There is a lot of gym-based debate on what you should be doing post workout, whether you should be stretching or not, foam-rolling or not, or whether protein shakes should be taken immediately or not at all.

Most of this debate is based on anecdotal evidence rather than science so I have looked into what the science says you should and shouldn’t be doing post workout.

1. Foam Rolling

I almost didn’t put this one in here, because the humble foam roller has been placed on such a pedestal by some gym-goers that they’ll be claiming it can help you walk on water soon!

The fact is that at the moment studies have found that there is not enough evidence that foam rolling can do half the things it has been claimed to.

For example foam rolling probably isn’t having any effect on the muscle fascia [1]. It probably won’t improve your flexibility [2] and it might not even improve performance [3][4]. But, plenty of studies have shown that foam rolling can decrease post-exercise muscle soreness [5][6][7][8].

So if you have the time, then you can add some foam rolling into the end of your session. Or the beginning of your next one. Just don’t expect it to work any miracles.

2. Take Whey Protein and Creatine

As with foam rolling, this was a tough choice. On the one hand studies have shown that whey protein does not need to be taken immediately after a workout. On the other hand, making sure you have adequate protein within 3-4 hours after a workout is necessary [9].

The same goes with Creatine. Whilst there is a lot of debate as to whether creatine timing is important, one study found that it is better to take it post workout rather than pre [10].

So if the science doesn’t support taking either supplement immediately post workout then why am I recommending it? Simply because it is a good habit to get into. If your protein intake is low then having a whey protein shake after a workout is a good way to boost it. Also, taking creatine after a workout might be superior to taking it before, but most people struggle to remember to take it at all.

So post workout is a good time to have it. Additionally, some studies have shown that combining whey protein and creatine produce better results [11] therefore throwing some creatine into your whey protein powder is a simple and easy solution.

things you should be doing after every workout_23. Evaluation

Evaluating your workout may only take 30-60 seconds but it could be the most important step on this list. You need to analyse how your session went, how you felt during it, whether the weight choices were correct and what you should be doing next session.

All of this evaluation is necessary if you want to succeed. Without it, you’re not measuring your progress properly which can lead to injury (if you lift too heavy next time) or stagnation (if you’re not increasing the resistance enough). All you need is an exercise log book (I just use an A5 notepad) and a pen.  So don’t tell me that this step is difficult!

4. Rest

If you are not sleeping properly after a workout, then your results will be poor. It’s as simple as that! A study by Res et al (2012) found that when combined with Casein protein (taken just before bed), sleep helped improve whole body protein balance through increased muscle-protein synthesis which led to faster recovery [12].

A study on Basketball players by Mah et al (2011) found that optimal sleep is beneficial to reaching peak athletic performance [13]. So getting eight hours sleep is enough right? Well depending on your level of performance, if you are an athlete (or want to train at that level) then getting even more than 8 hours might be necessary, studies have shown that extra sleep can skyrocket your performance and mood [14][15]. Another function that sleep helps with is the release of growth hormone (GH). You know, that hormone that Bodybuilders illegally inject into themselves! It is released by the body whilst you sleep [16].

5. Avoid Alcohol

As you’ve probably worked out already, after exercising your body needs to recover. There are many functions that it needs to complete, for example; restoration of glycogen stores in the liver and muscle, and replacement of fluid and electrolytes (which you lose when you sweat) [17]. As mentioned before you also need muscle-protein synthesis to occur so that your muscles can recover and grow.

Drinking alcohol can prevent rehydration as it is a diuretic [17], it can also inhibit muscle-protein synthesis (although the study is talking about chronic alcohol consumption) [18]. Alcohol use is directly linked to rate of injuries sustained in certain sports and lowers exercise performance [19]. When consumed with energy drinks (after exercise), alcohol can lead to death in people with a predisposition to Arrhythmias (though this is unlikely) [20].

So there you have it – 5 things you should be doing (or not doing) after every workout. They won’t always be possible, and they are not essential (except sleep) but if you want the best results in the quickest time then here’s your post exercise Bible!

Connect here with Expert Matthew Smith

things you should be doing after every workout_5References
[1] Chaudhry, H., Schleip, R., Bukiet, B., Maney, M., Findley, T. 2008. Three-dimensional mathematical model for deformation of human fascia in manual therapy. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 108(8): 379-90
[2] Miller, J., Rockey, A. 2006. Foam Rollers Show No Increase in the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscle Group. UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research IX
[3] Healey, K., Dorfman, L., Riebe, D., Blanpied, P., Hatfield, D. 2011. The Effects of Foam Rolling on Myofascial Release and Performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 25: S1-S122,S1-95
[4] Healey, K., Hatfield, D., Blanpied, P., Dorfman, L., Riebe, D. 2014. The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(1): 61-8
[5] Lininger, H., Schlegel, A., Harwell, L., Paulson, A., Braun, S., Sanders, W., Shippensburg, J. 2013. The Effects of Foam Rolling and Static Stretching on Flexibility and Acute Muscle Soreness. International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings: 9(1): Article 33.
[6] MacDonald, G., Button, D., Drinkwater, E., Behm, D. 2014. Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 46(1): 131-142
[7] Jay, K., Sundstrup, E., Sondergaard, S., Behm, D., Brandt, M., Saervoll, C., Jakobsen, M., Andersen, L. 2014. Specific and cross over effects of massage for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 9(1): 82-91
[8] Pearcey, G., Bradbury-Squires, D., Kawamoto, J., Drinkwater, E., Behm, D., Button, D. 2014. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. Journal of Athletic Training 50(1): 5-13
[9] Aragon, A., Schoenfeld, B. 2012. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10(5)
[10] Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. 2013. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10(36)
[11] Cribb, P., Williams, A., Stathis, C., Carey, M., Hayes, A. 2007. Effects of Whey Isolate, Creatine, and Resistance Training on Muscle Hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 39(2): 298-307
[12] Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9
[13] Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E., Dement, W. 2011. The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep 34(7): 943-950
[14] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2007. The Effects of Extra Sleep on Mood and Athletic Performance amongst Collegiate Athletes. Sleep 30[suppl]
[15] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2008. Extended Sleep and the Effects on Mood and Athletic Performance in Collegiate Swimmers. Sleep 31[Suppl]
[16] Born, J., Fehm, H. 2000. The neuroendocrine recovery function of sleep. Noise Health 2(7): 25-37
[17] Burke, L. 1997. Nutrition for post-exercise recovery. Australian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport 29(1): 3-10
[18] Lang, C., Wu, D., Frost, R., Jefferson, L., Kimball, S., Vary, T. 1999. Inhibition of muscle protein synthesis by alcohol is associated with modulation of eIF2B and eIF4E. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism 277(2): E268-E276
[19] El-Sayed, M., Ali, N., El-Sayed Ali, Z. 2012. Interaction between Alcohol and Exercise. Sports Medicine 35(3): 257-269
[20] Wiklund, U., Karlsson, M., Ostrom, M., Messner, T. 2008. Influence of energy drinks and alcohol on post-exercise heart rate recovery and heart rate variability. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging 29(1): 74-80

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