Hot Drink Hydration Tips For Runners In Winter

When the temperature starts to dip, it's easy to become cold on a long training run - you work up a satisfying sweat on a climb, but as time ticks by your body cools down and, ever helpful, it tries to warm itself. Your muscles start to shake to generate heat and you come home shivering.

This is when a hot drink works wonders: it banishes the chill and can be an excellent post-run recovery potion, delivering exactly what you need to recharge after a workout. 

Some choices are better than others, says nutritionist Tara Gidus. "Post-exercise, you need liquid for rehydration, sugar to replenish your glycogen stores, and antioxidants and electrolytes to help muscles recover," she says. Hot or cold, the best recovery drinks provide all four, and should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing your run. That's when you gain the most benefit.

Hot Chocolate

Chocolate milk is one of the best post-exercise drinks around, says Gidus. Prepare powdered mixes with milk instead of water: milk delivers protein, calcium, potassium and vitamin D - these replenish electrolytes and help build new muscle cells.

Hot chocolate's sugars also top up glycogen levels. But the 'dutching' process used to make many mixes (it neutralises cocoa acids and mellows the flavour) destroys chocolate's antioxidants, so make the drink using pure powdered cocoa.

A 2003 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that hot cocoa boasts more antioxidants than red wine, tea and even cold chocolate milk, because heating cocoa releases more disease-fighting agents.

Tea

Tea doesn't refuel the body with energy. Black, green and herbal varieties all contain almost no calories when brewed. So swirl some milk and a shot of honey into your cup to improve the recovery benefits. The sugar in honey travels quickly to recovering muscles, "so it's a good choice immediately after exercise," says Gidus.

Teas contain less caffeine than coffee – most herbal tea is caffeine-free - so they're less likely to interfere with hydration. And tea's antioxidants are beneficial after a hard run: black, green and oolong varieties contain detoxifying agents that can help neutralise muscle-damaging free radicals.

Coffee

If you exercise in the morning you may long for a post-run cup of coffee. Brewed coffee contains just two calories per cup, so it doesn't provide the energy muscles need after exertion, but adding milk and sugar contributes calories, and the calcium and vitamin D improve its nutritional profile. And coffee contains antioxidants, which can speed recovery by helping muscles repair from the stress caused by tough workouts.

The amounts depend on the type of coffee used (robusta contains more antioxidants than arabica, for you coffee nuts out there), brewing method and time, and the amount of coffee used.

In the debit column, caffeine may have a diuretic effect or make you jittery. And coffee on its own isn't an ideal recovery drink. "It shouldn't be the only thing you count on for replenishment," says Gidus.