What is the best drink after a workout?
We all know that our bodies need water to survive, but does water lack what other drinks may have to offer after a workout? Let’s consider what happens during exercise. Are you sweating? Sweat contains water and electrolytes (minerals that break down to ions that support muscle and nerve function). You may not sweat if you’re, let’s say, practicing yoga (although some forms of yoga have you sweating bullets) or doing a brisk walk around the neighborhood. If you don’t sweat during exercise, you don’t need to worry about replacing electrolytes lost in sweat, and water would be the best drink of choice in that case.
Days that you’re doing intense cardio, strength training, or any type of workout that elevates your heart rate and body temperature to the point of sweating, is when you should consider drinking something aside from water. When we sweat, we lose more than just water, we lose electrolytes, as mentioned earlier. However, it’s only recommended that after a long workout (over one hour) we should drink sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost during the workout. Reason being, we lose a greater amount of water than electrolytes, so save the sports drink until you pass that hour mark. Stick to water until then.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade aid you in the replenishing process after a long, sweaty workout, putting back the water and electrolytes lost in sweat. They also contain carbohydrates to help give you energy. With the benefits of its water content fighting dehyrdation, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, among other functions, electrolytes supporting muscle and nerve function, and carbohydrates to give you energy, what more can we want out of a workout drink? Protein.
Once upon a time ago, I used to sneak into the spin room and hop on a bike when classes weren’t in session to get a cardio workout in by myself. One day, a fellow spinner shared the same idea of utilizing the near empty room for a personal workout. He shared not only the room with me, but a health tip for spinners and endurance athletes. He told me to drink chocolate milk after my workout. I did some research and the guy really knew what he was talking about. Drinking non-fat chocolate milk after a workout has been shown to help refuel and rebuild muscle due to its balance between carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates help replenish glycogen which refuel the body and protein help rebuild muscle. While sports drinks contain carbohydrates, they do not contain protein as chocolate milk does.
Would I eliminate any of the drinks? No. Water, sports drinks, and chocolate milk are all beneficial. It’s simply a matter of drinking the one that suits your needs at the moment. Water for light workouts under an hour, sports drinks for after a long, sweaty workout, and chocolate milk to help rebuild for your next workout.