Water is the best drink on this planet, hands down!
But when it comes to post-workout recovery, many other drinks outperform water. An ideal post-workout drink should:
- Lubricate the bone joints
- Bring down the heart rate
- Lower the body temperature
- Repair the damaged muscles
- Prevent muscle cramps
- Alleviate fatigue
- Regulate the metabolism
- Energize the body for the next day’s workout
And, of course, prevent dehydration!
Had water ticked all these boxes, the energy drinks wouldn’t have been a billion-dollar industry!
So, if you’re like me, who stays away from artificial energy booster drinks and enhanced vitamin water, you’re always on the lookout for natural ways to restore the body salts after a rigorous gym session or a high-intensity workout.
Allow me to share some refreshing and energizing post-workout drinks devoid of artificial flavor enhancers and added sugar. I will cite relevant research and experience to convince you.
1. Drinks Having a 4:1 Carbohydrates/Protein Ratio
An intense exercise session generates a lot of stress within the body affecting the immune system. It often leads to muscle inflammation and internal trauma if not treated well.
That’s why a higher ratio of carbs/protein is recommended by this research. The combination of both enables you to raise glycogen levels. Glycogen is the energy reserve between meals. So the 4:1 ratio seems ideal for endurance athletes who train daily.
Let me break it down for you to follow:
- One medium banana + One glass of low-fat milk
- Smoothie: Greek yogurt + 1/2 cup of fresh berries
- Almond Milk (Little higher in fat)
If maintaining the correct ratio is tricky, make sure the carbs percentage is on the higher side.
For example, if you’re making a smoothie, Greek yogurt contains roughly 18gm protein and 7gm carbs in a 100 calorie serving (6 oz.). You need at least 72 gm carbs (4 * 18) to get the correct ratio. 1.5 cups of blueberries have about 31 gm of carbs. 2 tbsp of honey has approx 34 gm carbs.
Voila, you have exactly 72 gms carbs!
You can check the nutrition facts of different food items here to make different combinations.
2. Herbal Tea
I don’t know about you, but I love herbal teas. Cinnamon, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, turmeric, etc., you name it. And it turns out they’re one of the best post-workout drinks.
The nutrients and chemical compounds present in herbal teas enable the body to process carbohydrates and protein efficiently.
A 2016 research studying the effects of herbal tea after exercise found that it helps your body recover in the 24 hours, making you ready for your next.
Herbal teas also improve blood glucose, insulin, blood lipid levels, diarrhea, and stomach ulcers. The antioxidants present in green tea are effective in breaking down body fat and reducing muscle soreness.
So, don’t feel guilty about sipping some tea soon after your workout.
3. Tangy Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice is more than a tasty delight!
Research explains the benefits of tart cherry juice: The high amounts of polyphenols in tart cherry juice, which are packed with potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, help you reduce muscular pain and recover faster after intense exercises.
If you have tooth sensitivity, I suggest you mix it with a banana smoothie. The sweetness of the banana cuts the acidity of the cherry. You still reap the same benefits!
For best results, drink 10 ounces pre and post-workout.
4. Prune Juice
Prune juice is the most underrated drink. It’s often considered something to be consumed by older people.
But that’s not true.
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, prunes are rated as the #1 antioxidant-rich food. The antioxidants play a significant role in repairing muscle tissue after a workout because of the free radical protection. They also give the body a quick carb supply that can replenish glycogen levels.
I started consuming prune juice early this year and found it quite refreshing and helpful.
Prunes are high in potassium (3.7g/l), iron (10–15mg/l), magnesium (120–200mg/l), calcium (180–225mg/l), and zinc (5–9.5mg/l), as well as vitamins (E, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C…) that we lose through sweating.
5. Tomato Juice
No, you don’t have to be sitting on the plane to drink tomato juice!
Research says that tomato juice drastically lowers muscle injury. Tomatoes contain an antioxidant compound called “lycopene” that helps in the muscle repair process by reducing inflammation.
Tomatoes are a better source of hydration than water as it contains high levels of potassium and electrolytes that make you feel energized after a heavy workout.
Tip: If you’re a food enthusiast like me who loves to experiment, add a stick of celery and some nutmeg or some Tabasco and black pepper to amp up the tomato flavor.
Why should a post-workout drink be bland!