After a monster of a workout, when your shirt is stuck to your back like shrinkwrap and your quads feel like lead, you need more than a shower (though you definitely need one of those). You’ve got to replenish lost electrolytes, repair muscle damage, and refuel your body. One way to tackle all three: Reach for the right beverage.
To feel ready to get back at it again tomorrow, guzzle any of these swigs–preferably alongside a recovery meal that includes high-quality protein, veggies and healthy fats, says Sam Presicci, RD at Snap Kitchen and certified personal trainer.
Yep, the default thirst quencher made the cut. “For most casual exercisers –those who work out once a day for about an hour or less–water is a great way to rehydrate and recover,” says Presicci.
You can turn your tap water into a sports drink by adding electrolytes: Sprinkle fresh lemon and Himalayan pink salt to replenish what you lost from sweating, Presicci says.
If you’re going at it in the heat or for more than 90 minutes, this is the one to reach for. Coconut water has naturally occurring electrolytes. Look for an unsweetened variety to keep your blood sugar steady.
“Beets can help speed up recovery, decreasing muscle soreness and inflammation, thanks to the nitrate they contain,” says Presicci, making beet juice a boon after a workout of any length. Break out your juicer, hit the bar, or snap up a bottle at your local store. Just avoid added sugars, preservatives and other additives.
Your six-year-old self was onto something–the combo of protein and carbohydrates in low-fat chocolate milk has the right ratio for refueling muscles. “Muscles rebuild better from the milk vs. a beverage that only contains carbs, because both protein and carbs are needed for recovery,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD.
Tart Cherry Juice
Sipping this juice was found to improve recovery of isometric muscle strength after an intensive workout. “One theory proposed is that the high levels of polyphenols–including flavonoids and anthocyanins- in tart cherry juice help lessen the oxidative damage induced by exercise,” Michalczyk explains. She recommends 10 ounces pre-workout and an additional 10 ounces about 30-minutes afterward, along with a recovery meal containing protein and healthy fats.
There’s a reason these swigs are an athlete’s go-to: “Protein shakes typically contain 25-30 grams of protein per drink or scoop, supporting muscle recovery and growth,” says Michalczyk.
Blend protein powder with fruit (like banana or berries)—pairing protein and carbs replenishes your energy and satisfies post-workout hungries, says Michalczyk. If you’re not doing the buzzing, be mindful that your shake is low in sugar and high in protein.