The post-training success period is widely acknowledged as being crucial for translating gym efforts into tangible gains. Yet despite knowing that results can only be made possible during this time, few seem to take full advantage of their training “downtime” to lock-in the progress that should naturally follow a hard session.
A hard, intense workout is crucial to triggering muscle growth, fat loss and performance benefits.
But this is only half the picture. Without optimal recovery, which requires nutrient replenishment and sound supplementation among other factors, few if any gains are likely to be achieved, for Post-Training Success, You need a solid post-training plan to recover and unravel all the good work done in the gym.
The recovery process must be commenced from the moment the last rep signals a workout’s completion.
Everything we do outside the gym either enhances or derails our gym efforts. To come back stronger the next time around, it’s therefore imperative that each of the following post-training dos and don’ts be rigorously followed. Neglect even one of the following steps – outlined here in the order in which they need to be actioned – and it could cost you valuable gains. Let’s get started with the first step – hydration.
Before the sweat has dried and before the first supplement has been downed, a workout cannot be said to be completed without optimal hydration via the consumption of a good half a liter or more of clean, fresh water.
The body uses a remarkable amount of water during the course of a workout.
Though we may drink throughout the session, it’s often not enough to fully hydrate, and we may even end up slightly dehydrated by the end of the workout. Therefore, the very first thing to do post-workout is rehydrate for . Doing so will enhance virtually every aspect of performance, recovery and progress – from fat burning to protein synthesis to electrolyte balance and more.2, 17
Some people choose to rehydrate with coffee or alcohol, a bad move which may prove costly when it comes to putting the body in recovery mode. Both coffee and alcohol may produce a mild diuretic effect (essentially, water elimination from the body), the last thing you want when seeking full hydration.
Secondly, both beverages contain substances which may interfere with the optimal processing of post-training nutrients, with the caffeine in coffee blunting the ergogenic effects of post-training creatine consumption and alcohol compromising the liver’s ability to assimilate protein (potentially leading to suboptimal muscle protein synthesis).5, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 22
Alcohol also provides empty calories and alcohol itself is preferentially metabolized ahead of carbohydrates and other key macros, thus increasing the likelihood of fat storage.5, 7 And because alcohol cannot be stored like protein or carbs and instead must be used as an immediate energy source, it may become toxic to the body if regularly consumed and/or taken along with post-training nutrition. Cheers.
Like most people, I too was guilty of neglecting this important aspect of Post-Training Success. The last thing anyone really feels like doing after a big training session, with muscles pumped to capacity and unable to further contract much less fully lengthen, is to repeatedly place these same muscles in an exaggerated stretch, and hold for 20-count. But since incorporating stretching my recovery has improved and my gains – both performance and growth related – have increased. It’s now a standard part of my post-training plan.
I’ll take the time to passively stretch my freshly-worked muscles. This way, I’m also able to reflect on the session and prepare for the all-important journaling process (to be discussed soon).
But the real benefits are in the stretching itself. As part of a “cool-down” process, stretching provides the perfect transition to full recovery. It helps to gradually reduce heart and breathing rates, cools body temperature and encourages the muscles to return to their proper length/tension state. Post-workout stretching also relaxes the nervous system, prevents excessive muscle soreness, and promotes greater mobility and flexibility.
So rather than hitting the showers and “letting the gains commence”, first take the time to recover actively with a series of stretches and perhaps little cardio to help return the body back to its original physiological state, in preparation for full recovery.
If you’ve been lifting heavy iron long enough you’ll know the unquestioned importance of proper post-workout supplementation. In fact, by taking the right performance nutrients at the right times you’ll fast-track the recovery process by optimizing protein synthesis and glycogen replenishment, something whole foods may take much longer to do.
Go-to supplements for solid post-training gains include the rapidly absorbed and highly-bioavailable whey-isolate ISOFLEX for enhancing muscle protein synthesis along with CVOL for optimal creatine uptake.
Creatine is best consumed post-workout as the muscles, at this time, have been depleted of stored creatine and are thus fully primed for creatine replenishment.1, 3
In addition, specialized insulin receptors located on muscle cells are sensitized to creatine post-workout and will, as such, allow more creatine to be crammed into the muscles.
