The 8 Best Recovery Foods and Drinks of 2020, According to a Dietitian

Refuel strategically with these recovery-focused products

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Our Top Picks
"A healthier-for-you version of your favorite fruit and nut snack."
"A great natural electrolyte drink that helps to rehydrate and restore electrolyte balance after a workout."
Best Protein Powder:
Sunwarrior Warrior Blend at Amazon
"A clean, vegan protein powder with only four ingredients: pea protein, hemp protein, goji berry, and ground coconut."
"Tart cherry juice may help to ease muscle soreness and help you bounce back faster."
"Contains 240 calories, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein."
"The versatile, protein-packed squeeze pack can be eaten on its own for an energy boost or paired with whole-grain bread or fruit."
"A creamy, protein-packed snack that's made with live active cultures to boost your gut microbiota."
"The nutrient-dense bites are a satisfying grab and go snack that doubles as a sweet treat and energy booster."

After a challenging workout, it’s important to replenish muscles with a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and a bit of healthy fat to promote optimal recovery. Your precise nutrition needs will vary based on your activity level and nutrition goals, but it's ideal to refuel and rehydrate within one hour of completing your workout. Filling up on whole foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables is best when possible, but when you're short on time or energy, there are some excellent packaged foods and beverages that can support your recovery efforts.

Here, the best recovery foods and drinks.

Best Trail Mix: Gorilly Goods Trail Mix

When it comes to a post-workout snack, having an individually-portioned, protein-packed option is a game-changer. These grab and go trail mix snack packs from Gorilly Goods are a tasty way to get the nourishment you need after a sweat session. The organic and vegan trail mix snack packs contain soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and other nutritious ingredients depending on the flavor. Each blend contains a balance of plant-based protein, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and easily digestible carbs from dried fruit to help replenish your energy stores.

The convenient variety pack features three flavors—Hillside, Trail, and Coast. Hillside is a salty and spicy mix, Curry is a sweet and savory curry blend, and Trail is a superfood twist on traditional trail mix. With vitamin C-rich goji berries and magnesium-packed cacao nibs, Gorilly Good's Trail flavor trail mix is a healthier-for-you version of your favorite fruit and nut snack. Each Trail package contains 185 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of plant-based protein.

Best Beverage: Harmless Harvest Coconut Water

Rehydration after a workout is just as important as replenishing carbohydrate and protein losses, particularly when it comes to replacing electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Coconut water is a great natural electrolyte drink that helps to rehydrate and restore electrolyte balance after a workout. Made solely from coconut water sourced from organic young coconuts grown in Thailand, the thirst-quenching drink provides a variety of nutrients including sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

While there are some organic electrolyte powders and processed beverages on the market, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water is 100 percent natural. It’s made from one ingredient: organic coconut water. Harmless Harvest is not only 100 percent Organic, but it’s also Fair for Life certified, meaning that the product promotes social and environmental responsibility. The company partners with organic farmers who use sustainable practices without pesticides, sewage sludge, or synthetic fertilizers. It’s good for you, the people who make it, and the environment. 

Best Protein Powder: Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Organic Vegan Protein Powder

A protein shake or smoothie is an excellent way to promote muscle recovery after a workout. A great protein shake does double duty replacing fluids and packing in extra protein. When it comes to protein powders, it's important to closely examine the ingredient list to ensure that the powder fits your nutrition needs. The USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Certified Sunwarrior Warrior Blend is a top pick among protein powders with 19 grams of plant-based protein per scoop. The vegan powder also provides branched-chain amino acids and brain-boosting MCTs.

The high protein blend is allergy-friendly, as it is free of soy, gluten, and dairy. The protein blend is also free of added sugars and artificial sweeteners. It comes in five flavors, including berry, chocolate, mocha, vanilla, and natural. With only four ingredients: pea protein, hemp protein, goji berry, and ground coconut, Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend Natural is an excellent choice that won't overpower your favorite smoothie blend.

Best Juice: R.W. Knudsen Organic Just Tart Cherry Juice

Research shows that tart cherry juice has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that can improve recovery and decrease inflammation after strength and endurance workouts. If you're looking to ease muscle soreness and bounce back faster, tart cherry juice may be a smart part of your rehydration and recovery strategy post-workout. For a premium, organic tart cherry juice, try R.W. Knudsen's unsweetened juice.

Note that while the beverage has tons of antioxidant and recovery powers, it also contains a considerable amount of sugar. Each 8-ounce serving contains 140 calories, 34 grams of carbohydrates, and 25 grams of sugar. True to its name, the juice is quite tart and can be an acquired taste. Mixing a few ounces of the concentrated juice with sparkling water or seltzer can improve palatability and reduce your overall sugar intake, while still allowing you to reap the benefits of the recovery drink.

Best Breakfast: Purely Elizabeth Original Superfood Oats Cup

If you're a morning exerciser, breakfast may be the most important meal of the day in terms of recovery. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, replacing carbohydrates and protein within two hours after a workout helps to improve recovery by promoting glycogen repletion and minimizing muscle damage. It's not always easy to get in a full, balanced breakfast after a morning workout, but Purely Elizabeth Original Superfood Oats Cup makes it simple.

The convenient, single-serve oat cups feature creamy gluten-free oats mixed with nutrient-rich flax seeds, chia seeds, quinoa flakes, hemp seeds, and puffed amaranth, plus a crunchy granola topper. Simply add boiling water or microwave, then top with the granola and enjoy. If you're a fan of overnight oats, you can also add your favorite milk and let soak overnight, or for at least fifteen minutes.

