Whether you're training for a marathon or regularly logging hard workouts every week, refueling properly is the key for staying healthy and maintaining energy. But did you know that your choice of post-workout beverage or snack may also have an effect on your ability to avoid injury and reduce muscle soreness and pain? It's not just sports drinks and protein bars anymore; there are several more natural options available that are chock full of nutrients that can help you recover faster.
Chocolate MilkIf you've ever participated in a marathon or half marathon, it's highly likely the post-race spread included chocolate milk. That's no coincidence, as chocolate milk has long been touted as an optimal recovery drink.
"Chocolate milk has a beneficial carb-to-protein ratio when it comes to recovery, as well as provides key electrolytes for refueling after a workout, such as calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium," Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a sports dietitian in New York City, says.
"Whole or two-percent milk also has protein that helps with the repairing and rebuilding process of muscle tissues, and the carbohydrates in milk aid in glycogen repletion after hard workouts," Lauren Papanos, MS, RD, a sports dietitian and performance dietitian coordinator in the athletic department at UCLA, adds.
Tart Cherry Juice
Research has shown that tart cherry juice is beneficial in increasing blood flow during and after a workout, in turn reducing muscle soreness.
"Tart cherry juice is a great anti-inflammatory option that can help to mitigate training response if consumed one to two hours post-workout," Papanos says.
Just be sure to opt for juices that are free of added sugar and made with whole fruits.
Coconut water is high in potassium and magnesium, which can help reduce post-workout cramping, making it an ideal natural alternative to traditional sports drinks for replenishing electrolytes.
Consuming beet juice before a big workout or race has gained popularity in recent years due to the fact that research suggests it might have a boosting effect on V02 max and performance . However, research has also shown that consuming beetroot juice after a workout can help speed up muscle recovery as well because its nitrate content aids in reducing inflammation.
Beer is another common post-race party find that many runners might associate as simply a reward for finishing. However, non-alcoholic beers contain energy in the form of carbs, sugar and protein, plus salt and other vitamins in similar amounts to sports drinks. According to a study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology , any drink under two-percent alcohol by volume (ABV) is rehydrating, and anything above that is dehydrating. As a result, non-alcoholic beer or beer with a low ABV can help reduce inflammation in addition to reducing the risk of upper-respiratory tract infections after exercise, according to a study published by the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
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