The recovery process is arguably as important as the training process itself when running is important to you.
The whole point of training is to get better, stronger, faster, right?
That means that after we stress our bodies, they have to adapt to cope better with that stress next time. This, in a sense, is recovery.
How Can You Recover as Quickly and Efficiently as Possible?
Recovery drinks and supplements can play an important role in the recovery process and allow you to push harder and further in successive training runs with better results.
The body is at its maximum capacity for absorbing restorative nutrients within the 2 hour window after finishing your exercise.
If you wait longer than this to refuel, you are slowing your recovery and hindering your successive workouts.
This article will explain what to look for when choosing the best recovery drinks for runners.
So, What is a GOOD Recovery Drink After Running?
Your body is put under different kinds of stress while running.
These stresses include dehydration, muscle soreness due to lactic acid build up, glycogen depletion and possibly minute muscle tears depending on the intensity of your work out.
Rehydration is easily the most important component of a recovery drink, but hydration alone won’t complete the recovery process.
You also need protein for muscle repair, and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. Protein and Carbohydrates also work together to maximize each other’s benefits.
For example, consuming protein with carbohydrates speeds the glycogen reuptake of your muscles and increases protein synthesis, resulting in faster recovery.
Consequently, the best post run recovery drink is going to have a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and contain ample electrolytes including sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
10-20g of protein is plenty, over-doing it will just stress your kidneys or waste your money.
So, in order of priority, what to look for in a recovery drink:
- Ample water.
Lastly, bear in mind that the benefits you gain from any of the drinks below are going to be in proportion to the effort expended while running.
If you’ve just been for an easy 1 hr jog, a tall glass of water is going to do the job of rehydrating you just fine provided you eat a balanced diet the rest of the day.
Alternatively, if you’ve just run a marathon or done some gnarly hill reps, you’re going to want something a little more substantial!
To not make this article as long as the Lord of The Rings books, see other recommended articles that may be an interesting and in-depth read for you personally on other supplements:
TOP 13 Best Recovery Drinks for Runners Reviewed 2019
PacificHealth Endurox R4 Recovery Drink
Review: Designed for athletes and supported by 18 peer reviewed studies, Endurox R4’s 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio increases protein synthesis, glycogen uptake and endurance while decreasing muscle damage.
All natural ingredients include dextrose, maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate, soy protein and cocoa.
It can be mixed with water for a satisfying and great tasting post run drink that speeds muscle recovery and reduces muscle soreness.
- 4:1 Carbohydrate to protein ratio.
- All natural ingredients.
- Includes glutamine for additional recovery benefits.
- Includes electrolytes.
- Includes vitamin C.
- Great tasting.
- Not suitable for those with soy or dairy sensitivities.
- High sugar so only recommended after strenuous workouts.
The complete recovery package including carbohydrates, electrolytes, protein and the added bonus of glutamine, this is the best post run recovery drink providing you tolerate dairy and soy.
Vega Post Workout Recovery Accelerator
Review: This is another complete package. With its 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, recovery is maximized through top quality plant based ingredients and the addition of turmeric, glucosamine, electrolytes, ginseng and maca.
Yellow pea and sprouted brown rice provide the protein while whole grain brown rice provides the carbs.
- Top quality plant based ingredients so suitable for vegans.
- Sweetened with stevia.
- Ideal 4:1 carb to protein ratio for optimal glycogen uptake.
- Includes electrolytes for hydration.
- Includes turmeric to reduce inflammation.
- Includes glucosamine for joint support.
- Includes B vitamins.
- Serving sizes are small at 4g protein and 16g carbs per scoop.
This is the best recovery shake for runners who want a vegan option.
Science in Sport Regio Rapid Recovery Protein Shake
Review: With more of a 1:1 ratio of carbs to protein, this shake is a little protein heavy and carb light, but as soy provides the protein for this shake, this is a great whey alternative for those who can’t tolerate dairy.
- Contains carbs and protein.
- Soy protein for those who can’t tolerate diary.
- Contains electrolytes for rehydration.
- Includes a range of vitamins.
- Great tasting.
Mix with your favourite milk and some fruit for a perfect post run recovery drink.
Review: Body Armor Sports Drink is a coconut water based rehydration drink with added electrolytes and vitamins.
It has no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners and tastes more like a (not too sweet) fruit juice than straight coconut water.
Its single serve packaging is convenient for those on the go (but not environmentally friendly). Users report a great taste and benefits including reduced cramps and dehydration related migraines.
