For drinks intended to support an activity as healthy as exercise, many sports beverages are surprisingly the opposite of good for you. Loaded with sugar, artificial flavors and colors (and not a whole lot else), popular post-workout drinks have not exactly earned their health halo, despite their promise of replenishing electrolytes. Need evidence? A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 140 calories, 34 grams of sugar, and your choice of red 40, yellow 5, or yellow 6 — artificial colors known to increase cancer risk. Is this really the best way to refuel your body after a hard-earned sweat sesh?
Increasingly, consumers are getting wise to the less-than-wholesome contents of common sports beverages and demanding better — and the market is only too happy to provide. The last few years have seen a major spike in healthier sports drinks. Here’s a look at seven options that can fuel your workouts with more nutrients and less junk.
1. Nooma Organic Electrolyte Drink ($29 for 12): As professional hockey players, brothers Jarred and Brandon Smith felt fed up with the artificial ingredients the sports beverage industry had to offer — so they decided to create their own. Nooma Organic Electrolyte Drink is the result. Nooma starts with an organic coconut water base, then adds natural fruit extracts for flavor and stevia for a bit of sweetness. Appealing flavors like mango and blueberry peach will set you back just 30 calories per bottle, and provide a dose of calcium and potassium to replenish electrolytes.
2. V8 Hydrate ($15 for 24): Think V8 is just for Bloody Marys? Think again. The classic veggie juice has rolled out a new line of plant-based sports drinks: V8 Hydrate. A sweet potato juice base (yes, that’s a thing) means you can feel confident your post-workout nutrients are derived from a natural source. Stevia for sweetening means zero grams of sugar, even in fruity flavors like Strawberry Cucumber, Orange Grapefruit, and Coconut Watermelon.
3. Halo Sport ($39 for 6): Quick: What’s a juice that’s high in nutrients but low in sugar? Lemon juice! The team at Halo Sport has come up with a certified organic, lemon-juice-infused electrolyte drink with just two (naturally occurring) grams of sugar. Its mere 10 calories per 16-ounce bottle make this the lowest-calorie sports beverage on the list — but that doesn’t mean you’ll skimp on electrolytes. Halo Sport packs 15 percent of your daily magnesium and a pop of potassium too.
4. WTRMLN WTR ($35 for 6): For most of us, the issue of sustainability probably doesn’t spring to mind as part of what makes a sports drink healthy. But for the creators of WTRMLN WTR (as in, “Watermelon Water”), it’s a serious part of the health package. WTRMLN WTR takes melons deemed unsaleable for cosmetic reasons and cold-presses them into a nutrient-rich beverage that’s perfect after your outdoor run or hot yoga class. Since watermelons naturally contain potassium (a critical electrolyte), a 12-ounce bottle of WTRMLN WTR provides about 15 percent of your daily requirement — with no added sugar. Choose from nine flavors of melon-y goodness.
5. Berri Fit ($29 for 8): Berri Fit lays claim to two firsts in the beverage industry: It’s the first plant-based organic fitness drink and the first beverage in history to be shelf-stable due to only naturally occurring acids. Sweetened with immune-strengthening manuka honey and infused with herbs like maca and ginseng, this one is as natural as it gets, at a low-calorie count of 30 cals per eight ounces.
6. BodyArmor ($15 for 12): While BodyArmor sports drinks may contain more calories and sugars than other healthy hydrators, their impressive nutrient profile may make these extras worth it. Values like eight percent of your daily magnesium and 10 percent of your daily potassium (plus tons of other vitamins and minerals, for good measure) make the 70 calories and 18 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce bottle of BodyArmor a bit, well, easier to swallow. Plus, BodyArmor contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
7. DIY Sports Drink: If you really want to go as unprocessed as possible with your post-workout hydration, try your hand at making your own sports drink. This recipe from No Meat Athlete uses lemon and lime juice to provide a boost of vitamin C, plus dates for added potassium and magnesium. Or try this herbal tea-based version from Wellness Mama. The addition of a calcium-magnesium powder and a bit of Himalayan sea salt round out its electrolyte content. Happy hydrating!
(Featured photo via Getty)
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