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10 Post-Workout Habits to Make (and Break)

  • Drinking water

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    Do: Drink Water

    It's easy to leave the gym and be tempted by the coffee shop or deli around the corner. The coffee might smell amazing, or you might crave that diet soda, but just say "no" to temptation. The first thing your body needs after any workout is to rehydrate, and that means plain old water. We recommend 20 ounces for optimal recovery. So buy yourself a cool water bottle, claim it as your savior, and drink the whole thing—slowly—after exercise, even if it's the only thing you do.

  • Woman sleeping

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    Do: Get Some R&R

    Anyone who has tried yoga knows that the last 5 to 10 minutes of class are set aside for Savasana—you lie on your back, palms turned up toward the sky, eyes closed. And you allow your body to integrate and recuperate. Exercise, as much as it's energizing, is also tough and depleting on the body—rest and relaxation are key. Muscles take a lot of strain so it's important to honor how your body feels and not to push through to the next thing. Your body will naturally recover when given the chance. Even if you take 15 minutes after a high-energy workout to sit or lie down and completely relax, your whole system will integrate the experience more efficiently.

  • Chris Gallo

    Do: Go Bananas

    After a workout, your body needs to replenish nutrients within 15 to 30 minutes. Take healthy whole-food snacks with you so you don't need to hunt them down when you're all burnt out or wait to get home to cram veggies into your blender. Bananas are one of the best foods for post-exercise restoration. They're high in healthy carbs to restore your body's levels of glycogen and help heal sore muscles. They're packed with potassium, a key form of electrolytes to prevent cramps and muscle spasms. Plus, they're perfectly wrapped for easy transport! Add a few handfuls of pumpkin seeds—they're packed with manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and 5 grams of protein per ounce. This fruit-and-seed combo will tide you over until you reach your blender. (Related: What to Eat Before and After a Workout)

  • Taking a breath

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    Do: Breathe!

    Sounds simple right? We know shallow breathing or holding your breath makes a workout even harder. Post-exercise, your body needs time to return to a resting state—and so does your breathing. Be extra mindful of the oxygen that is pumping through your system. Take your time and allow yourself to breathe deeply until it returns to normal.

  • Coconut water

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    Do: Get Your Electrolytes

    Everyone tells you to restore your electrolytes after exercise. Sweating depletes potassium and sodium, which (among other minerals) comprises electrolytes. These salt minerals keep your body hydrated so your muscles and nerves can function at their best. Instead of drinking high-energy drinks to replenish, try coconut water. It's filled with electrolytes like potassium and happens to be one of the most hydrating fluids you can consume post-exercise. Many athletes swear by it (and you don't even have to crack open a coconut).

  • Overload

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    Don't: Overload

    During your workout adrenaline rush, you might be tempted throw yourself back into your long to-do list. Outside your zen workout studio, obligations come flooding back. Racing out of the gym and heading straight into a fluorescent-lit office isn't the best way to restore your nervous system. If you've given yourself zero time to recover, you run the risk of burning out. Get in the habit of coming down slowly after exercise. Take your time. Shower. Relax. The important things will still be there an hour later. After a cool-down, everything will feel more manageable.

  • Salty snacks

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    Don't: Eat the Wrong Snacks

    Those snacks on display at the checkout counter—like chocolate bars and sugar-coated nuts—are generally pretty unhealthy. Don't fall for them after a workout unless it's a nut bar that's low in sugar with protein and vitamins. These snacks can be alluring when you're feeling happy with yourself. Maybe you don't usually allow yourself but you will now, because, well, you just had such a good workout. Grabbing a small treat is not going to damage you—it's just chocolate. But it can set up a bad habit of indulging when all you needed was milk.

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    Don't: Refuel with Empty Carbs

    When you start to feel shaky during a workout, the thought of a quick sugar fix often seems like a brilliant idea. Even that stale croissant on the deli counter looks amazing. When you exercise, your heart beats faster, you breathe harder, and your muscles use more glucose (sugar in your bloodstream.) All this can lower your blood sugar and leave you feeling shaky, especially if you skipped eating for a few hours before your workout. But don't fall prey to the empty carbs lure. Sure, all those sweet pastries and bagels and croissants will temporarily spike your sugar back up, giving you a short burst of energy. But then it'll drop like a rock, down even lower than before. So just say no to empty carbs. They are just that—empty. Refined. Processed. Sugary. And they contain nothing to replenish your depleted nutrients post-exercise.

  • Cocktails

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    Don't: Drink Alcohol (Directly After)

    We often squeeze in a workout before a big night out, since we know we'll be spending a few hours sitting, eating, and drinking. Nothing dehydrates the body like alcohol, so don't let it be the first thing you reintroduce post-workout. Rehydrate with water, electrolytes, and a healthy whole-food snack before drinking. Alcohol makes you sweat more as your body tries to get rid of toxins. If you just had rigorous (and sweaty) workout, that's a double whammy on your body's system. Wait until you've restored your body to its normal level of hydration before drinking. Then practice moderation: Alternate between one drink and one glass of water throughout the night to ward off a hangover.

  • Running up stairs

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    Don't: Revert to Laziness

    You know that mindset you get into after a workout? You've earned the right to take the elevator instead of the stairs, push the cart out the grocery store instead of carrying bags, or find the closest parking spot to the entrance to avoid walking. The problem is you'll get in the habit of doing it not just after a workout, but all the time. It's counterproductive to a healthy, active lifestyle. So even after a strenuous workout (once you've rehydrated and eaten a healthy snack) take the stairs, carry the bag, and park wherever there's a spot. On days when you don't have the time or energy to make it to an exercise class, it may be the only exercise your body gets that day.

 

Carey Peters, co-founder of Health Coach Institute

Carey is a Certified Health Coach, a Master Certified Money, Marketing and Soul Business Coach, a Certified Money Breakthrough Coach, a Certified NLP Practitioner and a Certified Intuitive Coach.  More →

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