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Every athlete knows that staying hydrated is crucial to optimal performance during a workout — and that doesn’t just mean chugging some water or a sports drink beforehand. Proper hydration before, during and after a workout is critical — and so is staying hydrated throughout the day. Makes sense, since water makes up 50 to 70 percent of your bodyweight.
When it comes to getting the most out of your workouts and maintaining the energy you need to get through them, replacing the water you’ve sweat out is a key element to recovery.
“Not drinking enough water can wreak havoc on your body,” says Keely Grand, MA, certified personal trainer and wellness specialist. Dehydration affects your fascia, too, causing unwanted aches and pains, she adds. Add in intense exercise, warm temps and humidity and your hydration efforts need to ramp up even more. But what, exactly, is adequate hydration?
The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine consider adequate daily fluid intake to be about 11.5 cups a day for women. Keep in mind that on the days you’re exercising, that recommendation should be your minimum. Another common rule of thumb is to drink an ounce of fluid per pound of bodyweight per day, but there are also plenty of fluid intake calculation tools (like this simple option) that can help you figure out how much you should be drinking depending on your bodyweight and activity level.
You don’t need to drink only pure water after workouts to meet your hydration goals, though. Fruits, veggies and some juices and teas also make great options. Some even boast benefits that plain water doesn’t.
Here are the basics on five different options for postworkout hydration.
5 Postworkout Hydration Options
1. Plain Water
You can’t go wrong with straight-up water to hydrate throughout the day and as you work out. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 2 to 3 cups of water before your workout, ½ to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your training sessions, and 2 to 3 cups after your workout for every pound of weight lost during your workout. Hop on the scale before and after your workout for easy tracking.
Carol Fenwick, MHS, RDN, LD, American College of Sports Medicine–certified exercise physiologist, says water is the best hydrator overall for after workouts, but you may need to add some food, too, to replenish carbohydrates. Some quick carbs help replenish glucose, which your muscles use for fuel during exercise.
Grand recommends white and green teas and rose and chamomile teas. Research published in Nutrients concluded that green tea specifically has a favorable impact on fat oxidation (read: fat burning) postworkout. Green tea also has high levels of antioxidants, making it a great water-based postworkout indulgence.
3. Electrolyte Drinks
Electrolytes are the essential minerals (think sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, for example) your body requires to function. They’re important to consume during and after any long-duration exercise.
“Gatorade and other sports drinks are good for aerobic activity lasting 90 minutes or longer to help replenish electrolytes and glucose,” Fenwick says. Shoot for 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. She also points out that sports drinks, like Gatorade, are made so your body absorbs them quickly. If you’re not working out all that hard or if you’re just getting a quick training session in, stick with something that’s lower in calories but still contains electrolytes.
4. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice boasts lots of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. The powder form or juice from concentrate are beneficial, so simply choose which is most convenient for you. Research suggests its powerful effect comes from the polyphenols in the cherry, which help improve workout recovery. One serving of 8 to 10 ounces is enough to reap the benefits.
5. Beetroot Juice
Beetroot juice, also known as beet juice, is a nutrient-packed option for preworkout and postworkout hydration. Some specific benefits of beet juice are that it’s “high in nitrates (the good kind), potassium, and other vitamins and minerals — but also low in fiber,” says Fenwick, which makes this an after-exercise winner. Researchers from several universities also found that beetroot juice accelerated recovery postworkout. About 7 to 10 ounces is sufficient.
If you do buy pre-made juice, make sure to read the label to avoid added sugars and preservatives. If you’re going to juice beets on your own, add in apples or even ginger to up the flavor profile.