Recovery drinks have been given a bad rap, particularly in the mainstream press.
What are Recovery Drinks for?
But protein and energy drinks can provide repairing nutrients following a tough workout, or a vital top up during a long-distance competition.
The term recovery drink covers a wide spectrum of products, from protein shakes, to electrolyte sports drinks, to a glass of chocolate milk after your activity. A drink that helps your recovery during or after a workout is a recovery drink. Let’s run through some of the most common types of recovery drink, and why and when to use them:
Different types of recovery drink:
# Energy drinks
Generally, a recovery drink describes a sports drink consumed before, during or after exercise. This is to replenish vital minerals the body loses whilst sweating. These minerals are called electrolytes. Most of these types of drinks will be carbohydrate based, aiming to replenish the glycogen stores lost through exercise. Sports-science professionals generally agree that the best window within which to consume an energy drink is 20 minutes after exercise.
# Protein Shakes
Protein shakes, as anyone who’s drank one will attest, are a very different beast to energy drinks. Protein shakes are protein heavy and thicker, generally dairy based shakes which contain high levels of protein for post-workout muscle repair. Increasingly, protein is also available from non-dairy, vegan friendly sources.
Protein shakes have a longer consumption window following a workout to achieve their maximum benefits - up to an hour. That said, both energy drinks and protein shakes can be used before and during workouts depending on the desired effect.
When to take a recovery drink:
Protein supplements are generally advised in a 20-30 gram dosage following exercise, though some ‘gym bros’ swear by protein shakes taken directly before, or even during their workout.
Energy drinks have more science behind their pre or mid workout use. While only really advised for high intensity cardiovascular training, energy drinks can give a well needed boost taken an hour before exercise. They also are advised for every hour of exercise completed during long distance activity.
So, recovery drinks can depend on whether you are seeking a pre-workout boost to your upcoming workout, a mid-workout top up, or a post-workout recovery.
For pre-workout seek out an energy drink with 20-40 grams of carbohydrates.
For a mid-endurance top up, try to consume an energy drink containing 30-60 grams of carbs for every hour of exercise.
Post-workout, this is where the protein shake should definitely come into play. Knock back a shake containing 20-30 grams of protein for the win.
# Is chocolate milk a recovery drink?
Chocolate milk may be the silent hero of the recovery drink game. A 2017 study on workout recovery analysed chocolate milk’s impact on performance and recovery markers. The study found chocolate milk had similar or even superior results when compared with placebo or electrolyte drink.
That said, it’s not always viable to keep a carton of chocolate milk in your sports bag on the go, particularly as it needs to be refrigerated. While chocolate milk can be a great alternative if you can wait to get home, for the serious endurance athletes among you, an electrolyte fix might be best found in a sports drink.