by Jessica Remitz
With new energy and sport drinks hitting the market at a sprinting pace, it can be challenging to determine the best way to refuel after a workout without undoing all your hard work.
If you’ve exercised for under an hour, water is a perfect no-calorie thirst quencher to replace any fluid you may have lost. For longer or more challenging workouts (think high intensity training sessions — an hour or more of cycling or a particularly long run), you’ll want to refuel with a blend of carbohydrates and protein. This will help your muscles recover and give your body back the important nutrients — like sodium and potassium — it excretes during intense, prolonged activity.
Next time you’re looking to refuel from a serious sweat session, try one of these recovery drinks:
This childhood favorite has an excellent carbohydrate-to-protein ratio to replenish fluids and help tired muscles recover. Perfect for cyclists, swimmers or runners, chocolate milk also packs a nutritional bonus with calcium, sugar in the form of lactose and vitamin D (found in fortified milk). (For the record, researchers admit that they don’t yet understand what it is exactly about chocolate milk that gives it the advantage over carbohydrate beverages, but we’ll take it!)
Iced Green Tea
An excellent source of catechins, a plant-based antioxidant, green tea can help battle cancer, heart disease and even fight fat. A study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that daily consumption of tea containing catechins might help prevent obesity and reduce belly fat, making a cold glass of green tea the perfect way to rehydrate after working out. Just be sure to brew your own at home, or pick up a bottle of unsweetened tea, to avoid added sugars and unwanted extra calories.
With a light, fruity flavor and less sugar than most sports drinks, coconut water is a great, fat- and cholesterol-free way to rehydrate. It also provides your body with potassium, which helps regulate fluids in the body as well as helping your muscles contract and relax properly.
One-hundred percent vegetable juice is a perfect way to get in a few servings of veggies post-workout while replacing the sodium and potassium your body loses when you sweat. Vegetable juice also contains the right protein-to-carbohydrate ratio that’s optimal for recovery. Plus, it’s a great option for those of us who crave salt after a long workout.
If you’ve exercised for well over an hour, a sports drink that is formulated with the nutrients your muscles need to recover can be a great option. Look for drinks with sodium, potassium and electrolytes to help replace fluids lost during exercise, but be on the lookout for high calories and unnecessary sugars. Consider cutting your drink with water to temper the sugary taste and keep calories consumed under control.