If you just finished a tough workout and aren’t exactly thrilled about the idea of chugging down a bottle of water to rehydrate, we’ve got good news. The best drinks to recover after your workout are delicious, nutritious, and can help you recover from your workout more quickly while building muscle. When considering post workout drinks, try these six options that help with recovery.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals in the body that dissolve in water, carry either a positive or negative charge, and conduct electricity. Fruits, beverages, and certain natural beverages, such as unpurified water, coconut water, and milk, naturally contain electrolytes, but many people do not receive enough electrolytes through their diets alone. Instead, many people use electrolyte supplements to keep their electrolytes and fluids balanced. Electrolytes are essential in order to maintain proper function of the body and keep the fluids balanced, and they are primarily found in the blood, sweat, and urine. The body relies on electrolytes to perform a number of essential functions, including:
- Proper hydration
- Nervous system function
- Balancing internal pH levels
- Muscle function
There are seven different electrolytes found in the human body, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate; however, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are found in the body in the largest quantities.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Electrolyte imbalances and poor fluid intake can lead to dehydration, which is a condition that occurs when the levels of fluids in the body become depleted because more fluid is lost than taken in. As a result, people who experience dehydration may be unable to perform certain functions properly or at all. Children and senior citizens are the two age groups considered most at risk of experiencing dehydration, but people of any age can become dehydrated. If you only drink water or other fluids when you feel thirsty, you may be at risk of experiencing chronic dehydration, as thirst is actually a sign of significant dehydration instead of early dehydration. Common signs of dehydration include:
- Diminished urine input
- Dry mouth
- Dark yellow urine
When dehydration reaches severe levels, the condition can be very dangerous. Signs and complications of severe dehydration include:
- Reduced elasticity of the skin
- Drop in blood pressure
- Quickening heart rate
- Sunken eyes
Should I drink electrolytes before or after my workout?
Let’s face it: given what a large role electrolytes play in hydration and the body’s overall function, there’s never a bad time to use an electrolyte supplement. However, the choice to drink electrolytes before, during, or after your workout will vary depending on what type of workout you are doing, how long the workout will be, and how much you normally sweat. Some people don’t sweat much at all, even during intense workouts, while other people are profuse sweaters or excrete a large amount of salt when they sweat. Not sure if you’re a salty sweater or not? If your skin or clothing is covered in a salty residue after your workouts, you are a salty sweater. People who are profuse or salty sweaters should drink electrolytes before they work out in order to stave off any potential imbalances, especially when they will be exercising for an extended period of time, at a high intensity, or in a hot or humid environment.
Most people won’t need to consume electrolytes, carbohydrates, or calories during their workout unless they are planning on working out for longer than an hour or an hour and a half, unless they are profuse or salty sweaters. However, for longer workouts, such as long runs while training for a marathon, you’ll need to replenish electrolytes during your workout. Some people may also need to consume some carbohydrates during longer workouts as well, but you don’t need to get carbohydrates from added sugars in your electrolyte drink. Instead, try eating a small snack that contains complex carbohydrates instead, as these will be less likely to cause an upset stomach while working out.
While some people consume electrolytes before or during their workout, it is far more common for people to use an electrolyte drink after exercise in order to replace electrolytes that the body has lost through sweat. When recovering from a workout that is short, low intensity, or doesn’t cause you to work up much of a sweat, plain water may be enough to rehydrate. However, people who are salty or excessive sweaters or who have worked out for a long time or at a high intensity should boost their hydration levels by using an electrolyte supplement. This is particularly important for individuals who are training for endurance events, such as a marathon, half marathon, or triathlon, because doing intense or long workouts each day can quickly lead to chronic dehydration. When engaging in these activities, be sure to properly replace electrolytes in order to ensure that you do not enter your workouts depleted and dehydrated.
What are the best post workout drinks for recovery?
After a tough workout, it’s time to replenish, rehydrate, and refuel your body. Although conventional wisdom might tell you that water is the best choice for rehydrating after a workout, the best post workout drinks for recovery are actually far more varied. Depending on the type of workout you’re doing and how long you exercised, your body probably needs an electrolyte boost in order to restore minerals that are lost through sweat. Electrolytes help build your muscles after a workout and speed up your recovery, so making sure you replenish your electrolyte stores post workout is critical. The best post workout drinks for recovery include: