Plain water is the best choice to rehydrate for most people (see these tips to stay hydrated all day ‘err day), but if you’re looking for an added nutrition boost or recovery potential, some of these new post-workout beverages could change the game. Sure, we all love a good glass of chocolate milk every now and again, but LBH—sometimes a girl has to mix it up. Here’s how.
1. Immunity-boosting water
Benefits: This new type of water is infused with fruit instead of added sugars or artificial flavors, and it retains the fruit’s antioxidants along with added prebiotics for healthy digestion (here’s why prebiotics are important). If plain H2O generally isn’t your favorite, these options are a tastier way to drink more of it.
Where to find it: Uncle Matt’s Organics Fruit-Infused Probiotic Water has antioxidants from organic cold-pressed orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel. It has less than 10 calories per serving and its GanedenBC30 probiotics may help prevent muscle soreness and improve recovery after your workout.
2. Tart cherry juice
Benefits: The antioxidants in tart cherry juice may help promote recovery after your workout, making it a hot item amongst athletes. In small studies, taking tart cherry juice before and after training helped lower inflammation after intense exercise, improved muscle strength recovery, and reduced pain . Based on the amounts used in the research so far, you may benefit from drinking 10 fluid ounces of tart cherry juice before and after your workout.
Where to find it: Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have their own tart cherry juice. Make sure you choose cold-pressed to ensure the highest antioxidant content. But keep in mind that 10 ounces is about 160 calories, so work that into your nutrition goals for the day.
3. Protein water
Benefits: Whey protein in particular has been shown to boost the immune system, thanks to lactoferrin, which spikes insulin levels and helps your muscles absorb more glucose to replace glycogen stores. Having whey protein after a workout can help improve recovery, and may help reduce your hunger more than other proteins like soy or casein.
Where to find it: Protein2o is 70 calories, 2 grams of carbs and 15 grams of whey protein in a 16.9 ounce bottle. It’s lactose free and naturally flavored. (See: The scoop on protein powder and which one is best for you.)
And with all of these beverages, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start sipping.
Check the calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, keep an eye on the calories in your post-workout beverage. It’s all too easy to burn off a ton of calories in the gym only to drink ’em back on with a recovery juice or smoothie. Look for lower-calorie beverage options because liquids don’t fill you up like food does, and unless your workout was particularly intense or longer than an hour, you don’t need to take in sugar.
Avoid artificial sweeteners. If you need to add some zip to your water, remember that “diet” drinks are loaded with artificial sweeteners. Those sugar alcohols can lead to digestive upset—the last thing you need after a good workout. Check the ingredient list for words ending in “ol” (such as xylitol), and if you spot it, put the drink back on the shelf.
Refill those electrolytes. Was your workout super intense, longer than an hour, or in really hot, humid weather? Did you notice salt stains on your clothes or grit on your face from salty sweat? These are all signs you need to replace sodium and potassium, electrolytes that are important for keeping heart rhythms and blood pressure stable. You can use a sports drink with electrolytes during exercise, or add salt to your post-workout meal. If you’re exercising for longer than an hour, choose a beverage with carbohydrates to keep your energy up—you can make your own electrolyte drink with this DIY recipe.
Fill up on food. Keep in mind that these hydration options aren’t replacements for post-workout fuel. Here are some ideas on what to eat after a workout to get the carbohydrates and lean protein you need for optimal recovery and to avoid overeating later.