- 704mg of electrolytes + B vitamins.
- No additives.
- Only natural sugars.
- Great tasting.
- Caffeine free so ideal for recovery after evening runs.
- Different flavors to choose from: fruit punch, orange mango, strawberry banana.
This is a great option for a refreshing, energizing, rehydrating drink post run, so the best post workout drink for runners if you’re going to be having a protein rich snack with it at some point during the 2 hour window.
Vega One Plant Based Protein Powder
Review: A plant based options for the vegans out there looking for a protein boost post run.
Vega One is made of organic ingredients and provides 20g of pea protein per serve along with a good mix of fruits and vegetables including, just to name a few: kale, spinach, acerola cherry and acai.
It has 50% of the daily recommended intake of 8 vitamins and minerals and 2 billion CFUs bacillus coagulans probiotics for gut health.
It doesn’t include enough carbohydrates to hit the 4:1 ratio but this can easily be remedied by making your shake with your milk of choice or adding a banana or some brown rice syrup.
- Perfect amount of post-run protein.
- Easy to make a quick shake or add to smoothies.
- Great tasting.
- A good source of 8 vitamins and minerals.
- A good source of probiotics.
- USDA certified organic and GMO free.
- Dairy, gluten and soy free.
An almost perfect vegan protein shake for recovery owing to its top quality ingredients and hefty concentration of vitamins and minerals, just add some carbs!
Labrada Nutrition BCAA Power Post Workout Drink
Review: This is a recovery drink focussed on high quality branch chain amino acids (A.K.A. BCAAs), the building blocks of protein.
BCAAs are a true muscle tonic in supporting their recovery and growth, and as the human body can’t manufacture them, we need to obtain them from our diet.
Timing is important as they are most beneficial directly after strength workouts (think: hill runs) and interval training.
Labrada manufactures its amino acids through a natural fermentation process resulting in a good quality product with none of the allergens that result from the conventional chemical solvent process.
- Naturally fermented
- Optimal 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleusine and Valine amino acids.
- Contains L-Glutamine for extra recovery.
- Contains coconut water for electrolytes.
- No artificial colors or flavors.
- Multiple flavors to choose from.
- Supports muscle recovery.
- Contains sucralose and soy lecithin.
- Only 2 g of carbohydrates per serve.
- A little pricey.
If top quality amino acids are what you’re looking for, with the addition of electrolytes and L-Glutamine, this is one of the best products to choose from.
However, needs to be combined with a carbohydrate rich snack for the complete recovery package. One of the best supplements to take after running.
Legion Recharge Post Workout
Review: 3 key ingredients target muscle soreness and recover: Creatine monohydrate, L-carnitine L-tartrate and Corosolic acid. Creatine (formed from the amino acids arginine and glycine) is the primary draw card of this product, with its benefits for restoring energy at the cellular level.
For runners, creatine has benefits for lactate threshold and glycogen storage (increasing both) while also improving muscle hydration and acting as an antioxidant.
- Naturally sweetened with stevia.
- No artificial colors or flavors.
- Contains a whopping 60 servings per container.
- Significantly decreases post-run soreness.
- Negatively affects some people’s digestive systems.
- Minimal carbohydrates.
A great quality supplement to add to your recovery routine if creatine is something you are considering including. This is the best supplement for recovery after running.
GU Energy Recovery Chocolate Smoothy
Review: Another great all in one package with a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
Each serving contains 10g of whey protein, 30g of dual source carbs: maltodextrin and fructose and a good serve of BCAAs.
GU’s smoothy powder can be added to your favorite milk with or without other ingredients.
- 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
- Includes BCAAs.
- Includes magnesium, iron, calcium and sodium.
- Contains arginine and glutamine for circulation and immune system support.
- Doesn’t contain potassium.
The best recovery shake after running with the perfect amount of carbohydrates and protein to begin your begin your recovery and the added benefits of some BCAAs and minerals.
Optimum Nutrition 2:1:1 Recovery
Review: With its 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and the addition of BCAAs, this shake is close to the complete recovery package provided you don’t mind the sucralose.
Similar to GU’s chocolate smoothy detailed above, the difference here is that ON’s 2:1:1 formula uses a hydrolyzed whey, micellar casein, and egg albumen protein blend together with sugar to reach the 2:1 ratio.
