Let’s face it — water can, even at its best, taste boring. But proper post-workout hydration is crucial, especially if you want to recover properly and maintain endurance.
The good news is, water isn’t the only thing you can drink to replenish lost fluids. There’s more options than just your go-to sports drink or bottle of water. For optimal hydration, here are five drinks that hydrate just as well as water — some options may even surprise you.
There’s some good news for chocolate fans. Chocolate milk has double the carbohydrates compared to its plain counterpart, making it a great choice for post-workout recovery. Consuming carbs after exercise replenishes the muscles by replacing the glycogen lost during a workout. Pair carbs with protein and you have the best recovery potential for tired muscles.
Losing too many electrolytes through sweating can also cause an array of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle cramps, and mental confusion. Chocolate milk can help with that. Its high water content can hydrate and replenish essential electrolytes, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Studies have found chocolate milk to be very beneficial, particularly for cyclists, endurance athletes, and runners. One study from 2010 showed that chocolate milk improved recovery and subsequent performance in cyclists more effectively than an isocaloric carbohydrate drink. A 2011 study found milk more effective than water for combating exercise-induced dehydration in children.
Chocolate milk for post-workout has
- high water content
- essential electrolytes
- carbs to replace lost glycogen
We all know the many benefits of coconut water, including its high level of antioxidants and nutrients. So of course it’s no surprise that it’s a good post-workout beverage too. Like Gatorade and other popular sports drinks, coconut water contains high levels of electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium.
In 2012, one study found coconut water to be just as beneficial for post-workout recovery as both sports drinks and water. But the findings also noted that drinking coconut water and coconut water concentrate could cause bloating and an upset stomach compared to sports drinks. So you may want to avoid throwing back a coconut water like you would a sports drink and instead hydrate slowly.
Coconut water also contains less sodium than sports drinks, which is critical for replenishing after sweaty workout sessions. While endurance athletes should probably reach for something else, coconut water is proven to be a great option for lighter workouts.
Coconut water for post-workout contains
- high levels of potassium and magnesium
- lots of antioxidants and nutrients
- less sodium than sports drinks
Recovery for those tired, sore muscles might just already be in your refrigerator. Antioxidant-rich cherry juice aids in reducing inflammation and benefits muscle recovery and function. That sounds like just the ticket for an effective post-workout recovery drink!
One 2010 study examined marathon runners who drank cherry juice both before and after their run and concluded that the juice contributed to quicker muscle recovery. It does this by increasing antioxidants and decreasing inflammation and lipid peroxidation.
A study from 2006 backed up this claim, showing that cherry juice not only decreased muscle damage, but also significantly prevented strength loss when compared to a placebo. While cherry juice can be beneficial for both endurance athletes and everyday workouts alike, it’s important to find the unsweetened version and keep your fill to just one serving (10 ounces).
Cherry juice for post-workout
- aids in anti-inflammatory response
- decreases muscle damage
- prevents strength loss
Your relaxing cup of tea has more benefits than you think. Research shows that tea, both green and black, can be effective in fat oxidation (the process of where fat are broken into smaller molecules that get stored and used for energy) during aerobic exercise and post-workout recovery. Much like cherry juice, tea’s high levels of antioxidants have been shown to help reduce muscle soreness and recover muscle strength quicker.
In one particular study from 2010, trained male athletes found many benefits from drinking tea after completing intensive sprints. Their bloodwork showed that they had higher antioxidant levels and lower cortisol levels after consuming tea rich in the antioxidant theaflavin. The tea also provided less DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for the athletes.
Tea for post-workout
- is effective in fat oxidation
- reduces muscle soreness
- recovers muscle strength
You might be onto something if you love a good happy hour after your workout session. Beer, like sports drinks, contain carbs and electrolytes. And studies have concluded that a beer after exercise doesn’t have negative effects on hydration. In fact, people who consume beer moderately tend to be more active. Light beer with added sodium specifically has been shown to replace fluid loss after high-intensity cycling.
If you can get your hands on nonalcoholic beer, there’s wins there too. Nonalcoholic beer has been shown to reduce post-race inflammation in healthy male runners and upper respiratory tract illness incidence. Moderation is key here, though. Too much alcohol can suppress muscle protein synthesis, making your hard work at the gym all for naught.
Beer for post workout
- contains carbs and electrolytes
- replaces fluid loss
- may reduce post-workout inflammation
These five tasty beverages prove that post-workout hydration doesn't have to be boring. Do you have a go-to recovery drink? Would you try any of these?
Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on “Real Food for a Balanced Life,” seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she's not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her Corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.