What to Drink After a Workout

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Woman in fitness clothes making healthy smoothie

 Picture this: You’ve just finished your 45-minute gym session. You’re covered in sweat, but you feel strong. Months of working hard to build your muscles with weight-training has improved your endurance with cardiovascular training. Happy, albeit sweaty, you hop into your car to drive home and go about the rest of your day.

If this sounds familiar, you might be missing a key component of your recovery process—rehydration.

Wondering how to speed up muscle recovery? Skipping a post-workout beverage can have lasting negative consequences on your body and future athletic performance. In this guide, we’ll discuss the top ten beverages you can sip on after your workout to maximize rehydration and recovery.

What Does Your Body Need After You Exercise?

Before we talk about what is good to drink after a workout, let’s review what your body needs to replace. You lose water and electrolytes when you sweat but those aren’t the only things you need to replenish. Instead, you should focus on four different components:

  • Rehydration – First, you must rehydrate by replacing fluids lost through perspiration.1 The amount you need to drink will vary depending on: 
    • How well you hydrated during your workout
    • The duration of your workout
    • How much you sweat
  • Electrolytes – Along with rehydrating, it’s also important to replenish your body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes are a catch-all term for essential minerals your body needs to function properly. Common electrolytes lost through exercise include sodium and chloride.2 You also lose calcium, potassium, and magnesium in lesser amounts during your workouts. Recover energy and support your body’s metabolic functions with magnesium L-threonate
  • Carbohydrates – After you exercise, you also need to replenish carbohydrates with healthy eating. There are numerous recovery foods for athletes that aid in carbohydrate replenishment, and many people assume carb replacement must come from food, but you can also jumpstart carb replenishment with a post-workout drink.
  • Protein – Lastly, your body needs protein after a tough workout session to recover from muscle damage. Similar to carbs, you don’t have to wait until your next snack or meal to get your protein. While there are many foods that help muscle recovery, you can sneak some in with your workout recovery drink to aid in post-workout recovery.

If you don’t properly rehydrate and replenish your body after you exercise, you may experience prolonged muscle soreness, and you risk leaving your body unprepared for your next session. This, in turn, can lead to:2

  • Muscle spasms and cramps
  • Poor recovery
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lack of appetite

The metaphor that instructs you to think about your body like a car that needs fuel (aka nourishment) to run might be overused but it’s also painfully accurate.

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Our Top 10 Drinks to Replenish Your Body

Now that you know the importance of rehydration and replenishment after exercise, let’s discuss specifically what to drink after a workout to aid in muscle recovery. If you aren’t excited about drinking water, don’t despair—there are many other post-workout drink options you can choose from that help to achieve healthy muscle tissue.

#1: Chocolate Milk

Yes, you heard us right. Chocolate milk is an excellent post-workout drink for those who can handle dairy products.3 This is because chocolate milk provides several key elements your body needs after exercise, including:

  • Fluids for rehydration
  • Carbohydrates to replenish stores
  • Protein for muscle recovery
  • Sodium to boost electrolyte balance

If you’re vegan or can’t consume dairy products, non-dairy based chocolate milks may offer some of the same benefits. Just look for a product that has a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio for maximum effectiveness and post-workout nutrition.

#2: Smoothie

Another perfect post-workout recovery beverage for any athlete is a smoothie. The possibilities for smoothies are endless but there are a few key components you want to include to fully take advantage of your smoothie’s potential. You can build the ideal smoothie with:4

  • Liquid – Begin by choosing a base. You can use milk (dairy or non-dairy), coconut water, plain water, or a little bit of fruit juice. 
  • Fresh fruit – Next, add fruit for flavor and vitamin boosts. Excellent choices include bananas, berries, pineapple, or mango.
  • Protein – If you used milk as a base, you’ve covered some of your protein needs. However, a little more can help enhance recovery. Try a little greek yogurt, silken tofu, or shilajit resin that are mild in flavor, but offer great benefits.
  • Healthy fats – Lastly, you should include a little bit of healthy fat. Fat helps your body absorb and use the other nutrients it needs. Nut butters, flaxseeds, or even avocado can take your smoothie to the next level in terms of nutrition and recovery.

#3: Fruit Juice

Fruit juices can also be a good post-exercise choice after a tough workout. They’ll help you replenish your carbohydrate stores while also adding some valuable vitamins and nutrients. Some of the best choices include:

  • Orange juice – This old standby will provide you with hydration, vitamin C, calcium, and a burst of carbohydrates to expedite your recovery process after your workout session.
  • Beetroot juice – Beet juice might help you recover from exercise more rapidly by easing some of the soreness in your muscles after your workout.5 This way, you can get back out there the next day feeling refreshed.
  • Tart cherry juice – Similar to beet juice, adding tart cherry juice to your routine may help expedite your recovery after a hard workout.6 This can be achieved by drinking cherry juice or adding tart cherry powder to your water.

