Proper hydration keeps the mind and body balanced and energized. Drinking enough water throughout the day is crucial for maintaining good health and productivity, as well as replenishing lost fluids post-workout and rehydrating depleted muscles.
Drinking fluids after a training session speeds the recovery process and fights mental and physical fatigue, and it’s the easiest way to prevent dehydration, which can lead to a variety of unpleasant (and dangerous) side effects.
“Studies have found that even a mild form of dehydration — just one to three percent — can impair brain function and affect mood, energy, concentration and memory, and may even lead to feelings of anxiety,” dietitian Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD.
“Hydration is especially important for athletes and those who are physically active on a regular basis, and it takes nearly 36 hours to replace lost water and electrolytes."
Why Hydrating With Post-Workout Drinks Matters
“While it can take more than a day to replenish lost electrolytes fully, you should still begin the process right after finishing strenuous exercise or a competition,” Best recommends.
Drinking water and consuming protein, electrolytes, and other nutrients speeds up recovery and prevents muscle cramps and fatigue from setting in post-workout. You should always be vigilant about hydrating throughout the day — not just before a race or competition — in order to keep fluids and electrolytes balanced and combat any warning signs of dehydration.
“This is why plain water is good, but it comes up short when it comes to replacing electrolytes,” Best explains.
Drinking an electrolyte beverage after exercise is most efficient for rehydration and restoration of depleted nutrients and better serves your body’s cells and muscles.
What to Avoid in Your Post-Workout Drinks
Many sports drinks contain excess calories and sugars, which can hinder muscle recovery. As your body rebuilds and rehydrates, any refined sugar consumed will be quickly stored as fat, as they aren’t of use for fueling and recovery post-workout.
Unlike with protein and electrolyte intake post-training, your body switches to the fat storage mechanism when you eat sugar.
“Post-workout sugar isn’t ideal, as consumption leads to rapid glucose spikes and crashes, along with chronic, low-grade inflammation in the body, which wreaks havoc on gut health and the immune system and creates an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria,” Best says.
To avoid hindering recovery and these health concerns, choose your post-workout drink wisely. Make sure it’s nutrient-dense for proper hydration and has zero added sugar and a relatively lower number of carbs.
“Ideally, a carb count under 5 grams will provide your body with what it needs to replenish lost glycogen stores without overdoing it and triggering fat storage,” Best says.
Why Protein Water Is the Ideal Post-Workout Drink
Immediately after training, you must restore protein supply. However, sometimes your appetite is suppressed, or you're in a rush and cannot find an adequate muscle recovery source. That’s where protein water comes in. It’s a quick post-workout fix for refueling and rehydrating on the go.
When participating in high-intensity and extended workouts, bring a bottle of PWR LIFT with you as you train. For endurance workouts, competitions, and races lasting over an hour, sipping on protein water mid-workout keeps hydration and energy levels stable.
“PWR LIFT provides you with all you need to replenish lost nutrients and electrolytes, and has zero grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, and a significant number of electrolytes,” Best says.
The water's use of whey protein efficiently starts the process of muscle repair, while electrolytes and various B vitamins nourish and hydrate cells and muscles. Plus, it only has one gram of carbs.
Other Ways to Hydrate for Muscle Recovery
Another hydrating post-workout option is coconut water, which is naturally high in electrolytes (and potassium in particular, according to research) to hydrate your brain and body with fluids and nutrients lost through sweat. Unsweetened coconut water is better than flavored, as you’ll reap the hydration and potassium benefits without those added sugars and carbs.
Coconut water probably doesn’t have enough sodium to replenish what you lost through sweaty endurance sessions, but will work for lighter workouts (and you can always reach for a little table salt or a pickle to pair it with, too).
Finally, tart cherry juice can also be a good recovery drink option, as recent research shows that it’s effective for reducing muscle soreness and repairing muscle damage. And if you're training at night, tart cherry juice may help you fall asleep, which also improves and speeds muscle recovery, too.