as long as it’s consistent, less is more,” adds Ponder.
Smoking After A Gym Session
When we threw this one out in the brainstorm meeting, we were met with: “What the hell gym do you go to?!” That’s not relevant, but if you must to know, two words. Western Sydney. But we digress…
Smoking after a gym session whether it’s weights of cardio is a shortcut to a date with death.
According to Ponder, people who do this are expanding their lungs during training, stretching them, then putting poison into them.
“It could be worse than what normal smoking is.”
He’s not wrong. According to existing research, smoking after any form of exercise places “enormous” stress on the heart.
Healthy organs and growing muscles require the heart to supply oxygen in order for them to function. When you light up a cigarette after a gym session, you’re essentially depleting the body’s oxygen supply and replacing it with harmful carbon dioxide.
Would you pour milk into your car’s fuel tank and expect it to run perfectly? Exactly.
Delaying Eating Post-Workout
It’s crucial to eat after a big training session to replenish nutrients your body needs. Skip this and you’re not encouraging your cells to re-synthesise or proliferating growth, according to Ponder.
“In other words you’re not encouraging the regeneration of muscle tissue.”
Ponder recommends refuelling your body with high GI carbohydrates like a banana to help the repair process before hitting a high quality meal. Gym junkies should aim to eat after 15 – 20 minutes after their last set.
And a high quality meal doesn’t mean a family deal from KFC. Fatty foods will essentially undo your hard work by slowing down digestion, limiting the amount of carbohydrates and amino acids that can reach your bloodstream before being distributed to muscle cells.
Not Sleeping Enough
It’s simple. Sleep is paramount and should never be overlooked explains Ponder.
“Muscles regenerate when they’re in a rest state.”
In other words your weight training is only effective when you give the body ample time to rest and rebuild the damaged muscles.
Forgetting To Cool Down
It’s human nature to specialise in one thing and do it well.
“Run fast, lift heavy weights. We don’t think about what we’re doing to our body when that happens and it’s really stressing it out,” explains Ponder.
“Muscles are the same. You can’t put them under a heap of stress during and after exercising. If you’re not letting them down gently, cooling down, stretching, mobilising, those tighter muscles are getting tighter and weaker muscles are getting weaker.”
Ponder points to a perfect example of this scenario in today’s society amongst men.
“How many guys over 50 can touch their toes?”
Cooling down doesn’t need to be a strenuous process. Bring your heart rate down gradually with things like:
- Foam rollers
- Walking it off on a treadmill for 10 minutes
Doing this will ensure your body is primed for the next workout session whilst reducing recovery time.
Drinking Alcohol After A Workout
Really? This one’s a no brainer. The body needs to be hydrated after a workout and alcohol has the reverse effect of hydration. When your body loses fluids your muscles become dehydrated. You lose again.
Jordan Ponder is the founder of Paramount Recreation Club and Transform Health in Sydney, Australia. TransformHealth has been created to inspire habitual health and improve performance. Contact Jordan to arrange a nutrition, fitness and lifestyle consultation.