Post-Workout Recovery Fails and What to Do Instead

Article by LaTricia Morris, Author and Illustrator of The Good, The Bad & The Broccoli and It Came from the CupboardFounder of See Kids Thrive and Eden Life MinistriesCertified Integrative Wellness Counselor and NASM Personal Trainer

Some of the things we put ourselves through on our journey to get fit can be downright borderline insanity but, as we see those results (not just in slimming down but in overall improvements), we’re reminded why it was all worth it.  Yet, how frustrating is it to put in all that work and it still seem like we’re spinning our tires?

While progress (especially the real and lasting kind) does take some time, there are some things we can and should be mindful of so as to not sabotage our own efforts.  In accomplishing any goal, it is key to see not only the steps we need to take to make our way toward the end goal but to also see things that may be working in opposition to our health and wellness goals.  Below are some I see all too often and what you can do to be sure these hurdles don’t hinder you.

Not Eating at AllAdobe Spark

Especially where weight loss is an aim, it can be tempting to just skip eating altogether right after a workout to ride out that post-workout burn.  While that can seem like a good plan, it could actually do more to hinder your goals in the long term.  When working out, your body relies heavily on the glycogen it has stored in the liver and muscles tissues to supply the energy it needs to complete what’s being asked of it.  The longer you workout, the more glycogen stores get depleted.  Now, as these reserves run out, the body can and will work to convert fat to usable energy.  However, because of the work it must do to convert that fat to usable energy, performance tends to be compromised, triggering a cycle that ultimately leads to exhaustion and failure.

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 1.5 g carbohydrates/kg body weight within 30 minutes post-exercise is recommended for maximum glycogen replenishment(1).  Delaying carbohydrate intake by even 2 hours can decrease total muscle glycogen synthesis by 66% (2).  The post-workout environment may hasten glycogen repletion as a result of increased blood flow to the muscles and an increased sensitivity of the cells to the effects of insulin.(3)

Waiting to refuel until your starving is a good way to drive yourself to overeat (which we justify because, you know, we worked out).  Helping the body replenish its reserves immediately after exercise is a good way to avoid a ravenous binge, and prepare your body to bring it even better (burning even more calories and building even more muscle) the next time you step to the gym.

Craving carbohydrates post-workout is totally normal.  Having sensible amounts to meet these demands is a pro recovery move.

Reaching to “Reward” Rather Than to Restore

Adobe Spark

I can’t tell you how often I hear people at the gym, talking about how much they look forward to getting their hands in that cookie jar or having a face-full of cake straight after the gym as the “reward” for all their hard work.  My question is, why do that to yourself?

For starters, and studies back me up on this, we shouldn’t be looking to a “reward” system to keep us on track anyway.  Studies show that people are significantly less likely to engage in an activity for which they’d normally get a “reward” once the “reward” is taken away.  Example: children who were rewarded for art were significantly less likely do it simply for the sake of doing it whereas children who were offered no reward were more likely to continue to participate over the long haul, simply for the enjoyment of the activity.

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The thought pattern that this caters too is “working out sucks and I should be rewarded for doing it at all.”  Your workout and that great post-workout feeling should be the reward in itself.  Even where it can be painful, even downright gruesome at times, count it all joy.  It is a GIFT to be able to be active, to participate in such challenging activities and to know you’re getting stronger, fitter, and faster by the day.  

Instead of spending your workout pondering how much you hate it and on what you’ll “get to” have on the other side of it, try redirecting your focus to thoughts of gratitude and even excitement at the progress you know you’re going to make as you bring your best effort every time.  Pick a key scripture or positive affirmation to focus in on and let that saturate your mind as you work to be the healthiest version of yourself possible.

Another problem with this habit really is that not only does reaching for the sweet-eats post-exercise reinforce the negative associations with exercise and the need to follow it up with something to “make it all better” but it also primes the body for defeat.  When you step to that plate, that class, those weights, that track… you are placing a lot of demands on the body.  You’re not just expending energy.  The bones, the muscles, the joints, the lungs, and the heart are all working very hard to produce the work being demanded.

Post-workout recovery is not just a time to restore glycogen levels (to get that blood sugar back up) but also a time to provide the body with the raw materials it needs to restore the body and help it to rebuild itself with greater strength.  You cannot expect the body to be of superior construction with sub-par materials.  Consuming sugary/processed foods and neglecting to restore nutrient levels is a quick way to run the body ragged, leading to burnout.  Be sure you look for top nutritional value in anything you’re looking to incorporate into your post-workout plan.

