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Fermented Drinks for Recovery

apple, chaga, raspberry, lemon

Everything ferments. Whether it’s fruit, vegetables, grains, milk or meat, bacteria will be attracted to it and begin to feast. The trick it to set up the environment for the beneficial bacteria that preserves our food naturally, gives it a slightly sour taste, and increases it’s nutrient content. This is what humans have been doing for thousands of years.

From every culture around the planet, you will find indigenous fermented drinks in each microclimate. Kvass and Kombucha in Russia and China, Sweet Potato Fly in Guyana, real “Roots” beer in Jamaica, Pru from Cuba, Smreka from Bosnia, Noni in Hawaii and Ginger beer from the Caribbean. Most only require roots or plants, a fermentation source like wild yeast, Kombucha SCOBY, raw honey or  liquid whey, water and a sweetener like sugar, fruit or honey which gets converted to various healthy compounds, probiotics, b-vitamins and carbonation leaving little sugar content in the final product.

If you feel like water by itself does not quench your thirst or re-energize you, you are not alone. There is a reason we crave sweet, carbonated drinks is that they quench our thirst and re-energize us. The modern soda destroyed the healthy, carbonated drinks we’ve known in our collective memory and poisoned us. It’s time to brink back the drinks that promoted better health, energy and repair from hard physical work in the fields on a hot day. These drinks supply mineral ions depleted through perspiration and enliven us with lactobaccili, enzymes and lactic acid which increases muscle mass by increasing absorption. Poor digestive flora from a bad diet or excessive antiobitic use will force your body to borrow nutrients from skeletal muscle to maintain daily operations, leaving your muscles deflated.

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from a mysterious mushroom-like yeast, water, black and green tea and sugar that has been reportedly consumed for thousands of years. The sugar is consumed by the yeast, which in turn produces numerous beneficial compounds while leaving little to no sugar left in the final product. It contains b-vitamins (builds muscles), glucuronic acid (protects joints from wear and tear), probiotics (increases immunity), enzymes (needed for muscle recovery), antioxidants (combats free-radicals produced during exercise), lactic acid, acetic acid, EGCG (antioxidant, anti-cancer and lowers inflammation) and balances the body’s pH.

Kvass is an ancient eastern European drink that isn’t popular in the U.S., yet. The original is made from water, sourdough rye bread, sugar or honey, yeast, mint and raisins. It can also be made just from fruit, honey and water and left to ferment for three days. It has live enzymes, b-vitamins, probiotics, amino acids and more impressive compounds.  Historically is has been consumed since 1000 AD and has been known for some time to quench thirst better than water, strengthen and energize the body and build muscle. I have made both, and the Fruit Kvass is much easier to make.

A question that will inevitably come up regarding the post-workout suggestions of Kombucha, Kevita and Kvass is the trace amounts (.01 to 1.2 percent) of alcohol that is present. Beer has roughly 5-6 percent alcohol, which means that that 12 ounces of either would be equivalent to a few sips of beer. Even your body produces trace amounts of alcohol through mixture of yeast, sugar and warmth. Co2 (carbonation) and alcohol is a natural by-product of fermentation. In fact, both drinks are considered acceptable for children to drink the alcohol content is so low. Recently, the FDA with their lack of understanding slapped a 21 and older label on Kombucha that is brewed normally. You will see both kinds available, but you want the one that says 21 and older. The other one is less carbonated, has more sugar and tastes like it’s watered down. If you are under 21, have your parents buy it for you and tell them Alex says it’s ok.

Alcohol in the form of beer, wine or hard alcohol is undoubtedly one of the worst things you can have post-workout. Short term and long term alcohol use diminishes muscle growth, depletes b-vitamins, ATP (energy production), increases dehydration, slows injury recovery, and its affect on sleep blunts the human growth hormone (HGH) to do it’s thing by almost 70 percent!

Only a few studies have been done studying post-workout effects and alcohol consumption. One small study titled Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline of muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise, had healthy males engage in strength training, then post-workout consume alcohol or orange juice. Measurements were made with isometric, concentric and eccentric force measurements before, 36 hours and 60 hours after 300 concentric contractions of quadriceps with alcohol or orange juice. While alcohol didn’t effect soreness, it did impact muscle strength by as much as 40 percent. Drinking may be a realistic social ritual while in school, but avoid it at all costs on the nights after a solid workout. Better yet, avoid it completely during heavy training when you’re trying to build strength.

Kevita, Kombucha and Kvass on the other hand gives you a delicious and satisfying carbonated drink that makes you feel amazing while enhancing recovery, immunity and performance. You can find Kombucha pretty much everywhere now including liquor stores, so it makes it easy to pick up while you’re traveling. I recommend getting Gingerade, Gingerberry or Grape as the best choices for athletes. Kvass on the other hand is a little more scarce now (at least in the U.S.) and you may need to make your own. There are also drinks like flavored water kefir that’s becoming available in health food stores. Seek these drinks out and incorporate them into your routine for superior hydration and immune enhancing benefits.

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