ALLMAX GLUTAMINE, the purest and most efficiently absorbed on today’s market, also helps speed recovery, specifically by enhancing muscle glutamine stores to offset muscle catabolism and
by improving immune function to reduce the likelihood of falling ill, or taking longer to recover, due to the catabolic nature of intensive training.
While failing to supplement correctly can interfere with post-training recovery, taking the wrong supplements can also prove progress-limiting. The post-training period is not a time to be taking ALLMAX CASEIN-FX protein, nor should the serious lifter throw down their daily VITASTACK pack immediately following a workout.
A slow release protein, Casein is best taken before a fasting period (such as before sleep) rather than immediately after training (when the fast-acting whey is best). Included in the broad-spectrum VITASTACK is a potent array of antioxidants. While beneficial for health generally, such specialized vitamins (notably E and C) can in fact stall recovery by working exactly as intended – by ameliorating exercise-induced oxidation.9, 19
Extended training produces Reactive Oxygen Species, or ROS. Produced when oxygen combines with other molecules in the body, ROS must be properly balanced so as to not become toxic/inflammatory to the cells but also to ensure that levels are sufficient to signal muscle growth and recovery following training (thus either too much or too little oxidation/ROS can be bad).4, 24, 25 Here, taking antioxidants to counter ROS may also limit muscle gains,
so take your VITASTACK first thing in the morning with breakfast for best results.
Once the right post-workout supplements are taken, it’s time to review your training. Here, mental state and motivation may be noted along with more tangible training factors such as the amount of weight lifted, personal bests achieved, rep count and training duration.
Documenting one’s workout is important for several reasons.
First, by comparing your workout to previous workouts you can more definitively note any performance improvements and areas that may need working on. Without such feedback it’s all too easy to overlook where you are going wrong.
For example, if your notes show poor energy on the final set of heavy squats (the reps have plummeted and form has lessened) then you may look at insufficient rest between sets, poor mental state and/or pre-workout nutrition (or multiple other factors) as possible culprits to be addressed. In addition, certain patterns may be observed which point to problems with workout scheduling/time of day etc.
Another important reason to document each session – specifically outlining the workout itself
and any relevant thoughts/feelings that arise during the session – has to do with planning for the next session. By noting the positives and negatives of a workout, you’ll know what must be done/changed/modified for the following workout.
For example, an exercise which has failed to provide sufficient stimulation (lack of pump, less progress when included, an inability to connect to it being signs that it’s not working as intended) may be replaced by one that is potentially more effective. Reps and weight lifted, and the affect they have had on the body, can also provide feedback as to how these variables need to be manipulated to progress further with one’s training – a process that is very difficult without proper documentation to work from.
Following the documentation process (which should take no longer than 15 minutes) it’s time to eat. While post-training supplementation has set the recovery process in motion it’s the post-training meal that completes the job of replacing lost energy, topping up glycogen stores and making available the protein needed for full tissue repair.
The key to optimal recovery via whole foods is to ensure only the freshest most nutrient-dense foods are consumed.
As with supplementation, only the best quality foods promote good health and optimal recovery. Brown rice, broccoli and steak/chicken or fish is one example of a nutritionally well-balanced post-workout meal.
Satisfied with their lifting efforts and ravenously hungry, many make the mistake of rewarding themselves with an ultra-high-calorie meal following their workout. Unfortunately, excessive fatty/sugary fare taken at such times may only negate the assimilation of those nutrients needed to repair tissue damage.
Eat just enough for proper recovery based on your individual macronutrient requirements.
Then there are those who do not eat enough. With the muscles craving real calories, now is not the time to neglect solid nutrition. And don’t rely on protein bars to supply the requisite calories/protein for muscle gains. Such products are often highly processed and full of sweeteners. By themselves, sweeteners such as the sugar alcohols cannot be processed in the body and therefore may cause bloating or cramping. And because of their sweet taste and zero caloric content, the brain does not register them and sugary foods may, as a result, be craved later in the day.
One final thing: don’t wait for hours to eat again post-training. Instead, with insulin sensitivity high and the muscles primed for protein synthesis/glycogen storage, eat within 45 minutes to take advantage of the unique performance and growth benefits of post-training nutrient assimilation.
