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Like a call from the IRS, proper hydration is not something a triathlete should take likely. After all, it’s vital for optimal performance and post-training recovery. And with the sweaty season now upon us, you’re likely looking for something to guzzle down more often. But drinking only water from the tap can be as exciting as a lawn bowling match and relying on heavily sweetened options like soda and bottled iced teas can have serious waistline repercussions. Thankfully, there are some alternative options on the market that can help you stay hydrated and even put a spark in your stride. So it’s time to think beyond coconut water and sports drinks and embrace these hip sips.
Tart Cherry Juice
Time to pucker up. Tart cherries are jam-packed with antioxidants that are thought to help athletes more efficiently recover from exercise. Case in point: A 2015 study by British researchers found that cyclists who consumed a concentrated tart cherry drink for eight days experienced less muscle damage and inflammation in response to a 109 minute intense ride. Further, a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study discovered that drinking tart cherry juice daily can reduce reported muscle pain in runners. The powerful anthoycanin antioxidants in the sour fruit are thought to lessen the oxidative stress associated with exercise to bring about better recovery during training and after races. Beyond drinking straight from the bottle, you can try working tart cherry juice into your post-training smoothies.
Move over warm milk, there might be a new drink to help you doze off. A European Journal of Nutrition study showed that volunteers who consumed tart cherry juice for seven days experienced improved sleep quality and duration. Researchers credit the juice’s dose of melatonin, a hormone that helps your body maintain its circadian rhythm or otherwise internal clock, for helping to offer an express ticket to dreamland. Not just for insomniacs, a good nights rest is essential for proper exercise recovery and performance. Try drinking a cup of the sour power juice 1-hour before bed or mix 2 tablespoons of tart cherry juice concentrate with 8 ounces of water.
Drink this: Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice ($12, 4-8oz bottles)
Think of maple water as the North American answer to coconut water, meaning that each tetra pack has less of a carbon footprint due to its shorter travel from producer to consumer. It is basically hydrating tree sap from maple trees before it’s boiled down into the liquid sweetener that adorns your pancakes, so each sip has subtle flavor notes that speak to its origins. The primary nutrient in maple water is manganese, a mineral that is necessary for the proper functioning of enzymes that are involved in numerous biological processes in your body including those associated with metabolism and bone building. Just keep in mind that manganese is one of the easiest nutrients to obtain in the diet so guzzling back maple water won’t likely alleviate any deficiencies.
For the time being, maple water is blissfully free of any added sweeteners or artificial flavorings. But the juggernaut that is the food industry may soon have a say about this as the drink becomes more popular.
Drink this: DRINKmaple ($7, 3-8.45 oz cartons)
Cold Brew Coffee
Not just for hipsters, the latest drink in the coffee world could seriously perk up your workouts. The term “cold brew” refers to grounds that have been soaked in cold water for several hours and then filtered. This is in contrast to traditional coffee, which is brewed quickly using hot water or “iced coffee” that is simply hot brewed coffee which is poured over ice. The longer steeping time and higher grounds-to-water ratio makes cold brew coffee potentially higher in caffeine to give your exercise pursuits more of a jolt. When cold water is used to steep coffee grounds less acid is released, so it can be gentler on your digestive system and smoother tasting. If you find cold brew coffee too strong on its own, you can dilute it with water or low-fat milk.
Drink this: High Brew Double Espresso ($2.50, 8 oz can)
Want to jazz up your training, but find coffee gives you the jitters? Then it might be time to try a new energy boost. Guayusa (pronounced gwhy-you-suh) is a leaf gleaned from an Amazonian tree that supplies naturally occurring stimulants including caffeine that many people find is easier on their system than coffee and without the risk of a subsequent energy crash. The brew is said to also boast an antioxidant payload, but more independent research is needed on this matter. Another perk: Guayusa lacks the lamented bitterness often associated with yerba mate, another South American herbal tea that is also often used for its stimulating kick. In fact, the lack of bitter tannins in the leaf means it can be steeped for several minutes without fouling the flavor. In fact, Guayusa can be resteeped several times before its flavor dissipates.
The Guayusa making its way to the US market comes mostly from Ecuador, where its production helps support rainforest biodiversity and the indigenous communities that live among the trees. Guayusa is available in bottled versions, canned energy drinks, tea bags and loose leaf.
Drink this: Runa Organic Guayusa Loose Leaf ($7, 2.5 oz tin)
Not just for curry anymore, an increasing number of turmeric drinks are appearing on the market and this could mean good things for athletes whose bodies have been beaten up by hard training. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric and what gives the root its trademark striking yellow hue, has been shown to help suppress biological mechanisms that spark inflammation in the body. A 2015 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found fewer signs of inflammation in volunteers following a cycling trail when they were supplementing with turmeric. An excess of internal inflammation is thought to be a contributor to poor recovery from training and perhaps contribute to nagging injuries that can keep you from lining up at the start line.
Drink this: Temple Turmeric Ginger-Aid Elixir ($36, 6-12 oz bottles) or Numi Organic Turmeric Tea ($8, 12 tea bags)