Good news to all the chocolate lovers out there. Not only is chocolate milk delicious, but it also ranks as the best post-workout beverage, according to nutritionists. Just one glass of low-fat chocolate milk provides about 8 grams of protein. It’s also packed with carbohydrates and many other important nutrients and electrolytes that are commonly lost through sweating, such as calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and blood pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissues. Losing too many electrolytes through sweating can cause fatigue and muscle cramps. Chocolate milk can help with that. One study from 2011 found it to be more effective than water at combating exercise-induced dehydration in children.
Coconut water is known for its many health benefits, all thanks to its high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. So it comes as no surprise that coconut water is a great post-workout drink. Besides being refreshing, coconut water also contains electrolytes like magnesium and potassium. One study found it as beneficial as sports drinks and water for post-workout recovery.
The drawback of coconut water is that it’s low in carbs, proteins, and sodium. The study also noted that drinking high amounts of coconut water or coconut water concentrate could cause bloating and an upset stomach. The best way to incorporate coconut in your post-workout routine is to add it into a smoothie or shake instead of drinking it by itself.
Orange juice is usually associated with breakfast, but it can be a great post-workout drink, no matter what time of the day you decide to break a sweat. While some people may avoid orange juice due to its acidity, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences concluded that orange juice satisfies thirst without causing stomach distress after a workout.
In addition to immunity-boosting vitamin C, 100 percent orange juice also provides you with potassium and other electrolytes. The natural sugars found in orange juice help replenish energy and minerals, leading to faster recovery. To learn more about the health benefits of orange juice, check out our previous article Top 10 Ways Oranges Keep You Healthy.
Beetroot juice is rich in potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and sodium. A small study also showed that drinking beetroot juice boosts physical performance. It does so by increasing the levels of nitric oxide (NO), which serves multiple functions related to increased blood flow and improved muscle contraction.
It is generally recommended to drink 7 to 10 ounces of beetroot juice immediately after a taxing activity. Since beetroot juice doesn’t contain the sufficient amount of protein you need after a workout, it would be wise to add it into a shake rather than drink it plain.
Antioxidant-rich cherry juice is an excellent choice for a post-workout drink. It is known to reduce inflammation and benefits muscle functioning. This claim is backed by a study, which found cherry juice to decrease muscle damage. Cherry juice was also found to significantly prevent strength loss compared to a placebo.
However, registered dietitian Amy Gorin notes that cherry juice lacks the proper amount of carbs you need after a workout. And while it can be beneficial for both endurance athletes and everyday workouts, it’s important to find an unsweetened version of the drink.
You probably already know that a relaxing cup of tea goes a long way. Research shows that both green and black tea help in fat oxidation during aerobic exercise and post-workout recovery. Fat oxidation is the process where fats are broken into smaller molecules that get stored and used for energy. Much like cherry juice, the high levels of antioxidants found in tea have been shown to reduce muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery.
Related: Recipes & Health Benefits of Different Kinds of Tea
It may sound surprising, but drinking coffee after a workout has some benefits. For example, coffee has been found to decrease muscle pain by blocking the activity of a chemical called adenosine, which is released as part of the inflammatory response to injury or exertion.
That being said, it’s the least helpful option on this list. That’s because coffee tends to be a bit dehydrating, which is the opposite of what you need for a post-workout beverage. However, consuming caffeine as a pre-workout drink may improve your performance.
Happy hour after a workout session may not be such a bad idea! Like sports drinks, beer contains carbs and electrolytes. According to several studies, it also doesn't have negative effects on hydration. Light beer with added sodium, in particular, has been shown to replace fluid loss after high-intensity cycling.
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