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10 Best Recovery Drinks for Runners Tested & Compared

last updated May 17, 2019
Whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting out, the best recovery drinks for runners are an absolute must! If you want to keep your body in tip-top shape, you will find the recovery drinks on our list are a total game changer!

Strenuous physical exercise is healthy, but it also puts our bodies under a lot of stress and depletes our energy—which is why recovery is an essential component to a runners daily routine. Many runners take the time to stretch and roll out when they are done training, but most don’t use a recovery drink.

The best recovery drinks will taste great, help your body recover faster, and keep you feeling great—check out our top picks below!

In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research

icon
Owyn
95.6/100 our score
Effectiveness
98
Compatibility
97
Product Purity
98
Versatility
97
Value
88
Owyn
Why is it better?

Has all 9 amino acids

100% Vegan

Gluten Free

Plant Based Ingredients

Enhances Muscles

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Owyn
Test Winner: Owyn
Researched Sources
10
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
2k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
10
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
14
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
Avatar
By Giselle Killebrew:

Our most recent update brings 3 new recovery drinks to our list—the O2 natural recovery, Iconic, and Gatorade Recover. All three of these are excellent options to consider, with the first being an oxygenated drink—and the best part, they all taste great!! Make sure to take a look at the rest of our page to learn more about how to choose the best recovery drink for you!

Sorting Options
Effectiveness Compatibility Product Purity Versatility Value By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
95.6
Effectiveness
98%
Compatibility
97%
Product Purity
98%
Versatility
97%
Value
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$14.99
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94
Effectiveness
98%
Compatibility
97%
Product Purity
98%
Versatility
97%
Value
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$44.99
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.2
Effectiveness
91%
Compatibility
93%
Product Purity
95%
Versatility
92%
Value
95%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$35.99
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Effectiveness
93%
Compatibility
90%
Product Purity
88%
Versatility
95%
Value
97%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$19.06
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.4
Effectiveness
92%
Compatibility
91%
Product Purity
92%
Versatility
90%
Value
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$15.98
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
75
Effectiveness
85%
Compatibility
65%
Product Purity
85%
Versatility
50%
Value
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$41.99
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.8
Effectiveness
80%
Compatibility
70%
Product Purity
81%
Versatility
78%
Value
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$25.92
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.8
Effectiveness
97%
Compatibility
80%
Product Purity
95%
Versatility
92%
Value
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$28.37
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.8
Effectiveness
96%
Compatibility
85%
Product Purity
85%
Versatility
89%
Value
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$35.99
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.8
Effectiveness
95%
Compatibility
80%
Product Purity
94%
Versatility
80%
Value
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (21.05.19)
$34.97
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Owyn
  • O2 Natural Recovery
  • Iconic
  • Gatorade Recover
  • Body Armour
  • Nuun Hydration
  • Vega Sport Recovery
  • Labrada BCAA
  • Jacked Factory Power Build
  • Legion Recharge
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top 10 Recovery Drinks for Runners

1. Owyn

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
95.6
Owyn
Effectiveness
98
Compatibility
97
Product Purity
98
Versatility
97
Value
88
best offer for today
$14.99
Pros:

Has all 9 amino acids

100% Vegan

Gluten Free

Plant Based Ingredients

Enhances Muscles

Cons:

Taste is a bit much for some

100% Vegan & Gluten free. Owyn is made from plants and has amazing health benefits for athletes. This shake has all 9 amino acids and helps enhances muscle recovery when drinking. Has an 18-month shelf life and doesn't need to be in the refrigerator unless it is opened.

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Effectiveness

The best run or workout in the world is of little use if you deplete your nutrients and vitamins and cannot replenish them and keep your body functioning properly. The Owyn Vegan Protein Shake does all of this for you!

Compatibility

This a good recovery drink that helps restore the body and replenish nutrients lost during your runs and workout sessions. It works well for many levels of activity and performance and is a great thing to have on hand for runners.

Product Purity

This recovery drink is made of organic ingredients that you can trust. It is completely Vegan and gluten-free--so it can be consumed by most athletes and runners out there!

Versatility

You can take this drink with you on the go or keep at home when you get back from your workouts. You don't have to mix or blend it--just open it up and drink. However, if you want to mix it up with one some of your favorite smoothie ingredients, go for it--this drink is really versatile.

