The Best Drink for Your Post-Workout Recovery

Image Credit: Vegan Liftz

There’s a ton of literature on the wild wild Internet (and on, for that matter) about exactly what to eat before and after your workout, and even what brunch places pair well with your workout. So, we’ve got the food part covered pretty thoroughly – but what about your post-workout drink? When you’ve just finished a tough workout and your stomach can’t quite handle food yet, reach for one of these drinks to quench your thirst and help fuel your recovery.

When you’ve just crushed an early morning sweat sesh and need caffeine, stat

Blend protein powder into your iced coffee or cold brew for a refreshing recovery drink that ensures you’ll stay awake until lunch time. A 2008 study by the American Physiological Society suggested that athletes who paired their post-workout carbs with coffee recovered better and had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing an intense workout, compared to just having the carbs (note that in this study, the participants consumed a super high dose of caffeine, and research is still being done on a more moderate caffeine dosage).

Personally, I love blending a Vital Proteins single-serve stick with my iced coffee, especially if I’m on the go. Got more time in the morning? Experiment with adding chocolate, vanilla or cinnamon flavored protein powders to your coffee for a fancier drink.

When you’ve just finished a long run and you’re totally famished

Before sitting down to that victory brunch, down a chocolate milk first. Chocolate milk has that ideal 4:1 carb to protein ratio that makes it perfect for recovering after an endurance workout (like your long runs during marathon training). The carbs in the chocolate milk build up your glycogen stores after they’ve been depleted through your run, and the protein rebuilds your muscles.

Also, chocolate milk is delicious.

When you just survived a hot yoga class

Water, water and more water. You need to replace all the water you just sweated out, so keep your water bottle by your side for the rest of the day and aim to drink a total of your body weight in ounces over the course of the day.

Coconut water is another great post-hot yoga drink option, especially in the summer. Coconut water is naturally rich in electrolytes, especially potassium, which will help you recover from the strenuous activity and protect you from dehydration. Look for a coconut water that’s not from concentrate and has low (if any) added sugar.

When you just lifted heavy

Hate to be so predictable, but bro-tein shakes are popular for a reason. Ingesting protein shortly after your workout ends aids your recovery by rebuilding and repairing muscles. Exercise scientists recommend around 20g of protein after your workout (talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to agree on what will work best for you).

Our recommendation? Step away from the protein powder and water mix, and add some joy to your life with one of these delightful post-workout smoothies:

Or, if you’re on the go and have cash to blow at Starbucks, try this Starbucks menu hack: the Protein Shake Frappuccino.

When you’re heading to happy hour right after your workout

Ah, yes, the $64,000 question: Will drinking a beer after a workout render my workout pointless? Tons of research has been done on the subject, and the general consensus is no – provided you stick to one or two beers instead of going on a bar crawl. If you worked hard and you’re craving a Daisy Cutter on a patio, then by all means, have one or two and enjoy responsibly.

Looking for an alternative to beer? Of course, a glass of red wine has been shown to decrease risk of heart disease while improving physical performance and muscle strength. We’re also big fans of doctoring your cocktail so it’s lower in sugar (saving you both calories and a nasty hangover). Try one of these lightened-up summer cocktails, or the old standby of vodka-soda with lime.

What’s your favorite libation to enjoy post-workout? 

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.