If you run short distances of six miles or less your body can most likely make do with a lot of water or even a sports drink. If you’re an endurance runner your body needs a certain combination of carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes and other hydrating fluids. Enter the recovery drink. A beverage that will put back all that you lost so you can get back out and do it all over again.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade, All Sport and Powerade provide hydration. They have carbohydrates (fructose, glucose, and maltodextrin), electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, and sodium) and a lot of water. I’ve tried nearly all of them, but I’m partial to Gatorade Pro 03. It tastes good, seems to do a better job than the others, and all the cool athletes use it.
Nutrition drinks are designed to help your muscles recover from exercise-induced stress. Nutrition drinks, as opposed to sports drinks, are made of protein (often whey protein), carbohydrate (including fructose, glucose, sucrose, and maltodextrin), fat and a splash of other assorted vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, amino acids and herbs. Roll up in a GNC and you’ll see shelves full of options. I’ve used Ultragen in the past, but it’s hard to justify the price tag when compared to the next contender.
Fact: Your primary energy source is muscle glycogen, the complex sugar molecules that you burn for energy. Fact: You can only store a certain amount of glycogen in your muscles which is why it’s impossible to get a reservation at an Italian restaurant before a big race. Luckily for everyone who likes to feel like a kid, studies show that consistent consumption of chocolate milk after sustained exercise dramatically lower the levels of creatine kinase (an indicator of muscle damage). Chocolate milk is also loaded with calcium, potassium and magnesium, all of which need replacement after a hard workout. Lest not forget that milk is mostly water and tastes delicious. Man I love science.
Coconut water, that nasty tasting clear liquid found inside a coconut contains none of the fat found in coconut milk. Just 11 shot glasses of coconut water contains a mere 14 grams of sugar and more potassium than sports drinks (670 mg). Potassium (also found in bananas and pineapple) works closely with sodium to help prevent your muscles from cramping. But seriously, this stuff is nasty, even when flavored.
Next to chocolate milk this is my favorite. Chock full of nutrients, 100% vegetable juice is a great way to get eight helpings of veggies in your diet. Tomato-rich veggie drinks are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that protects muscles from cramping. Most brands have three to five times the amount of sodium and 13 to 17 times the amount of potassium in sports drinks. Even better, if you have vegetable juice around you are halfway to a Bloody Mary.