The 7 Worst Post-Workout Habits for Cyclists, Runners, and Triathletes

 

Your choices in the hours after your workout will either enhance the effect of that workout or detract from it. It’s up to you. Many athletes put great emphasis on completing high-quality workouts only to shortchange their progress by making silly mistakes after. Here are 7 of the worst post-workout choices you can make.

Failing to rehydrate

We can debate whether you need to prioritize eating after a workout (depends on the duration and intensity of the workout and how soon you’ll be training again), but there’s no debate about the need to rehydrate after training. Even if you drink diligently during training, virtually no one completes a workout fully hydrated. And even if you did, there’s no downside to consuming water after training anyway. You don’t need to guzzle huge volumes of liquid, but you do want to replenish 150% of any weight you lost during training within the four hours after training.

Pounding Protein

Endurance athletes rarely need a protein-focused post-workout recovery drink. If you reach for a post-workout shake or recovery drink, choose one that delivers more carbohydrate than protein. The exact carb:protein ratio is less important than the concept replenishing carbohydrate is the priority and adding protein to the drink may accelerate glycogen replenishment. As an endurance athlete you can consume all the protein (1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight) you need from real food.

It is also important to realize recovery drinks are best saved for your longer and more strenuous training days. For cyclists I like to see an athlete accumulate 1500 kilojoules of work before considering a recovery shake, particularly if there’s another training session or competition the following day.

Hanging around in wet gear

Training is hard on the skin, and staying in your sweaty gear only makes matters worse. During cool weather, staying in sweaty gear will also make you cold quickly. Get out of your gear, towel off and/or use a waterless body wash, and put on dry clothing. If this means changing in or around your car, one tip I still use from racing days is to place a back seat floor mat on the ground next to the car so I have something clean and soft to stand on.

Eating a Huge meal

There are two reasons you shouldn’t consume a massive meal in response to a hard or long workout. Number one, it establishes a bad expectation that big efforts will be rewarded by big meals. Our expectations for a meal play a large role in determining how much we eat. Think about Thanksgiving dinner. You expect to eat a lot, therefore you do. When you spend the final hour of a long endurance workout dreaming about a burrito the size of your head, guess what you’re going to eat? And don’t expect to stop eating when you feel full. We have been trained since childhood to finish what’s on our plates. When you couple the power of expectation with the social and financial pressure to finish what’s on the plate, you are very likely to eat everything in front of you.

The second reason it’s a bad idea to gorge yourself with a big meal immediately after training is that a normal-sized meal will meet all the goals for post-workout nutrition. It would be one thing if a huge post-workout meal reduced caloric consumption later in the day, but it doesn’t. You’re not likely to reduce the size of subsequent meals based on the fact you ate a large post-workout meal, which means you end the day with greater overall caloric consumption than necessary.

Sitting still for too long

Whether it’s collapsing on the couch to watch sports for the rest of the afternoon, jumping into a car for the long drive home, or sitting on an airplane for hours, a long stretch of sitting is a recipe for feeling stiff and sluggish. You don’t need to be constantly moving, but it’s a good idea to get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so rather than sitting still for hours. If you have a long drive home after a weekend event, stopping for walking breaks once an hour will help you feel a lot better when you get home.

Doing strenuous chores

While sitting around doing nothing isn’t a great option, neither is a huge landscaping project. Light activity is good for recovery, but strenuous activity in the hours after training hinders sport-specific recovery. If you go out for a hard ride or run in the morning, keep your afternoon activities light. If your spouse has a problem with that, just tell her/him I told you it was the best thing to do for your fitness.

Drinking alcohol

A post-ride beer is a great tradition, and we’ll have plenty of beer from Figueroa Mountain Brewing at the finish of the CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo in November. But it’s one thing to have a celebratory post-even beer and another to consume alcohol following a purposeful training session. Alcohol does not aid in post-workout recovery and it doesn’t help you rehydrate. If you want to benefit from the training session you just completed, stick with water and non-alcoholic drinks.

When you make the commitment to spend your time and energy training to improve performance, don’t shortchange your progress by making silly mistakes once the workout is over.

Take care of yourself,
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

9 Responses to “The 7 Worst Post-Workout Habits for Cyclists, Runners, and Triathletes”

  1. Lila Murphy

    My personal experience on post workout recovery suggests evidence very contrary to what you have said here. I am a 46 year old woman and if I don’t take in protein post workout (as well as strength train 2 days a week), over time, my body composition suffers and I become “skinny-fat” I have tried it both ways and I retain more muscle mass my way.

    As for not doing chores — really? A six hour bike ride on the weekend and then not doing chores? Is this the recipe for household harmony? Sure, if you are wealthy enough to have groundkeepers, chefs, etc, or are a professional athlete then great, sleep away post workout but for the rest of us, we must come home and pull our weight at home.

    Reply
  2. Brian Hurley

    Well, 5 out of 7 I guess is not bad. I get caught up in the after ride social group. We sit around for about an hour which is an easy fix. In order to keep the peace at home and justify a 4+ ride, the misses appreciates her landscape man efforts in the yard. She is my SAG on 100+ rides so that’s a tough one. Nice article.

    Reply
  3. Printed hoodie

    What i don’t understood is in reality how you’re no longer really
    much more neatly-appreciated than you might be right
    now. You are very intelligent. You realize therefore significantly relating to this subject, produced me
    personally believe it from numerous varied angles.
    Its like women and men aren’t interested until it’s something to accomplish with Woman gaga!
    Your individual stuffs excellent. Always handle it up!

    Reply
  4. Victor

    That was a stupid thing to write Bryan!

    Reply
  5. Michael Bennis

    Guilty!
    Thinking of pasta. while ridding and yearning for a celabitory beer at the end.of the ride.

    Reply
  6. Kimmi Hellman

    So much on point here, Chris. Thanks for sharing this info (and making me laugh a few times too!)

    Reply
  7. Rob

    Interesting pointers on protein recovery shakes. When you say that these may be a negative for endurance athletes, I wonder in what circumstances they are a positive?

    Reply
    • Bryan

      Protein recovery shakes are a thing that was invented to get fat people to workout. Just ask any fat dude jogging on a treadmill in a gym. They’re there for the shake.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)