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The best thing to drink after exercise

The best thing to drink after exercise

By Laura Briggs

Keeping hydrated is important for many reasons – even mild dehydration can affect endurance so should you be reaching for the water or the sports drink for the best results?

So when you’re gasping for a drink at the end of your workout, what’s the best thing to go for? 

The type of drink you opt for after your run or gym workout depends very much on your output levels. If you’re exercising for less than an hour at a moderate level, then water is the best bet. You should make sure you drink before, during and after your workout, and let your thirst determine how much you drink.

If you’re pushing harder, then a sports drink is probably the better choice. Although they get a bad press for being high in sugar, this is exactly what your body is looking for if you’re exercising for longer than an hour at a moderate to high intensity. Added electrolytes will also benefit your rapid recovery if you’re exercising hard enough.

Sports drinks aid recovery as they contain between 20 and 50 calories and approximately five to 14g of sugar for each 8oz serving. If you want quick release glucose, the sugar found in sports drinks will hit you fast. In fact, after a long run there is a small window where your muscles optimally restore the sugar used during your exercise session, helping you best to recover and prepare for your next run.

Sports drinks also are a great choice if you need rehydration to take place rapidly – namely after a really hard workout. When we workout we lose water, sodium and potassium. Water might quench your thirst but it won’t replace all the lost electrolytes. Sports drinks contain both potassium and sodium which is absorbed into your body quickly and is more beneficial than water alone.

As another option, coconut water has been found to come very close in carbohydrates and potassium levels to a specially formulated sports drink. It lacks slightly in sodium however, which helps the rapid rehydration – but alternatively you could always drink coconut water teamed with a handful of salted nuts to boost your sodium levels!

We’ve previously mentioned the benefits of drinking light lager after a run, but this is more for thirst quenching and is best left to a lighter workout. Leave alcohol alone if you’re working out hard!