Sure, there are a host of benefits to exercise—better overall health, improved mood, lowered risk of anxiety and depression. But let’s face it—most of us are seeking results. In other words, we’re not just working out for the fun of it, or to leave the stresses of our days at the gym—we want to see a change in our bodies. Right?
Well, if that’s the case, make sure that you don’t sabotage your workout with these five common mistakes:
Workout Saboteur: Lack of Nutrients
You burned about 200 calories during your weight-lifting session, and that’s great. But go too long without eating afterwards and you’ll impact your muscle-building ability. Strength-training creates micro-tears in your muscles; in the 24 to
48 hours after a workout, your body uses protein and carbs to rebuild those micro-tears, leading to denser and stronger muscle tissue. However, there’s a “window” post-workout when your muscles are able to absorb these nutrients more efficiently and it’s about 30 to 45 minutes after exercise. So make sure that you consume a protein- and carb-containing snack within that window, even something simple like Greek yogurt or a half of a turkey sandwich. You’ll wind up with more lean muscle tissue, which is the goal.
Workout Saboteur: Lack of Sleep
Short yourself on sleep, and you’ll probably feel tired, cranky, and hungrier than usual, too. You’ll also make it harder to get—and stay—in shape. First, lack of sleeps interferes with all of your body’s metabolic processes, including the ones that help repair and rebuild muscle. Lack of sleep also wreaks havoc on hormones like ghrelin and leptin, which affect your hunger and satiety, and may make you more likely to overeat the next day, offsetting the calories you burned during your workout! So make it a priority to get enough sleep (most of us need seven to eight hours to feel our best).
Workout Saboteur: Your Workout “Routine”
Do the same workout day after day and you’ll stop noticing results. The reason? Your body becomes acclimated to the challenges and you “plateau.” To continue getting results, change up your routine every four to six weeks but trying new weight lifting moves, a new training modality (e.g. kettlebells instead of free weights or opting for a barbell workout instead of using workout machines), or by changing your weights (e.g, lifting more weight but doing fewer reps.) The idea is to continually change the demands placed o your muscles so that they continue to be challenged, and don’t adapt to your routine.
Workout Saboteur: You’re Just Not Into It
Yes, you can jump on the treadmill or elliptical and veg out for cardio—but you’ll get more out of it if you boost your intensity with an interval or Tabata workout. The same goes for lifting weights. Don’t just count out reps. Engage your brain and “put your mind into your muscle” by focusing on you’re doing and feeling which muscle groups have to fire to lift or lower the weight. You’ll get far more results when you’re engaged in your workout, not just going through the motions.
Workout Saboteur: Too Much of a Good Thing
Finally, are you hooked on working out? Proud to say you never miss a day–no matter what? Your body may need a break. If you exercise day after day, especially if you tend to work out hard every day, consider giving yourself at least one “rest” day a week. You might take the day completely off from exercise, or opt for a gentle, low-key workout to let your body—and mind—recover. It sounds counter-intuitive but occasional rest days will help you get the results you want.