Neglecting to Prepare the Body Pre-Workout

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By now, most people understand that the foods they eat after their workout and throughout the day factor into the speed and quality of their recovery. The foods you eat before a workout can also play an important role in preparing for the tissue-rebuilding process once the workout is over.

Digestion is a lengthy process; proteins, fats and carbohydrates that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward. For this reason, choose your foods wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates, especially if you plan on an intense workout. Meals should be consumed two-four hours prior to your workout to avoid digestive issues or cramps, or that lag you feel trying to workout while your body is also working to break down the food you just ate.

If you must have something before your workout and don’t have this window to wait, keep it small and opt for things that break down more quickly like bananas or other fruits.  Even better – puree them into a quick smoothie or grab a raw juice.  This will allow for more rapid gastric emptying and make the energy and nutrients available to you sooner.

Protein OverdoseAdobe Spark

We have been fed so much junk over protein, it’s just mind-boggling.

Yes, your body needs proteins as part of its daily needs, especially with post-exercise recovery.

HOWEVER, your body can only do so much so fast.  Excessive amounts of proteins will not help it accomplish this any faster.  This is of special concern with products containing whey protein, and other animal products, as too many animal proteins place a heavy burden on the kidneys, in particular, and the body as a whole, generating much stress and inflammation.

Be real with yourself on what you’re doing and what you need.  20 minutes of yoga does not justify 40 extra grams of protein for the day.  I’ve seen people knock back protein shakes like the shake itself is going to build muscle.  It won’t.  Your body will only build muscle in accordance with the demands being placed on it along with the presence of adequate energy and nutrients.  Consuming more than it needs only prompts the body to use it as fuel or convert it to fat to be used for fuel later.

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Bear in mind, we get amino acids (the building blocks of protein) from everything we eat (at least if you’re eating those nutritious whole foods).  MOST people already consume plenty more than enough to meet their daily needs, even with the added workout.  That’s not to say we don’t need any or that you shouldn’t protein shakes at all.  Just be mindful of the sources, quality and how much you’re consuming.

All that being said, HEALTHY shakes and smoothies can be GREAT post-workout recovery options, especially because being in a liquid form makes it easier for the body to assimilate.  Just make sure the focus in on maximal nutrition, looking at the body’s needs as a whole, beyond simple protein intake.

My favorite here (shameless plug, yes, because it tastes fantastic and has so much to offer and happens to be my personal favorite) are JuicePlus+’s Complete Shakes.juice-plus--complete-variety.img  They blend down smooth, even in a shaker (SO unlike so many other brands), they’re so delicious my kids request them for dessert though they’re not loaded with sugar, they’re plant-based and they incorporate all sorts of superfood extras to further help you in your efforts to become the healthiest version of yourself possible.

Getting Too “Radical” for Your Own Good

Your awesome.  I get it.  You get it.  Everybody gets it.  While I love that you have no qualms with being so totally radical, you might want to watch how much free-radical action you’re generating during those killer workouts.  (I know.  Totally cheesy but you’ll thank me for being so ridiculous when you ponder this later.)

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The body produces many free radicals daily but generates even more of them during intense exercise.  Free-radical damage is a well-known offender when it comes to generating a lot of inflammation in the body (and many health experts have a saying – “inflammation is the root of all disease”).  In order to combat free radicals, we need to make sure we are taking in plenty of antioxidants, which we get from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Making it a point to include some raw fruits in our post-recovery grabs is a great way to take in plenty of extra antioxidants packaged with enzymes and nutrient rich water to hydrate and nourish the cells throughout the body.  You certainly get extra credit here for reaching for the raw greens, whether in a juice, smoothie or straight off the fork as they are chock full of phytonutrients to support restoration and vitality to every cell and tissue throughout the body.

 

 

Resources:

(1) Ivy JL, Lee MC, Broznick JT Jr, Reed MJ. Muscle glycogen stor- age a er di erent amounts of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol. 1988;65(5):2018-2023.

(2) Liljeberg HG, Akergerg AK, Björck IM. E ect of the glycemic index and content of indigestible carbohydrates of cereal-based breakfast meals on glucose tolerance at lunch in healthy sub- jects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(4):647-655.

(3) Berning JR, Steen SN. Nutrition for Sport and Exercise. Gaithers- burg, MD: Aspen Publishers; 1998.

How to Stop The New Year’s Flop & Drop the Weight for Good

Article by LaTricia Morris, Author and Illustrator of The Good, The Bad & The Broccoli and It Came from the CupboardFounder of See Kids Thrive and Eden Life Ministries, Certified Integrative Wellness Counselor and NASM Personal Trainer. 