Look for 100 percent fruit juices, not the concentrated kind, for best results.

#4: Vegetable Juice

If you prefer juice without the sweetness of fruit, you can sip on vegetable juice after your workout. Look for varieties with recognizable ingredients or, even better, dust off that juicer you received as a gift years ago and make your own. 

Vegetable juice can help rehydrate you while also providing some carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to expedite your recovery.

#5: Protein Shake

A protein shake can give you a post-workout boost without as many ingredients as a smoothie. Typically, you make a protein shake by mixing protein powder with a liquid base. When shopping for protein powders, look for those that:

  • Contain quality ingredients
  • Utilize third-party testing to assure label accuracy
  • Have positive reviews
  • Fit into your budget

Beware of protein powders that contain a lengthy list of ingredients. Some people are sensitive to whey protein and other additives commonly found in protein supplements. Your best bet is to choose only powders made from clean, plant-based ingredients, such as a vanilla plant protein powder.

#6: Electrolyte Drink

There are many electrolyte replacement tablets and powders that you can choose from. These options will help you rehydrate while also balancing your electrolyte levels. If you’re a heavy sweater or if you’ve completed an intense workout, you should make sure to drink a beverage with extra electrolytes as soon as possible after you wrap up your session.

#7: Sports Drink

Sports drinks are heavier on carbs than electrolyte beverages. Your typical sports drink contains a balanced mixture of:7

  • Fluids
  • Electrolytes
  • Glucose

The added glucose (sugar) helps replenish your carbohydrate levels after intense exercise. However, some people may find the sugars too difficult to digest after working out and may experience some stomach discomfort.

#8: Coconut Water

Coconut water has become a trendy workout recovery drink because of its electrolyte content. Coconut water is rich in potassium but not high in sodium or carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s probably best to sip coconut water after easier workouts when you don’t need to replenish as much. 

You can also pair coconut water with a carb-rich snack to meet your recovery needs.

#9: Tea

Do you look forward to your daily cup of tea? If so, you’re in luck. That warm (or cold) beverage you love can also help your body rehydrate and recover after a workout.8 That being said, there are a few specifics that you need to keep in mind when brewing a cup post-exercise, such as:

  • Green and black tea are the best options
  • Opt for unsweetened, freshly brewed varieties

The antioxidants in both black and green teas may help speed up your recovery while the fluid used to brew the tea will help you rehydrate.

#10: Water

Plain water isn’t to be overlooked as a post-exercise beverage—it rehydrates you quickly and cheaply. However, one problem with plain water is that it won’t help you replenish your electrolyte, carbohydrate, or protein stores. If you opt for plain water, make sure you pair it with a snack that will up those levels.

What Beverages Should You Avoid After a Workout?

While you may be super thirsty after your workout and willing to grab anything nearby, there are some beverages you should skip. Avoid the following drinks immediately after your workout:

  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Soda

Soda contains high levels of sugars, often corn syrup, which don't offer your body the nutrition it needs. Caffeine and alcohol can both contribute to dehydration, so it’s best to drink something else before helping yourself to a post-run beer or coffee.

Enhance Your Post-Workout Replenishment Routine with Cymbiotika

Replacing the fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat is a must after a workout. If you skip this critical post-exercise step, you risk poor recovery, muscle cramps, and more. Luckily, replenishing and rehydrating your body is easy. You don’t even have to stick to plain water. Other beverages, such as chocolate milk, smoothies, and certain types of juice can effectively help you recover and replenish your carbohydrate and protein stores, too.

Plus, with Cymbiotika, you can further enhance your post-workout recovery.

At Cymbiotika, our online supplement store features organic products designed to help you reach your fitness and wellness goals. Incorporate our all-natural fitness supplements into your healthy, post-workout recovery routine to help give your body the support it needs. Check out our wide range of products today, and get ready to reach your top athletic potential.


Sources: 

  1. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Exercise and Fluid Replacement. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2007/02000/Exercise_and_Fluid_Replacement.22.aspx
  2. American Council on Exercise. Electrolytes: Understanding Replacement Options. https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/715/electrolytes-understanding-replacement-options/
  3. PubMed. Chocolate Milk: A Post-Exercise Recovery Beverage for Endurance Sports. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23075563/
  4. Active. Post-Workout Smoothie Essentials. https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/post-workout-smoothie-essentials
  5. PubMed. Beetroot Juice Is More Beneficial Than Sodium Nitrate for Attenuating Muscle Pain. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28719765
  6. PubMed. Montgomery Tart Cherry Supplementation Accelerates Recovery From Exercise. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30058460/
  7. Harvard School of Public Health. Sports Drinks. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sports-drinks/
  8. PubMed. Green Tea Catechins and Sport Performance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK299060/

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