Recovery drinks do two main things for the tired runner:
- Refill exhausted glycogen stores.
- Give the muscles a quick start on the path to recovery.
This article gives reviews some of the key points for recovery drinks. And what I think is the best recovery drink for runners.
If you’re in a hurry here’s what you need to know.
- Start the recovery process as soon as you can after your run. Ideally within 30 minutes after you stop running.
- If your run was less than 90 minutes you don’t need to worry about glycogen stores being low. Drink plenty of water until your urine is nice and clear. If you hit it hard, have a recovery drink with plenty of protein to help their recovery.
- If you ran more than 90 minutes you need a good balance of protein and carbohydrates to help your muscles and replace that glycogen. Again drink water to rehydrate.
What’s The Purpose Of A Recovery Drink?
If your run was a four hour long slow distance run or a one hour tempo run. Your body will be primed and crying out for help to recover.
Recovery drinks give your body the carbohydrates, electrolytes and protein it needs to kick start the recovery process.
Which Recovery Drink Is Best For You?
You need to experiment over time to discover what recovery drink will help you get back to the point where you can hit the road again. If you haven’t recovered enough between runs to take the risk of developing an injury.
This is why recovery drinks play an important role in the life of a runner.
How To Choose A Recovery Drink
As with most things associated with running there’s a bewildering range of things you can eat and drink to help you recover.
To my thinking they can be divided into two basic categories: natural and powder.
Smoothies made of fruits, nuts, vegetables and maybe a natural yogurt are delicious and pack a punch when it comes to recovery. However at the end of a 20 mile long run I’m not interested in standing, chopping or blending.
Not when there’s a powder alternative that does just as good job and requires me to add some powder and water to a shaker and I’m done.
It’s a personal preference. I could of course prepare the natural smoothie before I go for a run. But I prefer the convenience and the consistency I get from a powder in a shaker.
The repair of muscle tissue caused by running is a very personal thing. What works for one person may not be as effective for the next.
Don’t settle for anything. Keep experimenting until you find a recovery drink that genuinely helps you get back to your optimal condition at that point in time.
It took me three years to find that the Elivar Recovery drink is the one for me. I love it. Its almost like I can feel my muscles recover and get stronger. But what do you need to consider before purchasing a recovery drink?
Large Tub Or Small Pack
You’ll have seen the large tubs of protein powders. The powder for recovery drinks can come in the same size containers. You can also get them in smaller packets that are more cost effective until you find the perfect recovery drink for you.
Try to avoid buying a 2kg tub of powder until you are sure the contents is the best one for your recovery.
Whats The Best Protein To Carbohydrate Ratio?
I find a higher percentage of protein seems to help my tired legs recover faster after a long run. With that in mind I find the Elivar Recover drink is the one for me.
Academic Research Into Recovery Drinks
This is a prime topic for academic research. Outcomes can be measured between groups of people with different types of drinks and groups with placebos. For example:
Dr Douglas Kalman
In 2010 Dr Douglas Kalman and a number of other academics were published with a paper titled ‘The comparative effects of nutritional drinks designed to augment athletic performance and recovery’.
The intention of this paper was to compare the effects of two natural cocoa based drinks, a sports drink and a placebo on different groups of people.
Amongst the conclusions it was found that a beverage that was 3.5% cocoa gave significant recovery benefits compared to the placebo group. This gave cause to consider further studies into the subject.
In 2010 the late and great Peter Snell and other academics published a paper called ‘Comparative effects of selected non-caffeinated rehydration sports drinks on short-term performance following moderate dehydration’.
This paper investigated the athletes performance after consuming different type of drinks during short term high intensity runs.
Final Thoughts: Best Recovery Drink For Runners
There are a wide range of recovery drinks on the market. Young or old, short distance or ultra runner there will be a recovery drink that will help your body after your hard efforts.
Keep experimenting with different recovery drinks until you find a drink from which you can genuinely feel the benefits.
The recovery drink is of course only part of the recovery picture. Its best straight after a run to kick start your recovery. It isn’t a replacement for a healthy diet and a good night.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Vegan Recovery Powders?
There are many flavours from several different vendors. Play close attention to the product you buy. Some of the vegan products look very similar to their non-vegan counter parts.
Are there Organic Recovery Drinks?
Several brands produce organic recovery drinks. Try buying a few samples to find out which one you prefer.
Do Powder Recovery Drinks Taste Nice?
Some are better than others and it come down to which one you prefer.