Where lifters often go wrong with post-workout nutrition is in managing carbohydrate consumption.
Many lifters, guided by the faulty reasoning that if carbs are important for glycogen replacement and recovery then massive amounts will provide even greater benefits, gorge on this macro post-training.
Overestimating the energy costs of their session, many turn to sugary “sports drinks” followed by massive heapings of rice or similar sources in hopes of stimulating maximum gains. The reality is that regardless of whether carbs are consume post-training or at other times, too many will lead to fat storage.
Another disturbing trend amount the fit and fabulous is an over reliance on so-called fruit smoothies. Although packed with carbs, such drinks are often staggeringly high in calories, leaving little room for important whole food macros like…protein.
Also, while beneficial to a certain extent, smoothies are typically loaded with so much fruit (often several cups in one serving) that the carb composition of such “health drinks” can be as high as 100 grams per serving, leading to high blood sugar, subsequent energy depletion (ironically) and, ultimately, high levels of body fat.
Avoid the tastier and more convenient smoothies post-training and instead eat traditional carbs like rice and sweet potato.
Notwithstanding the active recovery (stretching and possible light cardio) needed to successfully transition from a trained state to one of recovery, it’s best not to engage in further heavy activities post-training. For putting on muscle and, to a large degree, enhancing athletic performance, the old adage is correct: do not run when you can walk; do not walk when you can sit;
do not sit when you can lay down; and do not lay down when you can sleep.
It’s only when fully relaxed that the body is able to fully heal damaged muscle, sleep being the ultimate form of relaxation for those seeking stellar gains (Testosterone and Growth Hormone release is at its greatest when we are sleeping soundly).10 It’s when not asleep or training that people tend to slip up in the recovery department.
Outside the gym, relaxation can take many different forms, each of them important for full restoration of body and mind. Besides the more obvious kicking back and putting one’s feet up is the all important mental state.
Staying calm, whenever possible, is one important way to limit the release of the catabolic stress hormone cortisol.
Needed in smaller amounts for energy production, mental arousal and learning, cortisol output is nevertheless to be avoided when muscle gains are the end goal.8, 23
Being constantly agitated or overreacting to trivial events can keep cortisol levels surging. Chronically high cortisol levels are an excellent way in which to enhance body fat storage, deplete muscle tissue, encourage the onset of osteoporosis and negatively alter mood.14
The most effective way to drive down cortisol to improve post-training recovery is to stay relaxed. This means no pointless arguments, no unnecessary stress, no idiotic drama and no negative thinking.
You’ve killed it in the gym, taken your post-training supplements, documented your training experience, eaten a balanced meal and managed to avoid emotional vampires and other energy-sapping stimuli. Now it’s time to complete the growth process with a solid night of sound sleep.
For good health outcomes, most experts recommend between 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.15
Because of its profound growth-inducing benefits bodybuilders are encouraged to achieve the upper limit of this range. So important is sleep for improving body composition and mental and physical performance that it could be the single most important training component.
While sleep is widely acknowledged as the most effective way to enhance testosterone and Growth Hormone output to boost muscle growth and strength, what many do not know is that sleep is also instrumental in keeping bodyfat at bay.18 Here, taking a sleep formulation containing clinical amounts of the sleep-enhancer melatonin among other ingredients to increase quality and duration of sleep can decrease body weight, burn fat and improve the chemical signals linked with weight control.
A melatonin-heavy supplement such as ALLMAX LIGHTS OUT SLEEP may also encourage the production of a specific kind of beige and brown fat which actually induces fat burning (brown and beige fats, unlike regular fats, which are stored as energy, burn energy and are preferential to stripping excess body fat).5
Quality sleep, achieved consistently via LIGHTS OUT SLEEP,
can also have a beneficial effect on the hunger/fat storage hormones leptin and ghrelin.
Under normal circumstances, leptin levels are increased during sleep. This informs the brain that enough energy is present and that the body’s hunger response does not need to be activated.20
However, leptin levels drop when sleep is restricted. As such, appetite is increased and we become hungry. Because food cannot be supplied at such times, to provide the energy the body thinks it needs, calories are converted to fat. To make matters worse there is often a corresponding increase in ghrelin, a hormone which increases hunger and promotes fat storage.
As a result, metabolism is greatly decreased and fat loss effectively stalls. How do we counter this precarious, obesity-courting state while enhancing muscle anabolism and optimizing performance? Prioritize sleep.
The desire to make every rep count is not only achieved inside the gym but, equally as important, in the hours following each workout. Bodybuilders and other devotees of the fitness lifestyle know only too well that everything done outside the gym can make a major difference to how successful one’s workouts will ultimately be. Your eight dos and don’ts for post-training success,
before planning your next workout, be sure to map out the steps
you’ll need to take to ensure you are not wasting your valuable time and effort inside the gym. The above-listed guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for your post-training success.
- Antonio, J., et al. (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
- Ayotte, D., et al. (2018). Individualized hydration plans improve performance outcomes for collegiate athletes engaging in in-season training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 15:27
- Buford, T. W., et al. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
- Brieger, , et al. (2012). Reactive oxygen species: from health to disease . Swiss Med Wkly. Aug 17
- Breus, M. J. Melatonin May Aid Weight Loss. [Online] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201312/melatonin-may-aid-weight-loss – retrieved on 14.5.19
- Brody, J. E., New York Times. Why the Body May Waste Calories From Alcohol. [Online] https://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/04/health/why-the-body-may-waste-the-calories-from-alcohol.html – retrieved on 15.5.19
- Cederbaum, A. I., (2012). Alcohol Metabolism. Clin Liver Dis. Nov; 16(4): 667–685.
- De-Souza-Talarico, J. N., et al. (2011). Effects of stress hormones on the brain and cognition: Evidence from normal to pathological aging Dement Neuropsychol. Jan-Mar; 5(1): 8–16.
- Gomez-Cabrera, M.C., et al. (2008). Oral administration of vitamin C decreases muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and hampers training-induced adaptations in endurance performance. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan;87(1):142-9.
- Kern, W., et al. (1995). Hormonal secretion during nighttime sleep indicating stress of daytime exercise. J Appl Physiol. Nov;79(5):1461-8.
- Lieber, C.S., (2000). Alcohol: Its metabolism and interaction with nutrients. Annual Review of Nutrition 20:395–430
- Lieber, C.S., (1992). Medical and Nutritional Complications of Alcoholism: Mechanisms and Management. New York: Plenum Press
- Mendenhall, C., et al. (1995). Relationship of protein calorie malnutrition to alcoholic liver disease: A reexamination of data from two Veterans Administration Cooperative studies. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 19:635–641
- McEwan, B. S., (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators Eur J Pharmacol. Apr 7; 583(2-3): 174–185.
- National Sleep Foundation. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? [Online] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/support/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need – retrieved on 14.5.19
- Pirola, R.C.,et al. (1972).. The energy cost of the metabolism of drugs including ethanol. Pharmacology 7:185–196
- Popkin, B. M., et al. (2010).Water, Hydration and Health. Nutr Rev. Aug; 68(8): 439–458.
- Ritsche, K., et al. (2014).Exercise‐Induced growth hormone during acute sleep deprivation Physiol Rep. Oct; 2(10): e12166.
- Ranchordas, M. K., et al. (2017). Antioxidants for preventing and reducing muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Dec 14;
- Taheri, S., et al. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Med. 2004 Dec; 1(3): e62.
- Trexler, E. T., (2015). Creatine and Caffeine: Considerations for Concurrent Supplementation. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. Dec;25(6):607-23.
- Vandenberghe, K., et al. (1996). Caffeine counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading. J Appl Physiol (1985). Feb;80(2):452-7.
- Van Ast, V. A., et al. (2013). Modulatory mechanisms of cortisol effects on emotional learning and memory: Novel perspectives Psychoneuroendocrinology. Sep; 38(9): 1874–1882.
- Willis, B. Why you shouldn’t be always taking antioxidants, especially if you want to build muscle. [Online] https://examine.com/nutrition/antioxidants-muscle-building/ – retrieved on 14.5.19
- Webb, R., et al. (2017). The Ability of Exercise-Associated Oxidative Stress to Trigger Redox-Sensitive Signaling Responses . Antioxidants (Basel). Aug 10;6(3).