Today, just about anything—from actual water to maple water to beer—can pass as a post-workout bevvy. But with so many products on the market, sometimes it’s hard to tell which are legit and which shouldn’t touch your lips. Separate trendy from truth with this handy guide to sipping after you sweat. (And beware of these 5 Signs of Dehydration—Besides the Color of Your Pee.)
Tart Cherry Juice
Sip. It might be time to switch up your favorite juice. “There are certainly promising data using cherry tart juice to aid in recovery,” says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., owner of Mohr Results Inc. One study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that runners who drank tart cherry juice twice daily (about 24 fluid ounces in total) for a week before a long-distance relay race reported significantly less pain than a group who didn’t chug the cherry juice. (Tart cherry juice is just one of six weird ways to treat sore muscles.) The benefits likely boil down to the powerful antioxidants in the juice, says Mohr.
Sip. This popular lunchtime carton isn’t just for kids. Studies continue to show the benefits of chocolate milk for recovery, says Mohr. Why? The drink combines carbohydrates and protein—both of which are important after training, he says. But dairy is also a complete protein, made up of whey protein that also has the amino acid leucine, which helps build lean muscle. To up your gains, Mohr suggests adding more whey to the chocolate milk.
Skip. Most popular 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons end the same way: with a beer. And drinking beer post-run does get the hydration stamp of approval.) This is more of a fun thing, says Mohr. But you might want to get something real in your system before indulging in the booze, he says. Research suggests that alcohol hinders recovery—even if you eat it with something like protein.
Skip. So you’ve seen reports about the metabolism-boosting powers of green tea. It helps to fight free radicals and boost overall health. While this may be true—green tea certainly has its health benefits—there’s nothing specific to recovery that your matcha will help with, says Mohr. If you like the green stuff more than coffee, keep it in your diet (it’s lower in caffeine!). Just cap your cups at four a day—an amount where you’ll still reap the health perks but also sidestep any of the risks linked with excess caffeine.
Sip or skip. Notice a newcomer to the flavored water space? Maple water is a form of hydration that’s also a carbohydrate, says Mohr. But while there are a variety of minerals in the beverage, they’re in such minuscule amounts, that they won’t amount to anything, he says. That said, if you dig the taste and it helps you drink up, then enjoy, he says. (Read: Is Maple Syrup the New Racing Fuel?) And no matter what you drink after a workout, optimize recovery by aiming for about a 2 or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, says Mohr.