Could Pink Drinks Be the Key to Better Running Endurance?

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Runners have been sipping vibrant hues in the name of performance since the dawn of electrolyte-infused energy drinks (just look at Gatorade, Nuun, et al.). Ask any dietitian, and they'll tell you that fueling is a major factor in logging fast and fun miles—and, as it turns out, pink drinks in particular can be part of the equation when it comes to making the most of your time on foot.

According to running dietitian Shelbi Thurau, RD, two magenta beverages are worth sipping when you've squeezed in a few sweaty miles and need to expedite your recovery: tart cherry juice and beet juice. Both of these beverages contain anthocyanins, which not only lend these drinks their red and purple hue, but make them extremely high in antioxidants (which are absolutely key for muscle recovery).

Experts In This Article
  • Kylene Bogden, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, CLT, registered dietitian nutritionist and co-founder of FWDfuel
  • Shelbi Thurau, RD, Shelbi Thurau is a registered dietitian and RRCA running coach with over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. Through her business Race ya to the Kitchen, she works to inspire runners to find the driving force behind their desire to pursue endurance through customized training, nutrition and constant support. With a combined 40+ marathons and half marathons behind her, running has transformed the most difficult parts of her life into a meaningful way to move forward and it's that passion she always brings to the individuals she coaches.

After you log a long run or a solid bout of speed work, your muscles may be tired and sore. That's where anthocyanins come in, says Thurau. "The majority of the research studies out there generally test how the consumption of tart cherry juice aids in a reduction of muscle soreness—since muscle soreness is essentially inflammation," she says. Sports dietitian Kylene Bogden, RDN, co-owner of FWDfuel, adds that tart cherry juice will also help you log a good night's rest, another key ingredient for recovery.

Meanwhile, our other pink drink (beet juice) ups the ante with nitric oxide, a molecule that acts as a "vasodilator" that allows for better blood flow and more oxygen to be sent to your muscles. "This is beneficial to athletes since, when you are working out, you want to have good blood flow to the muscles that are working," says Thurau. Plus, Bogden points out that vasodilators lower your perceived rate of exertion and make you feel more free and capable on the run.

Of course, all of these benefits pose the important question of when to down your pink drink. While you can absolutely sip enjoy either beverage before you lace up your sneakers and go out on a run, it's best to consult your own GI tract before you do so. "When it comes to beverage consumption prior to a workout you are usually looking for it to do it one thing: provide you energy in such a way that does not cause GI distress," says Thurau.

If you do a gut check and feel good about a pink drink pre-run, make sure you're including this bevy in a larger nutrition plan that spans from well before your run until after it's over. "Because of the easily digestible nature of sugary beverages, you can consume within a half hour of your workout. If you are exercising for longer periods of time—45 minutes of high intensity or 60 plus minutes of any intensity—you should consume carbohydrates throughout to keep fulfilling those decreasing energy stores and avoid the dreaded 'bonking,'" says Thurau, adding that chews or coconut water are both great fueling options for during your workout.

But you'll be able to see results simply from incorporating these drinks into your overall diet—you don't necessarily need them in your system immediately before a run. If you're in the ultra-sensitive stomach camp (welcome, please take this free t-shirt), you can reap similar rewards from enjoying your beet juice or tart cherry juice post-run. Just make sure you're eating a robust recovery meal as well, which should generally contain a two-to-one carbohydrate to protein ratio and electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium, recommends Bogden.

With all this in mind, you're ready to kick back for happy hour—er, running hour—and enjoy your pink drink (preferably with a silly straw or one of those little umbrellas).

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