When it comes time to replenish key nutrients after intense activity, sometimes plain water won’t cut it if you want to do more than simply rehydrate. The following four healthy drinks are wise choices to aid performance and boost muscle recovery.
Iced green tea
Not only does green tea contain caffeine, which boosts speed and endurance, it’s also full of heart disease and cancer-fighting antioxidants including catechins, which can minimize exercise-induced muscle damage, and also speed recovery. Active people who regularly consume green tea have also been shown to have less belly fat than those who stick to exercise alone. Tip: Stick to the unsweetened variety to avoid taking in empty calories.
Want to avoid muscle cramps during and after exercise? Keep charley horses at bay by choosing coconut water, which contains significantly more potassium than sports drinks, helping to maintain water and sodium balance and allowing muscles to contract and relax at optimal levels. Coconut water is nowhere near as calorie-laden as its milk counterpart, and it is naturally fat free with enough carbohydrates to fuel an hour-long workout. Find it in flavors such as chocolate, mango and passion fruit.
What’s one of the best choices to drink post-run? Believe it or not, it’s chocolate milk. This vitamin D and calcium-loaded treat from your childhood has a nearly perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which are both key nutrients that muscles need for recovery. Drinking chocolate milk has also been shown to increase the time it takes to reach exhaustion during an intense cardio session and reduce the time it takes to restore fluid levels following hot weather workouts better than water or sports drinks. Added bonus: Milk has long been proven to increase bone strength and help build lean muscle.
Tart cherry juice
To reduce the risk of injury during a particularly intense training cycle, reach for a cup of tart cherry juice after working out. A 2010 study conducted by British researchers revealed that runners who drank 16 ounces of tart cherry juice in the days before, the day of, and days after running a marathon dealt with less inflammation, and muscle damage and joint stress. Cherries also contain more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than most other types of fruit, successfully boosting heart health, circulation and proper nerve function. Guzzle mindfully, though, as cherry juice is high in natural sugars.