You’ve probably heard of a few things you should be doing after working out, but what about what not to do after working out?

After a workout, your muscles are left broken down due to microscopic tears, and your glycogen stores are left depleted, leaving you feeling a little more tired and much hungrier than you felt before you started your workout. 

This is all perfectly normal as long as you do the right things after your workout to recover and take your body one step closer to your goals of burning fat or building muscle.

However, there are many common mistakes that many people are making after their workout has ended, and these mistakes can really hurt your progress and even move you further away from your goals, even if you’re training hard and consistently.

What Not To Do After Working Out Featured Image

1. Myth: You Shouldn’t Eat Fat After Working Out

The first mistake we will cover is believing that you shouldn’t eat any food will large amounts of fat like eggs, pork, avocado, or steak after working out. This belief has been around for a long time and I used to believe in it too.

It’s based on the fact that fats can slow the digestion of your meals, and the idea behind that is that it would make it take longer for the nutrients to get into your muscle cells and for your body to switch from breaking down muscle to repairing and rebuilding muscle. On top of that, while carbohydrates and protein play a big part in the recovery and muscle growth process, fats don’t really help spike your insulin levels in the way that carbs do.

Fats can’t be used to repair your muscles the way that protein can, and in general, they don’t really have any direct antibiotic properties. With that said, there’s really no evidence to suggest that it’s necessarily bad to consume fats after your workout. Even though it might slow the absorption of your post-workout meal, it shouldn’t really hurt you or reduce the benefits that you experience.

The reason for this is that even though you shouldn’t wait too long, you don’t necessarily need to get all that protein into your muscles as soon as possible after working out. If your meal takes a little longer to absorb because you added fat to it, it’s really not going to make that big of a difference, especially if you already had breakfast or you simply ate before your workout.

Even though the research that we have is limited and is only based on cyclists rather than weight lifters, that research does still support the idea that even if you consume a very high-fat meal after working out where 40% of the calories are coming from fat, your body’s recovery shouldn’t be negatively affected.

The bottom line is that it’s okay to have sources of fat like whole milk instead of skimmed milk with your protein shake after your workout. The one exception to this is if you haven’t eaten anything in over 4 hours, then you may want to limit your fat intake after your workout to help get the nutrients to your muscles faster.

2. Rewarding Yourself With Junk Food After a Workout

The next mistake on our list of what not to do after working out is rewarding yourself for your workout with the wrong kind of food. I’m sure we’ve all seen people hit the gym and then right afterward stop at a 711 and pick up some chocolate or gummy bears.

Even though one of the best times to have sugar does happen to be immediately after your workout, since it will help spike your insulin levels, there’s a big difference between having a banana versus Sour Patch Kids. First of all, you’re probably going to feel hungrier after working out. To put it simply, if you’re trying to satisfy your hunger with food that you find at your closest convenience store, you’re probably going to wind up overeating, especially if that food is candy.

This is okay if you’re doing a dirty bulk. However, if you’re trying to stay lean while building muscle, or if you’re trying to burn fat, the food you eat generally plays a bigger role than your workout routine. For example, if you indulge in just two slices of pizza, you’ll have to run for about 40 minutes (give or take) to burn those calories off.

It’s very important that you don’t lose your willpower and give in to the increased hunger that you’ll feel after a workout by going for just any random food that comes your way. If you find that you have a problem with managing hunger after your workouts, make sure that you have an already prepped post-workout meal waiting for you in the fridge, or even a quick protein shake can help fill you up and reduce hunger for a little while.

3. Don’t Skip Out On Stretching Post-Workout

Don't Forgot To Stretch

Another thing you should never skip out on after your workout is stretching. Even though it’s not very wise to perform static stretches before your workout, it’s very important to make sure that you stretch after your workout, especially if your workouts revolve around lifting weights. 

As we all know, working out and lifting weights provides many benefits, and one of the most obvious and important benefits is that your muscles will get bigger and stronger over time. However, the problem is that as they get stronger, they’ll also get tighter over time, and having tight muscles can cause you to have all sorts of problems.

For example, if you train your chest all the time with exercises like the bench press and flies, but you never stretch your chest after your workouts, your chest will probably get tighter over time, and when your pecs get tighter, they pull your shoulders forward and together, which contributes to a rounded shoulder posture. 

Having bad posture caused by not stretching your muscles, will also make it so you are more likely to get injured. On top of that, in general, even if you don’t work out, your muscles will naturally lose their elastic properties as you age. So even though resistance training is very important, having a flexibility program and stretches that you engage in consistently is just as important by making it a habit to always stretch after your workout, you can help ensure that you maintain maximum flexibility and mobility as you get older. 

4. Don’t Drink Alcohol After Your Workout

When doing something physical such as weightlifting or running, your body will increase the blood flow to your muscles which will then stay elevated for some time after your workout. After your workout, your body is expecting to receive some micronutrients as well as protein, carbs, and fats to start repairing your broken down muscles. 

