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Replenishing nutrients following a workout is essential for helping our bodies recover, repair and refuel. Your post-workout recovery drink, however, doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive, pre-bottled muscle milk/shake/smoothie or a self-mixed supplement powder drink. You can save yourself time and money by opting for something easier, cheaper and, in many cases, something you already have in your refrigerator or cupboard.
Here are some of the best – and most convenient – post-workout recovery drinks:
That’s right, water. It’s usually plentiful at the gym or in the home, making it the first source of rehydration as soon as you’ve finished your workout. Weigh yourself before and after workouts. For every pound of water weight lost in a workout, replace it with 16-20 ounces of water. While water has no calories, it also has no proteins or carbohydrates. For that reason, when you opt for water as your workout recovery drink, accompany it with a snack that replenishes lost proteins and carbohydrates.
It’s not just for kids! Chocolate milk has a carbohydrates-to-protein ratio in the neighborhood of 4:1, making it an ideal source of replenishment and restoration of muscle glycogen. Studies have shown that chocolate milk speeds up recovery and increases the time to reach exhaustion in the subsequent exercise session.
Like electrolyte-rich sports drinks, drinking 100% fruit juices helps replenish electrolytes lost through sweating, as well as carbohydrates and glucose. Tart cherry juice is growing in popularity because it contains anti-inflammatory chemicals that help prevent muscle damage and reduce muscle soreness. Cherry juice is also very high in heart-friendly antioxidants.
Made with yogurt and frozen berries, fruit smoothies provide simple sugars from fruit that help replenish glycogen stores fast. They also deliver protein sources to repair muscles, as well as vitamins and antioxidants.
Drinks like Powerade and Gatorade offer quick replenishment of electrolytes lost in sweat. Many of them also contain helpful levels of calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Read the label on these drinks, however, because many of them are high in calories, which may be counterproductive following shorter workouts.
We’re talking about coconut water, not coconut milk. An 11-ounce glass of coconut water contains 14 grams of sugar and 670 milligrams of potassium, which far surpasses what sports drinks deliver. Potassium works with sodium to maintain water balance and trigger muscles to optimally contract and relax.
Vegetable juices have lots of helpful nutrients. Tomato-based juices are particularly helpful because they contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant that protects muscles from the stress caused by exercise. Many vegetable juices also have a much higher level of potassium than sports drinks.
The iced version is probably more ideal immediately after workouts, when you’re trying to cool down, but hot green tea works just as well. Green tea is a great source of catechins, which are the antioxidants that fight heart disease and cancer. A recent study showed that drinking five cups of green tea every day for three months may help reduce belly fat.
Hot coffee doesn’t sound like an enticing muscle-recovery drink but it (along with the iced coffee) does offer benefits. Caffeine in coffee helps accelerate the absorption of carbohydrates, which the body needs after workouts in order to refuel glycogen stores. Keep in mind that most bodies only contain enough glycogen for one intense workout, so quick replenishment is key, especially on double-workout days.
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Rest and/or active recovery: First of all, ease into workouts. If you haven’t been working out on a regular basis, going full throttle right away, particularly with consecutive-day workouts, is going to result and aching muscles.
Hydrate: Drinking water during and after exercise helps the body rid itself of toxins, while fighting off dehydration, which can result in painful muscles and excruciating muscle cramps.
Proper nutrition: Protein sources are necessary to rebuild muscle tissue and fuel the function of various cells, tissues and enzymes. Carbohydrates are vital, as well.