One cup of the non-GMO, vegan cereal contains 240 calories, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein. This plant-based nutritional powerhouse will help keep you fueled through the morning, or whenever you chose to enjoy it. Of note, the filling mix contains 6 grams of dietary fiber and only 2 grams of sugar. It's delicious alone, but if you want a flavor boost, add some blueberries and raspberries.

Best On-the-Go: Justin's Nut Butter Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs

Make on-the-go refueling and recovery easy by throwing a Justin's Nut Butter into your gym bag, purse, or car. The versatile, protein-packed squeeze pack can be eaten on its own for an energy boost or paired with whole-grain bread, fruit, or even a creamy yogurt for a complete recovery snack or meal. The packets contain only natural, non-GMO ingredients, including sustainably sourced palm oil, and are also vegan, gluten-free, and kosher.

No matter what nut butter you prefer, Justin's has you covered. The brand offers flavors in addition to classic peanut, including honey peanut, classic almond, honey almond, maple almond, vanilla almond, and chocolate hazelnut. One packet of the classic peanut butter contains 210 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of healthy fat, and 7 grams of protein with no added sugar.

Best Creamy Snack: Fage 2% Plain Greek Yogurt

Chocolate milk is well-known as a top post-workout beverage, but not everyone enjoys drinking milk, especially after a tough sweat session. If you're looking for a creamy, protein-packed snack, choose Fage 2% Plain Greek Yogurt. Like most yogurts, Fage is made with live active cultures to boost your gut microbiota. It’s also packed with protein from milk from non-GMO fed cows. One 7-ounce container of the plain low-fat Greek yogurt contains 140 calories, 6 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.

If you prefer a bit more sweetness, the 2% variety also comes in various split cup options where you can mix-in sweet fruit or honey toppings. For an added flavor and nutrition boost without a ton of sugar, add your own fresh toppings like berries, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon.

Best Sweet Snack: Navitas Organics Organic Power Snacks Chocolate Cacao

If you're craving a sweet snack post-workout, be sure to fill up on something nutritious, like these Organic Power Snacks from Navitas Organics. These non-GMO, gluten-free snacks will satisfy your sweet craving while providing ample nourishment to promote muscle recovery. With four sweet flavors, including Blueberry Hemp, Cacao Goji, Chocolate Cacao, and Coffee Cacao, there's something for everyone. The nutrient-dense bites are a satisfying grab and go snack that doubles as a sweet treat and energy booster.

If you're a chocolate-lover, try the Chocolate Cacao variety. The decadent, plant-based bites feature tons of superfoods such as chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds as well as lucuma, cacao, and maca powder. Each 2-piece serving contains 80 calories, 3 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein with only 1 gram of added sugar. The bites taste so good that it's likely you won't stop at two.

Final Verdict

If you're looking for a thirst-quenching, hydration boost with extra recovery benefits, try R.W. Knudsen's Unsweetened Tart Cherry Juice. For an easy, delicious snack or meal post-workout, recover with Purely Elizabeth's Original Superfood Oat Cup.

What to Look for in a Recovery Food or Drink

Ingredients: Always take a look at the ingredient list to ensure that the recovery food or drink that you are selecting is safe and made from wholesome ingredients. Some specialized recovery products contain questionable and potentially dangerous ingredients that may do more harm than good. Choose products that are free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. When possible, choose organic, non-GMO items. Aim for whole, unprocessed foods when possible.

Many packaged recovery-focused foods and beverages on the market make lofty health claims. Do your homework— especially when something seems too good to be true—and consult with your health care provider or a professional if you have questions.

Macronutrients: It is important for athletes to get a balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates when refueling after activity. Carbohydrates are necessary to replace lost glycogen stores and boost energy, while protein primarily helps to build, maintain, and repair muscle. Healthy fat is a great way to provide satiety and lasting energy. Consider your activity level, energy needs, and macronutrient requirements when choosing a recovery product. For example, a marathon runner may require more carbohydrates after a long run than a sprinter. A weight lifter who is focused on building muscle will likely have higher protein needs.

Fluid: Fluid intake and hydration are important to consider post-workout to support optimal recovery. Aim to drink water throughout the day, and increase fluid intake based on physical activity and your individual needs. Fluid replacement is important, as dehydration can hamper recovery and cause issues such as cramping, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

Convenience: Consider where—and when—you will consume your post-workout recovery meal, snack, or beverage. If you are on the go and don’t have access to a microwave or refrigerator, you may want a portable single-serve item such as nut butter or trail mix. If you have more time and access to a blender, a smoothie made with high-quality protein powder is an excellent way to rehydrate and refuel.

What Experts Say

"The food and drink you have immediately following exercise play an essential role in muscle recovery and replacing energy stores. Protein helps to repair and rebuild muscle tissue and carbohydrate replaces the energy you burned off during exercise. To make the most of your recovery nutrition, you should consume a combination of protein and carb, like trail mix, Greek yogurt, or nut butter with an apple, within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. It is also important to replace electrolytes following strenuous exercise, especially in hot and humid climates. Sports drinks and coconut water provide a helpful balance of electrolytes that aid in hydration."—Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I frequently work with athletes to recommend healthy ways to promote recovery and improve performance. In writing this article, I spent time looking at current clinical research and recommendations on sports nutrition. I also looked at multiple products and brands before choosing these particular packaged foods and beverages.

I believe the products in the round-up are made by trusted brands and are composed of high-quality ingredients. I would recommend the above products to friends, family, and clients, and have personally tried all of the products. You can currently find Justin's Peanut Butter Packets in my pantry and Fage 2% Plain Greek yogurt in my refrigerator. Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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