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Agua frescas are typically light, non-alcoholic drinks made from blending fruit with some sugar and water. While they seem refreshing and delicious in the summer in the heat or after a long run, they could use the addition of one nutrient to adequately re-hydrate you during and after a workout.
Adequate Re-hydration for Exercise
That missing nutrient I mentioned was sodium. While engaging in moderate to high intensity exercise or when doing low-moderate intensity movement in the heat, sodium is lost as you lose fluid through sweat. Some people are bigger sweaters than others and on top of that some are naturally greater salt sweaters. You know who you are if you’re the latter as you’ll taste salt on your lips and may even notice a “sandy” texture on your skin when you’re sweating.
If only fluid is replaced after exercise, but not carbohydrate and sodium, re-hydration won’t be as sufficient. This is why I typically don’t advocate for electrolyte tabs without ingestion of other carbohydrate, or coconut water over a sports drink unless you add in sodium (a dash will do). The study I linked to above also showed that inclusion of electrolytes other than sodium does not help in recouping hydration status any more than when sodium is used alone. Still, since potassium is such an important part of our fluid balance mechanisms with sodium, and most Americans don’t consume enough, its presence in the fruit as well as the optional coconut water is helpful for overall wellness.
Which Fruit Should You Use?
The type of fruit you use in your agua frescas may depend on your goals with exercise. The intensity of your exercise, your need for quick recovery, and whether your activity requires high intensity and long duration also play a role. When I’m working with professional baseball players who have long games in the summer heat with heavy clothing, even though their exercise intensity is lower, I encourage them to take in adequate carbohydrate, fluid and sodium before the game, not just during and after. The same may go for a distance runner, while someone engaging in an hour of interval training or heavy lifting may not need to ingest any additional carbohydrate and electrolyte until after their workout.
Watermelon agua fresca may be your best bet if you’re having this drink pre-workout. Watermelon contains a compound called citrulline which may have the ability to enhance endurance exercise performance by improving oxygen delivery to muscles.
If you’re looking to recover from an intense workout or heavy lifting session, pineapple agua fresca may be your pick. An enzymatic compound in pineapples called bromelain has been found to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation, meaning it has the potential to enhance and speed up recovery. Add in some ginger root and you can be aiding in the reduction of inflammation even more!
Now when it comes to the kiwi agua fresca, you’ll want to reach for this after long runs or rides when training for a marathon, cycyling race, or triathlon. Since there is extra stress on the lungs with these longer and high intensity races, there’s also a higher risk for an upper respiratory infection afterwards. By ingesting more vitamin C, which kiwis are a very potent source of, there is a lower risk of developing these infections and keeping the immune system healthy when training and racing.
- Depending on the fruit you use, some agua frescas will have a bit more pulp and texture than others. Consider this if you want a more smooth agua fresca, or strain the pulp with cheesecloth. Note though that this removes some of the fiber, an important nutrient.
- Experiment with different herbs and spices. I enjoy mint or basil with the watermelon, paprika or ginger with the pineapple, and basil with the kiwi.
- If you want to bring your drink with you to your workout, I recommend having it in a squeeze type bottle. For rehydration after a hike, keep it in a mason jar with a screw top in a cooler in your car. Pair with food containing protein and more carbs for recovery.
Agua Fresca Sports Drinks
- 1 Cup chopped fruit, such as watermelon, pineapple, or kiwi
- 1 Cup water or 1/2 Cup coconut water and 1/2 Cup water
- Juice of 1/2 of a lime
- 2 teaspoons honey or maple
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Optional: herbs or spices such as mint, paprika, or basil
- In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until fruit is completely blended, about 30-60 seconds depending on blender power.
- Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and shake or stir before serving.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Sprouts Farmers Market, with whom I will be showcasing this recipe. Ingredients may be purchased at any store to make on your own, and all opinions are my own.
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