Regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay in great shape. It builds strong muscles, encourages healthy posture, and reduces countless health risks.
But did you know that what you do before and after your workout can affect your overall results?
A small stretch here or an extra protein bar there might not seem like much, but they can make it difficult for you to lose weight as quickly as you might like.
Make sure you don't fall for these common pre- and post-workout mistakes.
A good workout requires more than a decent pair of gym shoes. As you prepare for your next session, be cautious of doing the following.
1. You Drink a Glass of Wine
Although you normally hit the gym right after work, your coworkers invited you to join them in happy hour. You think that one glass of wine won't hurt, and you reason that you can always work off the calories later.
However, alcohol negatively affects your performance. It narrows your blood vessels, impairs motor function, leads to dehydration, and causes drowsiness. Drinking more than one glass of alcohol can even lower your blood sugar levels, resulting in shakiness and weakness. All of these factors increase your likelihood of experiencing an injury, so save the alcohol for later.
2. You Visit the Buffet
You have an intense session scheduled for today, so you know that you need enough fuel to power through your hard core exercises. You don't want to risk the queasy feeling you get when you work out on an empty stomach, so you hit the buffet and load up on carbs—they provide fast fuel, right?
But according to Georgie Fear, RD, "a full stomach increases the risk of acidic stomach contents contacting and irritating the inside of the esophagus." This gives you a familiar heartburn sensation that can make exercising difficult.
And even if you manage to skip the heartburn, you may still experience indigestion, muscle cramps, and sluggishness that inhibit your ability to perform.
Instead of eating as much as possible, aim for a light snack, such as a protein bar or banana. Greek yogurt and trail mix can also give you that extra boost, so long as you eat them in small amounts.
3. You Perform Static Stretches
Many gym enthusiasts and trainers encourage athletes to stretch before exercise, so you bend over and try to touch your toes. You hold the position for a few seconds and release before trying again.
But static stretches like this one can limit your ability to exercise to your full capacity. In fact, studies show static stretches decreased athletes' squat strength by as much as 8.36 percent and lowered their stability by as much as 22.68 percent compared to those who performed dynamic stretches.
Dynamic stretching (or stretching with movement), in contrast, activates the muscles you use during your workout as well as improves your range of motion. So warm up your body with lunges, high kicks, and push-ups.
Congratulations on finishing your workout! But your job isn't finished just yet. The following mistakes can still trip you up.
4. You Go Straight to the Pain Relievers
After lifting more than your fair share of weights, you anticipate the muscle soreness that will surely hit you tomorrow morning. To fight inflammation and pain, you pop a few ibuprofen alongside your protein shake.
However, inflammation serves a purpose—it fights infection and encourages the body to re-grow damaged tissue. Taking an aspirin after a workout can delay muscle healing by as much as 6 to 8 hours.
Furthermore, studies show that runners who take ibuprofen after exercise experience the same degree of muscle soreness as when they didn't take ibuprofen. Researchers conclude "ibuprofen is not an appropriate treatment for delayed onset muscle soreness and damage."
5. You Crash on the Couch
Hard workouts can leave you feeling exhausted and drained. Your tired muscles scream for you to take a rest. That sofa looks inviting—perhaps a power nap will revitalize you?
For some individuals, taking longer naps after a workout can interfere with their regular sleeping schedule. Naps longer than 20 to 30 minutes can leave you feeling groggy (sleep inertia), and they can make it more difficult for you to sleep soundly.
If you struggle with sleep inertia, consider going for a light stroll around the block or a go to a masseuse for a quick massage. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, both techniques improve circulation, delivering more healing nutrients into your muscles.
Still Struggle to See Results?
If you exercise regularly and avoid these common pre- and post-workout mistakes but you still don't see positive results, speak to a weight loss professional. Many clinics can help you analyze your lifestyle and create a plan that works to your strengths.