What Ingredients Should You Look for in a Post Workout Recovery Drink?
One often-overlooked aspect of a workout routine is post-workout recovery. Exercise depletes your body of nutrients, water, and electrolytes, so making sure you find ways to replenish your body after a workout is important to your overall well being. Taking care of yourself post-workout also means you’ll bounce back from any post-workout soreness and fatigue quicker, meaning it will be easier to maintain a routine.
There’s some debate among fitness fanatics on what the best post-workout recovery drink is. Some go with plain old water, while others choose protein shakes or even chocolate milk.
The truth is, post-workout drinks are not one-size-fits-all. The drink you need depends on the type of workouts that are in your routine, as well as their intensity and length. Longer, more intense workouts will mean you have a higher need for electrolyte replacement and carbohydrate intake than shorter, lower-impact exercise.
What ingredients should you seek out - and which should you avoid - when it comes to a post-workout beverage?
What does your body need for post-workout recovery?
The most important thing you should focus on when recovering from a workout is hydration. Studies have shown that 32% of athletes start exercising while dehydrated, and around 44% are dehydrated after training. Dehydration can negatively affect workout performance and general wellbeing.
You may have heard that the most important thing to focus on getting into your body after a workout is electrolytes. But contrary to popular belief, if you’re into mild or moderate exercise, you may be able to fulfill your hydration needs by simply drinking water.
Physical exertion does affect your body’s need for certain nutrients, though. And if you have specific workout goals like building muscle mass, you’ll need to monitor your intake of macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates for best results.
What are electrolytes, anyway?
Electrolytes are minerals that perform many vital functions in the human body. Here are some of the things they do:
- Regulate muscle contractions
- Help your body hold onto water so you can stay hydrated
- Control nervous system function
If you’re low on electrolytes, you may feel tired, achy, and nauseous. You may even experience muscle cramps.
Your need for electrolyte replacement depends on the intensity and length of your workouts. Also, electrolytes are more commonly found in foods than you think; strawberries, oranges, avocados, chicken, and many more are all great sources. All this to say, sugary sports drinks may not always be necessary.
What micro and macronutrients do you need post-recovery?
Electrolytes don’t need to be the sole focus of post-workout nutrition; after a workout it’s a good idea to focus on your macronutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well.
Protein is a key macronutrient required for building muscle, as well as for losing fat. If you’re working out regularly, your protein needs are higher than someone who is mostly sedentary.
The best way to get enough protein in you is to generally eat high-protein meals spread out across your day. This way, you don’t need to worry about consuming all the protein you need post-workout. However, protein shakes pre- and post workout are effective as well. If you want to supplement your protein intake, look for a post-workout drink with protein.
Popular culture has told us that carbs are the enemy, but your body truly needs them. Carbs give you energy, and are also necessary for building and repairing muscle.
It’s recommended to eat more carbs if you’re training for endurance than strength, but in both cases carbs are needed. As with protein, you can get carbs from the food you eat, or you can seek out a drink that will supplement your carb intake post-workout, such as a smoothie with fruit. You can even drink milk or add it to your smoothie or post-workout shake, since milk is a great source of both carbs and protein.
Sports drinks normally contain carbs, but mostly in the form of plain sugar, which is not the healthiest way to get carbs in you.
Strain on your muscles increases inflammation within your body. To an extent, this inflammation is actually helpful for building muscle, but too much leads to significant discomfort.
Antioxidants are best consumed after a workout to aid recovery, rather than in bulk amounts before or during a workout. If you’re working out regularly, try to eat foods or take supplements with vitamins A, C, and E, since they are all antioxidants.
Are sports drinks worth it?
Many sports drinks are formulated to prioritize taste over health. Most sports drinks are chock full of sugar, not to mention artificial dyes and flavorings. They contain too much sugar and not enough nutrients.
If you’re doing extremely high-impact workouts, or very lengthy workout sessions that last 2 hours or more, you may need to plan to increase your intake of calories or carbs afterwards. But most people don’t need to consume excess sugar after working out - especially not the 30+ grams of sugar that many sports drinks contain.
In addition, you may not need to chug a ton of electrolytes after every workout - that is, unless your workouts are very intense. It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals in general through the food you eat, or by taking supplements.
Rather than drinking tons of empty calories through sugary beverages and calling it a day, focus on your levels of macro and micronutrients. You can get these not only from your post-workout drink, but also from the food you eat. Research shows that avoiding food after a workout can hamper your progress and lead to fatigue, so it’s best not to rely on your drink alone after a workout.
Flavored vitamin drinks may help you stay motivated to drink water and keep the vitamin and mineral levels in your body in check. When your body’s nutrient levels are balanced, you can feel better and put more into your workouts. In addition, they often contain antioxidants to reduce inflammation and help you feel less sore, quicker.
For a healthy dose of your daily vitamins and minerals in a refreshing beverage, try out Swigg. Try it all by itself, or even mix it into a protein shake or smoothie to boost your post-workout nutrition.