The harder you work out, the better the reward, and no, I’m not talking about the obvious – stronger heart, bigger muscles, and sharper mind. I’m talking about something much more important – chocolate. In fact, the best way to recover from a sustained bout of rigorous exercise may be one of your favorite childhood treats: chocolate milk. Low-fat chocolate milk has the perfect 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins that repair and replenish exhausted muscles. Its high water content, calcium, sodium and sugar create the perfect package of hydration, nutrition, quick energy, and muscle fuel. It may even stave off that Betty burger and fries you’re more likely to inhale after a really hard work out, and did I mention the chocolate? Keep in mind, chocolate milk best serves athletes pushing the intensity and duration of their workouts. If you’re still working your way up to triathlete status, and for those of you who don’t do the dairy thing, here are some other sports recovery drinks that cater to every fitness level.
Coconut water: Good for shorter workouts, under an hour. A great source of electrolytes as well as potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants, it lacks the required sodium for prolonged efforts.
Chocolate Soy Milk: Chocolate almond milk may taste better, and there are good reasons to consume soy in moderation, but this non-dairy option has the all-important 4:1 carbohydrate/protein ratio that best fuels and repairs muscles.
Juices: Tart cherry juice contains anti-inflammatory chemicals that help protect against muscle damage and reduce soreness. Watermelon juice contains a rare amino acid that combats muscle soreness. Lemon or lime juice neutralizes post-workout acid in the body. Mix it with a little salt and honey to provide carbs and enzymes that offer quick recovery.
Iced Green Tea: For easy, short workouts. It’s a great source of antioxidants that can reduce muscle damage and speed recovery. Caffeine provides energy. Skip the sugar.
Fruit Smoothies: Make them yourself to avoid processed foods and additives. The best include protein, fruit, and veggies. Adding milk, soy milk, or Greek yogurt boosts the benefit.
A few more things to keep in mind:
- Recovery drinks are best consumed in the 15-60 minute post exercise muscle memory window.
- Many recovery drinks are meant to restore glycogen, which restores muscles. Simple sugars do the job (as do carbohydrates, protein, and even caffeine). For those of you battling your weight or undergoing a level of exercise that requires less aggressive muscle restoration, you may want to go easy on high sugar choices.
- Water: the tried, the true. Stay hydrated with the basic stuff of life during your workout.
- Best not to take in dairy during intense exercise or immediately afterward. If you do, it could be…explosive. Enough said.