With so many recovery drinks out on the market, what’s a spent athlete to drink after an intense workout or race?
This day and age there seems to be 20 companies out there for every one product you want to buy. Let’s narrow this down, and also keep in mind I’m not formally trained in nutrition, but rather an informed, self-coached age group triathlete looking for proper recovery nutrition like many of you out there.
Should you be taking in only carbs? Should you take in only protein? Avoid sugars? A lot of literature out there suggests that a good balance of carbs and protein will help recovery electrolyte loss and provide adequate building blocks to better avoid injuries and illness.
“Carbohydrates may be considered evil in this age of the low-carb diet revolution, but the nutrient plays an important role in helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise.
Recent research shows that a combination of carbs and protein can also help the body recoup. Protein helps repair muscle damage, but carbs are king when it comes to replenishing carbohydrate stores. Eating too much protein after exercise is not good either because it can slow rehydration.” – Associated Press
In one study , evidence indicated that athletes in heavy training will maintain a higher level of health and performance if they consume a carbohydrate-protein liquid supplement immediately following each workout.
For this little science project, let’s look at Gatorade Recovery, Fluid Recovery, Hammer Recoverite, Whole Generic Chocolate Milk and Michelob Ultra (after all, who hasn’t been at a triathlon and seen AT LEAST ONE athlete sucking down a beer after a race, and if Lance Armstrong backs it, it must be perfect for athletes, right?). It’s also convenient that half of these products have Recovery in their name or a similar take-off of it. Catchy.
It all depends on who you ask as to what makes a good recovery drink. Protein, electrolytes, and carbs are a few ingredients mentioned in literature and every brand has their slant.
From Gatorade.com – “A 16.9-oz. bottle of Gatorade Recover 03 contains 16 g of protein to help promote muscle recovery, as well as 14 g of carbohydrate (130 calories), 250 mg of sodium, and 95 mg of potassium to help athletes fully replace electrolytes lost during training and competition.”
If you subscribe to the balance of carbs and protein, you will be interested to know that Fluid, Gatorade Recovery, Hammer Recoverite and chocolate milk all contain a healthy dosing of each. Do note that Gatorade Recovery tends to lean towards the skimpy side of the protein loading which could hinder muscle repair and illness deterrent. (The table shown has varying serving sizes, but the percentage can be applied across the board)
Along with that healthy dose of carbs and protein, the chocolate milk comes with a load of sugars, sodium and cholesterol. Some of these aren’t bad in moderation, but it’s not exactly the “health” advantage the other drinks are.
It probably goes without saying that beer isn’t going to really help you out after an intense workout or race. But, most triathletes sucking down suds after a race aren’t looking for health benefits, so to each their own.
If you asked me, I would rank them as follows in terms of what I would use first. Hammer Recoverite
- Gatorade Recovery
- Chocolate Milk
There’s also the intangible factor of individual preference. Some of these drinks may result in GI issues for some, and be perfectly fine for others. Try a variety and pick one that works best for you.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, and is a married father of one (soon to be two), owner of three dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001. Ryan is also the Kansas Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE. Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org
*All opinions expressed in this story are by the author and are not necessarily those of EMT.