August 30, 2016
Words by Kathy Iandoli
Working out and H2o typically go hand in hand, but sometimes water just isn’t enough. Perhaps you’re sick of the taste (or lack thereof) or maybe your muscles need something a little bit stronger. It’s important to realize that when it comes to exercise-related beverages, there are oftentimes functions of the drinks that exceed surface-level hydration. So when that regular bottle of water just won’t do the trick, we have some alternatives to quench your thirst. Drink up!
First things first: Water isn’t that bad
Ever go to the gym and see people chugging multi-colored drinks as you stare down at your own water bottle in shame? Well don’t. Water is fine for standard workouts. If you’re at the gym for fitness, but not hardcore training, then the key is to actually drink up the water you sweat out. Excessively sweating? Drink even more water. Electrolyte-infused and/or alkalized water can help provide a hydration boost and actually add some taste to your otherwise tasteless beverage. So even in looking for a water alternative, you can find one…in water.
Sports drinks are (sometimes) sugar traps
When searching for water alternatives, sometimes the knee-jerk reaction is to reach for the sports drinks. You know, those ones that end in ‘ade? If it’s electrolytes you’re looking for, then consider the aforementioned electrolyte-infused water, as sports drinks often pack in the sugar—some with close to the equivalent of 15 teaspoons! As a non-water switch though, try the lower sugar versions or even a sugar free option. However, opt for those with natural sweeteners, as artificial ones can hurt you in the long run and even at times slow down your metabolism.
To protein shake or not to protein shake
Protein shakes have their share of fans these days, especially with the rebranding of shakes as meal replacements. The general rule of thumb is that following an intense workout, it’s best to have a quick fix of protein. And that’s where a protein shake works best. Since it’s a shake, you’re more likely to digest it easier (especially after abs day) and you won’t feel sick. The key is to find what is right for you. Look into pre-made protein drinks, but check for excess carbs and hidden sugar (not the best thing when you’re trying to build lean muscle) or investigate the best protein powder for you. Those can be added to anything from water to even smoothies. For many, it’s trial and error, but here is an instance where a water alternative can play an impact in helping to build muslcle.
The after-shocks of pre-workout drinks
Ever hit the gym and see someone working out with a latte? While it seems bizarre, there’s a hidden method to their madness. Caffeine is known to stimulate workout performance, but not always in the healthiest way. In the case of a latte (or even tea), caffeine can actually dehydrate your muscles during a workout, especially in the absence of water. A similar case can be made for pre-workout supplements. These beverages (usually a powder added to water) often come in cool fruity flavors meant to boost your workout. Ingredients like creatine, caffeine, guarana, and then a wide array of sort of fruit extracts are often listed as energy boosts. Beware though: if your workout isn’t categorically intense then drinks like these are necessary to kick off a session. Even those with caffeine sensitivity will not work well with these drinks. And neither will anyone ducking a sugar trap. If a pre-workout supplement is really what you’d like, read those ingredients. Thoroughly.
Juicing is good
No, we don’t mean anabolic steroids. We mean the actual juicing of fruits and vegetables. While many desire a nice boost before a workout but are afraid to eat anything for fear of getting nauseous during training, a healthy juicing of green vegetables and fruits low in sugar can seriously get the job done. Keep this in mind: juices and smoothies are two different things. Juicing results in a lighter nutrient packed beverage that is ideal for a pre-workout. Smoothies are a thicker still nutrient packed beverage ideal for a post-workout.
Go nuts for coconut water
Coconut water is another beverage that has recently become a gym fan favorite. Coconut water takes the benefits of regular water to another level. After a hard workout, drinking coconut water can flush out sodium, rehydrate the body and repair muscles that were just worked, making recovery time much faster than the time it takes with regular water. There are even different flavors (like chocolate), but check the sugar count once again.
Watermelon water to the rescue
Watermelons are almost entirely water—92% to be exact. A great post-workout hydration alternative is to have some watermelon water. Some brands are available, or you can infuse your own water with watermelon. Just remember that it’s watermelon water not juice! Watermelon juice can also pack in the sugar, even if the fruit has it’s own health benefits.
Don’t refuse to infuse
Infusing water with fruit is the easiest and most cost effective way to change the flavor of your water without adding a ton of sugar to the drink. Add some bits of cucumber or the aforementioned watermelon, even strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lemons, oranges, limes. Just not all at the same time because you’d be making a fruit salad instead of a workout drink.