7 Drinks That Boost Performance

To stay hydrated during a run, you have dozens of choices. But sports drinks, loaded with calories and sodium, aren't designed to be consumed outside of training. For recovery and performance benefits you can get throughout the day, sip on one of these seven beverages.

Coffee - Several studies suggest drinking this black gold can help you dodge a stroke, certain cancers, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Why such a super-drink? Scientists believe the secret lies in the synergistic interaction between the powerful antioxidants and caffeine in coffee beans. What's more, several studies, including a 2008 report in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, have concluded that consuming caffeine before or during exercise helps you work harder and longer.

Caffeine is a central nervous stimulant so it gives a runner a perception of using less effort, says Tara Gidus, a Florida-based dietitian and marathon runner. "However, coffee may irritate the stomach and raise heart rate, so experiment with small amounts before a run to see if you get gastrointestinal and jittery side-effects," she adds. To keep it healthy, avoid adding ingredients like sugar and cream. Gidus suggests low-fat milk or the calorie-free sweetener Truvia instead.

Sip on this: Fair trade, single estate Doi Chaang Coffee (doichaangcoffee.com) is packed with flavor and environmental do-goodery.

Yerba Mate Tea -  If you're not a coffee drinker but still need a little early morning or pre-run jolt, try steeping this national drink of Argentina. Gleaned from leaves of a South American shrub, mate naturally includes three peppy stimulants--caffeine, theobromine (the 'happy' chemical in chocolate) and theophylline--without coffee's side-effects. Each cup of brewed loose leaf mate has roughly 85 milligrams of caffeine compared to 135 in coffee. Traditionally used as a digestive aid, phytochemical- and vitamin-rich mate has been found to improve cholesterol levels and memory, reduce weight gain, and increase the body's antioxidant defense system, which may accelerate muscle recovery after exercise. If you find mate too bitter or grassy in taste, cut it by adding a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Sip on this: Guayaki (guayaki.com) has a wide selection of fair trade, rain-forest-grown loose leaf and bottled mate products.

Kefir -  Available at most supermarkets, kefir drinks are laced with probiotics like those found in yogurt. Probiotics--good-for-you critters that help regulate your digestive system--are also believed to strengthen the immune system. In fact, the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported in 2008 that probiotics activate immune cells in distance runners, thereby reducing the severity of respiratory illnesses such as colds. Originally from Eastern Europe, this fermented dairy product is also packed with protein and carbs for muscle recovery, vitamin B12 for energy metabolism and a big chunk of your daily requirement for stress-fracture fighting calcium and vitamin D.

Sip on this: After a workout, pop the top on a Lifeway (lifeway.net) lowfat kefir smoothie.

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