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Post-Workout Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Nice job! You made it to the studio, put in your time, and totally deserve all the awesome health benefits that come with exercise. Now you just have to stick the dismount.

Easier said than done, unfortunately. From the moment you finish your training session to later on when you’re at home or with friends, you can wipe out all your exercise gains if you unknowlingly make these common post-workout blunders. (Plus, be sure to check out the 5 Mistakes That Wreck Your Workout Performance!) 

You Re-Hydrate With Water
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Water is vital and life sustaining and (usually) the healthiest thing you could swig. But if you’ve wrapped up a vigorous workout—especially a Bikram practice or some other activity that made you sweat a bunch—plain old H2O isn’t going to cut it, says Joy Dubost, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Your body needs electrolytes like potassium and sodium to avoiding cramping and to repair muscle damage. Dubost recommends gulping 16 to 24 oz of an electrolyte beverage for every pound of sweat you shed during your workout. Research shows milk may be just as good (or even better) than commercial sports drinks, Dubost adds. (Plus, find out How Salt Can Help You Run Faster on Race Day.)

You Immediately Check Your Email
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Stress elevates your body’s inflammation levels and hurts your muscles’ ability to bounce back after a workout, shows a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. And checking your email ups your stress levels, suggests a study from Computers in Human Behavior. So if you’re checking your work email the minute you finish your training session, you may be undoing some of those hard-earned exercise benefits by cranking your stress levels back up, this research indicates. 

You Skip the Spinach
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Spinach, nuts, and beans are all good sources of magnesium—a nutrient that nearly half of all Americans don’t get enough of, finds research published in Nutrition Reviews. That’s bad news, because your body requires magnesium for proper muscle function and recovery, according to a 2014 study in PLOS One. If you’re not eating foods with plenty of magnesium in the evenings after you exercise, your muscles may be suffering for it. 

You Sip a Glass of Wine
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This is a bummer, because you’ve definitely earned that glass of pinot. But the type of antioxidants found in red wine may neutralize the free radicals that circulate in your blood after exercise, shows a study from the Journal of Physiology. Those free radicals fire up your muscle’s adaptations to exercise. So if you knock them out with red wine, your heart and other muscles may not grow as strong as they normally would from your training, according to the study. 

You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
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You muscles need plenty of Zs in order to fully repair themselves after a tough workout, shows research from the journal Sleep Medicine. If you’re sleeping less than the seven or eight hours your body and brain crave every night, that lack of sack time shuts off the protein pathways that allow your muscles to rebound after exercise, finds a Brazilian study on sleep and muscle function. (Trouble actually falling asleep? See these 3 Ways to Prevent Post-Workout Insomnia.)

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