ICED GREEN TEA
WHEN Pre- or post run (less than 1hr) or ride (1-2hrs)
WHY Green tea is a great source of catechins, antioxidants that fight heart disease and cancer. The most recent research indicates that catechins can reduce muscle damage caused by exercise, and also speed recovery. One study found that people who had the equivalent of 5 cups of green tea daily for 3 months and exercised last more belly fat than those who only exercised. Iced green tea is a tasty alternative to water on easy, short runs. Plus, tea contains caffeine, which boosts speed and endurance. Remember, if you drink tea often opt for unsweetened to avoid taking in excess calories.
ADVICE Steep tea bags for at least 3 minutes to release more catechins. If you purchase bottled, choose brands with less than 15 grams of sugar per 8 ounces.
WHEN Pre- or post-run (1hr), rides (2-4hrs), workout
WHY Coconut water, the clear liquid found inside the fruit, contains none of the fat found in coconut milk and has a tangy, light almond flavor. Eleven ounces contain 14 grams of sugar and 670 milligrams of potassium (significantly more than sports drinks). Potassium works with sodium to maintain water balance and helps trigger muscles to contract and relax. Coconut water has enough carbohydrates for an hour-long run or 2-4 hour ride, but not enough sodium for longer efforts.
ADVICE Coconut water, which is fat-free, comes plain or flavored with mango, orange peel, or passion fruit.
WHEN Post-run, ride, workout
WHY Drinking chocolate milk post-exercise speeds up recovery and increases the time it takes to reach exhaustion during a subsequent exercise session much better than sports drinks and supplements. A 2007 British study found that regular milk is better than water or a sports drink at restoring fluid levels following a bout of exercise in the heat. Also, milk contains bone-strengthening vitamin D and calcium.
ADVICE Single-serving containers are handy for tossing into a cooler for a post-run treat and for portion control.
WHEN After a hard run or interval ride
WHY A study done in 2008 by British researchers found that runners who drank 16 ounces of tart cherry juice in the days before, the day of, and two days after a marathon decreased inflammation, oxidative stress, and muscle damage. Cherries are higher in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than most other types of fruit.
ADVICE Drink a cup of tart cherry juice after exercise—particularly during heavy training, but don't guzzle it like it's tap water. One cup has about 30 grams of natural sugar and 130 calories. If cherry juice is too tart for you, try a sweeter blend with cherries and other 100% fruit juices.
WHEN Post-run or ride
WHY Full of a variety of nutrients in a concentrated package, 100% vegetable juice is a tasty way to get a serving or two of veggies. Those made mostly with tomatoes have lots of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects muscles from oxidative stress caused by exercise. Many brands have three to five times the amount of sodium and 13 to 17 times the amount of potassium in sports drinks--an ideal part of a post-run or ride snack or meal that includes carbs and protein.
ADVICE Sodium levels can range from 140 to 620 milligrams in regular (non—low sodium) brands. Choose higher levels if you crave salt post-run or ride.