At 34.8 grams of protein per serve, it’s a little more than is needed, but this could be remedied by using half a serving and supplementing your smoothy with some fruit and milk of choice to get some vitamins at the same time.
- A convenient all in one recovery shake with an appropriate dose of protein, carbs and some BCAAs as a bonus.
- Protein blend includes whey, micellar casein, and egg albumen.
- A blend of proteins as opposed to using just whey protein.
- Effectively aids muscle recovery.
- Contains sucralose.
- Protein content per serve higher than needed.
- Missing a range of beneficial vitamins and minerals but provided it’s not used as a meal replacement and purely as a protein source then this isn’t too big of a drawback.
This is a good addition to your smoothy regime for its convenient blend of protein, carbohydrates and BCAAs if you like a sweeter taste. The best recovery protein powder for runners.
Gaia Herbs Turmeric Boost Restore
Review: This herbal turmeric mix contains a prebiotic blend for added benefits to your gut flora, as well as other delicious chai spices such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, holy basil and star anise, each with their own benefits.
Add it to warm almond milk for a cosy, restorative latte, or into a smoothy with ice and coconut milk for a refreshing shake.
Consuming a natural anti-inflammatory like turmeric is also far more beneficial that synthetic anti-inflammatories in pill form such as ibuprofen, as the anti-inflammatory effects are wide spread and gentle on your stomach without necessarily targeting the localized inflammation that may actually be beneficial in moderation.
The body usually knows what it’s doing so natural alternatives typically come with less side effects.
- No added sugar or flavourings.
- Easy to add to smoothies or just mix with your favorite milk.
- Concentrated turmeric extract contains 42mg of curcumin (active ingredient in turmeric) per 1.5 teaspoon serving.
- Great tasting.
- Versatile, can be drunk warm or cold.
- Doesn’t contain fat which can play a role in turmeric absorption.
- Doesn’t contain protein so would need to be combined with a protein powder to form the ideal recovery shake.
This is a fantastic option for a recovery drink if used in combination with a protein source, speeding recovery through reducing inflammation.
Skratch Labs Matcha Hydration Sachets
Review: For a refreshing hydration focused drink, green tea is becoming as popular as chocolate milk for recovery purposes due to its high concentrations of catechins, antioxidants that help repair muscle damage.
For those looking for a recovery drink with caffeine to follow their morning run, a study has shown that green tea is a fantastic choice for supporting endurance and preventing decreases in iron levels.
However, a decaffeinated version will provide the same benefits sans the caffeine!
Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Mix with Matcha and Lemon provides the benefits of green tea along with electrolytes and carbohydrates for optimum hydration.
- 380mg sodium with magnesium, calcium and potassium.
- All natural ingredients.
- Great tasting.
- Easily digestible.
- Less sugar than conventional sports drinks.
For hydrating drink, this ticks all the boxes with electrolytes, carbohydrates and the added benefits of green tea.
A great refreshing choice to combine with a protein rich snack for optimum recovery. This is best recovery drink after long run to rehydrate before you add a protein rich snack.
Review: Coconut water is another fantastic option for a recovery drink especially if you’ve been running in hot weather and are looking for some help rehydrating.
It contains huge amounts of potassium together with other essential electrolytes and a good amount of carbs for immediately replacing your used glycogen stores.
Paired with a protein rich snack, coconut water is nature’s way of providing you with the perfect recovery drink.
- All natural, unpasteurized.
- No added sugar.
- High concentrations of potassium and other electrolytes.
- USDA certified organic.
Coconut water is a fabulous rehydration tool with a delicious, refreshing taste and more electrolytes than most sports drinks.
Pair it with a protein rich snack for the perfect post run routine.
Review: Finally, I couldn’t resist including some good old chocolate milk.
With its roughly 3:1 carb to protein ratio, chocolate milk makes a nearly perfect recovery drink and on a much smaller budget.
This brand in particular provides top quality organic milk from happy, pasture raised cows.
- Contains calcium and vitamin D.
- Natural milk sugars may be more readily absorbed than processed sugar.
- USDA Certified Organic.
- Milk from pasture raised cows.
- Made with fair trade Dutch cocoa.
- 20g of carbohydrates and 7g of protein per serve.
- Small serving size.
- Limited other nutrients such as electrolytes and BCAAs.
If you want something quick, cheap and easy, can tolerate dairy and eat a healthy balanced diet the rest of the time, chocolate milk is a great post-run option.
That’s all for today, as always, be sure to comment and subscribe!