Post-workout, dry-mouthed and hungry, how many times have you found yourself reaching for a high sugar sports drink? Before you do, think of this: not only are you drinking multiple teaspoons of sugar, you’re also consuming a cocktail of additives and artificial flavors.
Did you know a 600-milliliter bottle of orange Gatorade has over nine teaspoons of sugar? Even a seemingly “healthier” option, like Vitamin Water, has roughly the same amount of sugar as most commercial sports drinks. “Flavor enhancer”, magnesium carbonate (used in gym chalk), monopotassium phosphate, acidity regulator (330) and “Sunset Yellow” coloring are among the list of almost unidentifiable ingredients in these fluorescent drinks.
Check out these five natural wonders that are far better alternatives to give you the edge you need in order to power on and recover well so that you’re fresh for your next workout.
Fact: bananas are just as effective as a post workout fuel as a sports drink. A study found that when 14 trained cyclists drank water and ate a banana during a 75 kilometer time trial, there was no difference in their performance when compared to doing the same time trial after drinking a commercial sports drink. So why take on the extra nasties? Plus, a banana has the added benefit of antioxidants, fiber, potassium and vitamin B6, along with a healthy blend of sugars. Supplement your water with a healthy banana (hydrating and refueling at the same time) or even better, mix it in a smoothie for some extra protein.
2. Chocolate Milk
There are more than 20 scientific studies touting the recovery benefits of drinking milk after a workout. A 2014 study of collegiate swimmers, for example, found that when they re-fuelled and recovered after a hard morning swim with chocolate milk, they performed better during a hard afternoon workout compared to when they consumed a commercial sports drink.
The magic is in the combination of carbohydrates and protein – a secret four-to-one ratio which helps stimulate muscle growth after exercise. Chocolate milk is also rich in potassium, calcium and vitamin D. Avoid dairy by using almond or coconut milk instead and opt for dark vs milk chocolate.
3. Coconut Water
Coconut water is a natural way to rehydrate, and it’s also backed by science as being just as effective as a sports drink for rehydration and performance. Better yet, coconut water is rich in potassium and antioxidants and is comparatively lower in carbohydrates than soft drinks, giving you just what you need and nothing more. Got a fresh coconut? Mix in some pulp for a more satisfying post-workout refuel.
4. Baking Soda
A baking soda spritzer, as bizarre as it sounds, can do wonders to counteract the buildup of lactic acid that causes the “burn” felt after our muscles have been worked to capacity. According to the International Journal of Sports Medicine, they suggest that adding baking soda to water after intense bouts of cardio can further prevent stiffness the following day. It may sound gross but try adding a teaspoon into your water or juice.
The food source for busy bees, honey is a natural carbohydrate source for those on the go and scientifically proven to be just as effective as consuming a sports drink for fuel. The unique combination of natural sugars in honey – glucose, fructose and maltose – are absorbed into the bloodstream at slightly different rates. And its moderate glycemic index of 43 avoids sharp peaks in blood sugar and energy. Known to have healing properties, honey also reduces the cellular and metabolic stresses of anaerobic exercise. Add some to your tea or try a teaspoon-full straight up.