If you regularly engage in intense exercise training, it’s important to pay close attention to what you consume after your workouts. This holds especially true for workouts lasting longer than an hour, as there arises a need to replenish the water, carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during prolonged physical activity.
I generally prefer consuming beverages over solid foods, as the nutrients they house tend to digest and absorb relatively quicker. Beverages can also help satisfy the body’s immediate rehydration demands faster than water alone.
Now, I’m not talking about traditional sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde, as a lot of these contain added sugars and artificial ingredients that may hinder rather than support your efforts at the gym. To adequately refuel, recharge and restore your body after workouts, here are five incredibly nourishing drinks I recommend trying.
Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
After a long strenuous workout, drinking chocolate milk can be much more beneficial than plain ole water and most sports drinks. In addition to being a great source of vitamin D and the bone-building electrolyte mineral calcium, chocolate milk has a superior carbohydrate-to-protein ratio that greatly supports muscle recovery and repair.
For convenience, non-fat chocolate milk will suffice, but I highly recommend adding pure cocoa powder to low-fat milk for maximum nutrition.
Pure cocoa powder contains a naturally rich supply of antioxidants that help counter exercise-produced free radicals and improve immune responsiveness after intense workouts. For best results, opt for high-quality, minimally processed cocoa powder with a cocoa content of 70% or more and monitor your portions.
Pure Coconut Water
Due to its rich content of potassium, sodium, magnesium and other electrolytes, pure coconut water has been deemed by many as “Nature’s Gatorade”. While potassium and sodium are critical for muscle contraction and proper functioning of nerves, magnesium enables efficient delivery of oxygen to muscles.
Since electrolytes also play key roles in maintaining fluid balance, drinking a cup or two of coconut water to replenish them can help boost recovery and subsequent exercise performance. Coconut water is also a good source of B-vitamins and the potent antioxidant vitamin C, which collectively aid in recovery from intense training.
Celery Juice or Celery-Based Juices
Celery is generally very satisfying in juiced form and, unbeknownst to many, celery juice and celery-based juices serve as great electrolyte replacement drinks after a workout. In and of itself, celery is a valuable source of vitamin C, potassium and vitamin K, which supports a healthy metabolism and aids in the regulation of blood flow.
In addition, celery contains a powerful compound called coumarin. Coumarin compounds are active components of herbs and medications frequently used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure. These compounds help to keep blood flowing smoothly in your body, facilitating efficient delivery of oxygen to recovering muscles.
For an amazing post-workout tonic, blend celery juice with tomato or apple juice for sweetness and added nutrition.
Egg White Protein Shake or Smoothie
Egg whites are an excellent source of protein and they are naturally lactose-free. You can create a quick and convenient workout recovery drink by consuming egg white protein powder in shake or smoothie form. Egg white protein delivers a rich supply of all essential amino acids including branched chain amino acids like leucine, which plays a critical role in muscle growth and repair.
Leucine also enhances muscle protein synthesis and facilitates the shuttling of carbohydrates into muscle to be stored as glycogen, which prevents the breaking down of protein after a workout. Plus, the body digests and absorbs egg white protein very efficiently allowing for quick uptake of amino acids by muscles. This is especially beneficial if you regularly lift weights.
Drinking water infused with fruits, vegetables and herbs is a great way to stay hydrated while boosting your energy levels before, during, and after workouts. Citrus fruits, berries, apple, pineapple, melons, cucumber, mint, and cilantro make great choices, as they are all rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and potassium.
Best of all, fruit-infused water is cheap and very simple to make.
Simply add your favorite ingredients to a picture of lukewarm drinking water. That’s it! Some of my personal favorite combinations include: 1) lemons, limes and oranges; 2) mixed berries; 3) strawberries and oranges; 4) cucumber and mint; and 5) cantaloupe and honeydew melons. For maximal results, chill your infused water for at least two hours prior to consuming it.
Adequate fluid intake and hydration are critical for optimal recovery after a workout. While drinking water is always ideal, it’s also important to incorporate nutrient-rich beverages after exercise so that your body is sufficiently nourished in such a way that ensures full recuperation. These five beverages are great choices as they are all-natural sources of key electrolytes, antioxidants and other important vitamins and minerals.
Now, if you generally engage in exercise for health benefits or weight loss, you can easily achieve adequate rehydration by consuming some of the water-based beverages I’ve highlighted here like coconut and infused waters, as these are relatively lower in calories. In this case, it’s best to drink at least 2-3 eight-ounce cups immediately after your workout.