However, if you drink alcohol soon after your workout, that alcohol will be shuttled through your bloodstream directly to those torn-up muscles that need good nutrients for repair. So rather than helping your muscles grow, drinking alcohol after a workout will only lead to further muscle wasting and breakdown as well as other negative side effects.

Also, in another vein, if you’re trying to burn fat, your body will prioritize getting the alcohol out of your system over breaking down fat, which will drastically slow fat loss. 

5. Waiting Too Long to Eat Post-Workout

Don't Wait Too Long To Eat After Working Out

The next mistake on the what not to do after working out list is waiting too long to eat after your workout. Yes, it’s true that the antibiotic window is a myth. For those of you that don’t know, the antibiotic window is a short period of time after your workout, usually within 30 minutes where you absolutely must either eat or take down a protein shake to make sure that you don’t lose your gains.

Well, this is actually not true. You don’t have to rush home as fast as possible to eat a meal. However, if you want to maximize muscle growth, it’s proven that supplying your body with a consistent stream of amino acids throughout the day can help keep you at a positive protein turnover rate, which is essential for muscle growth. 

When you work out, you break down muscle tissue which will slowly drain amino acids and put you into a negative protein turnover rate. The only way to reverse this and to start building muscle again is to consume enough protein in order to replenish your body’s amino acids.

The good news is that as long as you’ve had a meal somewhere within about 4 hours before your workout, you really shouldn’t worry about rushing home as quickly as possible to eat your post-workout meal. This is because the amino acids that you took in before your workout can still be used to start repairing your muscles after the workout. 

On the other hand, if you didn’t eat anything all day before your workout or it’s been hours upon hours since your last meal, well, in those two cases, your body will end up being in a muscle breakdown mode after your workout rather than a muscle-building mode until you take in some amino acids. 

Even if you do eat before your workout, if you wait 10 hours after your workout to finally eat your post-workout meal, you’ll still most likely be hurting your gains and recovery because within those 10 hours, you’ll definitely run low on amino acids and create a negative nitrogen balance, leading to further muscle breakdown. The point is, even though you don’t have to rapidly make a protein shake at the gym after your workout to ensure that you don’t miss the antibiotic window, it still is a good idea to not wait too long.

Usually, in most cases, it’s best to eat a post-workout meal or shake at least one to 2 hours after your workout. 

6. Not Consuming Enough Protein After Training

This brings us to the next mistake, which is one you will have almost certainly heard about, not having enough protein after your workout. Now, based on what I’ve already talked about, this should be pretty obvious. Without consuming enough protein, you won’t have the amino acids required to start rebuilding and growing your muscles.

You should be aiming to have at least 0.14g of protein per pound of body weight in your post-workout meal/supplement. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, after your strength training you should be aiming to have at least 25 grams of protein. You can achieve this with a protein bar or protein shake or a meal. Just be sure that you get some protein within a reasonable time after your workout to give your body the fuel it needs to repair those muscles. Also, remember as a general rule of thumb, that meals are better than shakes.

So even if you have a post-workout shake, try to still eat a high-protein meal later on in the day. 

7. Not Getting Enough Sleep

Another big mistake is depriving yourself of sleep after your workout or your workouts in general. It’s pretty common knowledge that the three big things that you need to do to maximize muscle growth are eaten, train and sleep, but people often forget about that last one, sleep.

Without getting enough sleep, you’ll struggle to build muscle just as much as if you weren’t eating or training correctly. You see your muscles grow while you rest and recover, not actually while you’re hitting the weights in the gym.

The biggest strides that your muscles make towards full recovery are made while you’re sleeping. Staying up all night watching TV or gaming can really hurt the results you would otherwise be getting from doing everything else right. The fact of the matter is you should be doing your best to get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep as often as you can on a regular basis. 

8. Don’t Forget To Drink Plenty of Water

Finally, last but not least, don’t forget to drink plenty of water after your workout, especially if you sweat a lot during that workout. When you exercise and sweat, you lose water weight and you need to replace that water that’s lost to maintain a healthy balance fluid in your body.

You also lose electrolytes when you sweat, and some really great marketers have made many people believe that to replace those electrolytes, you need to grab yourself something like a Gatorade but don’t make that mistake. Gatorade is definitely far from the ideal post-workout drink to rehydrate with especially if you’re trying to watch your calories. 

Instead, just make sure that you have enough water and if you’re concerned about replacing electrolytes after working out that make you sweat a lot then you can go for coconut water instead of something like Gatorade which is much healthier.

That about wraps it up. Hopefully, you learned about some mistakes and what not to do after working out. We really hope that you guys enjoyed this article.


About the Author: Jason Chapman

Jason Chapman has a degree in Exercise Science and is a personal trainer with 10+ years of experience in fitness and strength coaching. Jason spends his time with BodyCapable researching the latest strength training trends and writing science-backed, informative content. Jason likes to spend his spare time hiking, traveling, and of course training!