It’s the New Year and the gyms are getting pretty crowded.  While some people roll their eyes at this wave of “resolutioners” that come pouring into the gym after the holidays, I found myself somewhat appreciative in a sense that, if nothing else, this time of year serves as a reminder to us all of the importance of giving better attention to our health.  In that, we have such a great opportunity to cheer others on toward success, to help them enjoy being there and to be a part of this year being different for them.  What a gift, right?

{I admittedly found myself quite reluctant at first to even touch on this topic as I hate the mindset and self-hatred it tends to cater too but then, I suppose this is all the more reason I just had to chime in on this discussion as my heart is for you to break free from all the garbage and the defeat, and truly walk in triumph FOR GOOD this time!}

No doubt about it, establishing new goals, new schedules and new plans is hard enough and the commitment it takes to see it through to being a true transformation comes in no small package.  It’s no surprise we see so many struggle to maintain those new commitments once the luster wears off and life lays into us once again.

Still, by being mindful and intentional, it is absolutely possible to not only achieve great and lasting success but to actually REALLY learn to enjoy it too.  Not that I could possibly cover it all here but below are some things I’ve learned along my journey and know will be of great value to you too.

Prep Your Body

Clean Over Lean

Running on all we heard growing up, we often think the first place to start is by trimming the fat.  While scaling things back and being mindful of intake may very well be in order, it is better to start by focusing on whole foods, eating as clean as possible.  This means ditching processed and refined foods, buying organic where we can and eating plenty of fresh, local, seasonal produce.   (This is especially important as many processed foods tend to disrupt the endocrine system and interfere with the body’s natural hunger/satiety mechanisms and how it handles food, stored fats and more.)

In order to prepare the body for weight-loss, it is especially important to support the health and function of the detoxing organs, namely, the colon, kidneys, and liver but let’s not underestimate the importance of the body’s detoxing system as a whole.

Adipose tissue (fat cells) doesn’t just store fat, but is also used by the body to “stash” toxins in the system that it’s otherwise unable to eliminate and which could be very damaging to the organs if not dealt with somehow.1  

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Eat Clean:

Fiber Up

Fiber works to stave off hunger, scrub the walls of the digestive tract and to absorb toxins in the system for elimination from the body.  (Be mindful to gradually increase so as not to overly stimulate the colon.)

Drink More Water

The body uses water for many things, including the removal of toxins and all sorts of waste from the body.  Staying adequately hydrate will help the body as it flushes things out of the system via the colon and kidneys.  This, of course, is in addition to it helping to reduce hunger (remember, hunger is another sign of dehydration as the body seeks to get the water it needs wherever it can, in food or liquid form).

Eat More Raw

Raw foods contain fiber, water, enzymes, and a wealth of phytonutrients to support all of the body’s processes.  Because they’re so water-rich, they help to hydrate the body and better help with satiety while consuming less calories.  The enzymes in the food aid digestion and free the body’s own enzymes to do more clean up work, helping to restore optimal function throughout the system.

Nutritional-Density over Caloric-Density

In our culture, we give very strong consideration to how much food we’re going to get (and not in a good way).  We get obsessed with big portions and often give little thought to the nutritional value being provided in what we’re eating.  What we have to understand too is that, as we have cravings, the body is not always just looking for calories but can also be looking to meet it’s other nutritional needs (such as for iron, calcium, manganese or magnesium).  In aiming to meet the body’s nutritional needs, we typically also well meet our caloric needs and the system finds its way to homeostasis.

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Helping the body to eliminate excess waste will prepare it to better work to eliminate toxins and to re-establish balance throughout the system.  Even where we may need to watch intake, it should be much easier to scale it back without the crazy voracious appetite turning you all hangry and driving you to ditch your efforts.  As the body’s natural mechanisms are restored and nutritional needs are met, hunger should start to scale back and be more self-regulating, helping us to overcome compulsions to overeat, and helping the body to naturally work its way back to a healthy weight.

 

Make Sure You’re Eating Enough

This may seem counter-intuitive because we well understand that, in order to lose weight, we need to take in fewer calories than we expend.  However, a common error in weight loss is to come in way under the caloric budget which ultimately slows the body’s metabolism and primes us for an eventual binge.  What’s worse is that once normal food intake resumes, the slower metabolism makes it all the easier for the body to accumulate those extra pounds all over again.

I try to especially emphasize fueling appropriately for the work demands I’m placing on my body.  I try not to show up to the gym under-fueled as I find this self-defeating.  Instead, I strive to take in plenty enough calories to power through an intense workout and let that post-workout metabolism roar.

