3 Things You Need to Do Immediately After a Workout For Maximum Results

Your workout may be over| but it’s not time to rest just yet. From our friends at Shape: why those 30 minutes after your sweat session are also important.

In a perfect world| I’d end a workout feeling energized| my face glistening with a kiss of dewy sweat. Because my life isn’t busy or stressful at all| I’d have plenty of time to cool down and zen out with a few yoga poses. Then I’d sip on a delicious| blended-to-order smoothie with just the right balance of protein and carbs| and waltz straight into an open shower stocked with all my favorite bath products so I’d never need to haul them along in my gym bag.

In reality| I immediately start stressing about all the stuff I have to do post-workout| so I fake-stretch on the mats for roughly 34 seconds and sprint to the locker room to nab a shower| where the wait is longer than at the DMV. So instead of using the generic bath products that make my hair and skin drier than the Sahara| I trek home in soggy clothes| eat nothing| and rush to get on with my day.

The perfect post-gym routine is easier said than done. But how you handle those 30 minutes immediately following a sweat session is just as important as the workout. Since we know it’s impossible to snack| stretch| and shower all at once| we recruited three top experts to weigh in and prioritize your post-sweat session routine¡ªso you don’t have to.

0:00-10:00 Minutes: Stretch and Roll

The very first and most important thing you should do following a workout is stretch while your muscles are still warm. “You need to stretch before the muscles have time to cool down| which takes 30-40 minutes|” says Jordan D. Metzl| MD| a doctor of sports medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “When the muscle cools| it contracts| and if you try to loosen it up| you can cause injury|” he says. Metzl recommends at least five minutes of stretching after a workout followed by five minutes of ironing out the kinks with a foam roller for proper recovery. “Ten minutes total is realistic for most people.” Try the Trigger Point Therapy GRID Foam Roller ($40| tptherapy.com). (See 6 Good Reasons You Need to Stretch for more convincing.)

10:00-20:00 Minutes: Change Your Clothes

Next| ditch your soggy sports bra and tights| even if you don’t have time to shower. “If you can’t wash| get out of wet clothes as soon as you can|” says Neal Schultz| MD| a dermatologist in New York City and the founder of BeautyRx Skincare. “They trap moisture that encourages the growth of germs| bacteria| fungus and yeast| which could invite a skin infection or cause breakouts|” says Schultz. It won’t make a difference whether you change within two| five or 10 minutes| but don’t wait longer than a half hour.

If for some reason you can’t shower or you forget extra clothes| Schultz suggests dampening a towel with water and patting your body| then pat with a dry towel to soak up as much moisture as possible in a pinch. “Bacteria doesn’t stand a chance of multiplying if you remove the moisture|” he says.

If you’re especially worried about breakouts| it’s much more important to cleanse your face before exercise rather than after. Schultz suggests removing your makeup and washing your face or swiping with a cleansing wipe. Try tossing something that’s easy to use on-the-go in your gym bag| like Beauty RX Exercise Kit ($12| beautyrx.com). (Try The Best Sweat-Proof Makeup too.)

20:00-30:00 Minutes: Refuel for Recovery

Last¡ªbut certainly not least¡ªmake sure to take in some food within 30 minutes of your workout. “That will optimize recovery| help reduce muscle soreness| and help you perform better during your workout the following day|” says Mitzi Dulan| RD| author of The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin. “The 30-minute window is the peak time for potential to start rebuilding and replenishing muscles|” she says.

Pack a snack in your gym bag that aligns with your goals. Dulan suggests aiming for about 200 calories with about a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of carbs to protein if you are trying to lose weight. If you are training for an event or wanting to maintain your current weight| aim for 300-400 calories with a ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein. Some options include: two Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites| anOrganic Valley Organic Fuel High Protein Milk Shake| orGoodFoods’ Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad. (Or try one of these 5 Great Packaged Post-Workout Snacks.)

Image Source: Shutterstock