10 Post-Workout Habits to Make (and Break): DO and DONT

10 Post-Workout Habits to Make (and Break): DO and DONT

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10 Post-Workout Habits to Make (and Break): DO and DONT

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10 Post-Workout Habits to Make (and Break): DO and DONT

Its 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 its the only thing you do.

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 its energizing, is also tough and depleting on the body—rest and relaxation are key. Muscles take a lot of strain so its 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.

After a workout, your body needs to replenish nutrients within 15 to 30 minutes. Take healthy whole-food snacks with you so you dont need to hunt them down when youre 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. Theyre high in healthy carbs to restore your bodys levels of glycogen and help heal sore muscles. Theyre packed with potassium, a key form of electrolytes to prevent cramps and muscle spasms. Plus, theyre perfectly wrapped for easy transport! Add a few handfuls of pumpkin seeds—theyre 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.

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.

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. Its 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 dont even have to crack open a coconut).

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 isnt the best way to restore your nervous system. If youve 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.

Those snacks on display at the checkout counter—like chocolate bars and sugar-coated nuts—are generally pretty unhealthy. Dont fall for them after a workout unless its a nut bar thats low in sugar with protein and vitamins. These snacks can be alluring when youre feeling happy with yourself. Maybe you dont 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—its just chocolate. But it can set up a bad habit of indulging when all you needed was milk.

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 dont 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 itll 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.

We often squeeze in a workout before a big night out, since we know well be spending a few hours sitting, eating, and drinking. Nothing dehydrates the body like alcohol, so dont 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, thats a double whammy on your bodys system. Wait until youve 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.

You know that mindset you get into after a workout? Youve 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 youll get in the habit of doing it not just after a workout, but all the time. Its counterproductive to a healthy, active lifestyle. So even after a strenuous workout (once youve rehydrated and eaten a healthy snack) take the stairs, carry the bag, and park wherever theres a spot. On days when you dont have the time or energy to make it to an exercise class, it may be the only exercise your body gets that day.

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