While it may not promise to get you there quite as fast, maintaining only a slight caloric deficit of 200-300 calories, but no more than a 500-calorie deficit, per day will lead to sustainable weight loss and set you well on a path to long-term success.

 

Make a Move

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Fresh food at your fingertips without the time, space and work of tending a garden.  GO FRESH.  GROW VERTICAL.

While it may be tempting to go all “couch-to-5k” over the next month, it’s incredibly important to be mindful of where we’re at, what we’re capable of (mentally and physically) and to never underestimate the cumulative effects and possibilities in making even small but intentional efforts toward our health and wellness goals.

One tip that stuck with me years ago was to “Commit to 10.”  In other words, even when you don’t feel like doing it or even when you feel like you really don’t have the time, commit to doing at least 10 minutes of intentional movement to exercise the body.  Most of the time, by this point, you’ll be revved and ready to power through the rest of the workout.  Even if you don’t, you will still know you have done something for the day and reinforce your intentions to be more active.  This is a great way to avoid missing three days in a row and calling the whole week a bust or feeling like you’ve already gotten off track.

Get up and go for a walk down the hall.  Park at the back of the lot.  Make the extra trip up the stairs and back.  It doesn’t have to be a half day at the gym.  While you DO want to keep that train going and build up to a strong exercise regimen, don’t underestimate the power of making those small, intentional moves toward those goals.

Prep Your Brain

Stop Giving Yourself a Way Out

So many resolutions start with “I’m going to try” or “I hope to…”  While trying is a good thing, it’s not as powerful a declaration over your intentions as determining now that you will, in fact, do just what you said.  Learn to catch your own excuses as you make them and reset your thoughts, words and actions toward the victory you aim to take hold of on the other side of your efforts.

Get Real & Get S.M.A.R.T.

Too many people flop on their New Year’s Resolutions because they set goals that set them up for failure.  This may seem like an obvious statement but too many people still miss it.  In order for you to be successful, the goal should be realistic.

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 S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable (being challenging but not too extreme)

Realistic (yes, something humanly possible) and

Timely

Set goals out by establishing the ultimate long-term goal then decide what milestones you’d like to reach each quarter or month, then decide what steps you’re going to take this week to move you toward that goal.

Count Your Victories and Just Focus on Taking the NEXT Step

When you find yourself getting overwhelmed about the distance yet to be traveled, turn your attentions instead to the victories you’ve already achieved (even if it was just that you made it all the way through yesterday or the past week) and determine now to take the next step toward your goal.   That may mean just making it through lunch, staying on plan, or making it a point to do at least 10-15 minutes of intentional exercise in sticking with your commitment to move more this year.  As you do this, you will help to reinforce the truth that you can do this and you will.

Respect the Process

It’s easy to get incredibly frustrated with the time it takes to achieve our health and wellness goals, especially when we want that weight gone like yester-month.  I know, for me, God has shown me so much through the process and done some pretty incredible things along the journey.  There is much greater reward to be had than finally reaching that goal.  While I have been glad to get closer to where I’d like to be physically, I cannot begin to articulate the treasure God has given me in all I’ve learned through the process – great things that spill over to the benefit of so many other areas of my life.

Remember, your body isn’t just looking to get rid of extra fat.  As you embark on a journey to reduce weight, get back in shape and work toward being the best/healthiest version of yourself possible, your body is busy doing much work to cleanse, heal, rebuild and restore.  It is an incredible gift and we should be grateful God made our bodies capable of performing such tasks.  Stop hating your body and start appreciating it.  Respect all that it’s working to accomplish and make sure you’re providing it with all it needs to do so.

Show Some Love

Even if you’re the “newbie,” you can still play a key role in making someone else’s gym time a joy and in turn, you’ll find you enjoy that time more.  I find it incredibly helpful in my effort to stay on point and maintain that commitment, that I truly look forward to seeing the people I work out with week after week.  I love having the chance to cheer them on and their push pushes me to bring my best with each class.  It really gives me a great reason to not want to miss out on those classes.

Make it a point to establish a strong network of support and, where possible, lock arms with others on their journey to health freedom too.

Wherever you’re at today, know that you absolutely can achieve lifelong success.  Whether you’re looking to lose weight, get shredded, overcome a health malady or just to be intentional about walking in vibrant health, I wish you all the best in your efforts and cheer you on with great anticipation, looking forward to hearing all about your successes!

 

Be sure to follow this blog and give the Eden Life Ministries page a like so we can stay connected and you can be among the first to know when fresh content comes your way!

 

Resources:

Toxicological Function of Adipose Tissue: Focus on Persistent Organic Pollutants,
Michele La Merrill, et al., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3569688/