Value

This recovery drink is a little on the pricey side--but it is definitely not too expensive, especially if you want something convenient and perfect for those of you on the go!

2. O2 Natural Recovery

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94
O2 Natural Recovery
Effectiveness
98
Compatibility
97
Product Purity
98
Versatility
97
Value
80
best offer for today
$44.99
Pros:

Free of artificial ingredients

Not carbonate

Available with or without caffeine

Packed with electrolytes

Oxygenated

Low in calories and sugar

4 different flavors

Cons:

Expensive

Some users wish it was carbonated

The O2 Natural Recovery drink is pretty pricey, but it is worth every cent! It is available in caffeinated and decaffeinated options and it definitely tastes great! It was formulated by a CrossFit trainer and it is the perfect recovery drink for CrossFit athletes, runners, and all athletes alike!

Read more

Effectiveness

This is an excellent recovery drink, but you can also use it as a pre or during workout drink for added energy if you get the caffeinated formula. This drink is oxygenated--hence the O2--for optimal recovery, so you can get back to running and working out every morning!

Compatibility

This recovery drink was formulated to be free of artificial flavors, colors, and ingredients. It is oxygenated, which allows for optimal recovery, and has double the electrolytes than most recovery drinks out there. The best part though--it has only 20 calories and just 2 grams of sugar!

Product Purity

If you want a drink that is free of harmful ingredients, then you will love this drink. It is low in both calories and sugar and free of artificial ingredients. It is uncarbonated and you have the option of getting it with or without caffeine.

Versatility

What makes this drink really versatile is that you have options to use it before or during your workout as well if you get the option with caffeine. You don’t have to mix anything and it comes in lots of great flavors!

Value

This recovery drink is pretty price--but most oxygenated recovery drinks are. However, it is worth every penny if you want something packed with electrolytes and that will help you feel great after your workout.

3. Iconic

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.2
Iconic
Effectiveness
91
Compatibility
93
Product Purity
95
Versatility
92
Value
95
best offer for today
$35.99
Pros:

5 different flavors

Milk is derived from grass-fed cows

Non-GMO

Kosher

Lactose-free

Great for those of you who stick to a paleo or keto diet

Packed with protein and electrolytes.

Cons:

Not Vegan-friendly

A little pricey

The Iconic protein shake is the perfect post-workout recovery drink because it is packed with the protein your muscles need to efficiently recover quickly. This one is so good you can have it for breakfast, snacks, or use it strictly for after your runs--whatever you choose, it will get the job done.

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Effectiveness

This drink has a mix of whey and casein--and believe us when we say it is packed with protein! It also the electrolytes you need post-workout so you can replenish your body with the nutrients that you need.

Compatibility

Unless you are Vegan, you will love this product! It is free of gluten, soy, and low in sugar—so most people can use it! It is also available in 5 delicious flavors—and if you are on the keto or paleo diet this one is definitely a go as well!

Product Purity

This product is made of non-GMO ingredients and has absolutely no artificial flavors or colors. It features milk from grass-fed cows, so it is free of hormones and antibiotics.

Versatility

This recovery drink is perfect for post workouts--but many athletes also love it for breakfast, a mid-day pick me up, and a quick snack.

Value

A little pricey, but definitely not overpriced. This drink definitely holds its value given how effective it is.

4. Gatorade Recover

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Gatorade Recover
Effectiveness
93
Compatibility
90
Product Purity
88
Versatility
95
Value
97
best offer for today
$19.06
Pros:

Tastes great

Great price

20 grams of protein

Used by professional athletes

Cons:

Not completely organic

Gatorade is a top dog in the athletic world. It is highly regarded by athletes everywhere, and their recovery drink is just as great as their ever-popular sports formula. This one tastes great, is perfect for those of you always on the go, and tastes great--what's not to love!

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Effectiveness

The Gatorade recover protein shakes is formulated for post-workouts and is packed with ingredients that will ensure your muscles recover--so you can get back to it each and every day.

Compatibility

This recovery drink is perfect for all athletes--whether you are a runner, a CrossFit athlete, or whatever your sport of choice is you will definitely love this one!

Product Purity

While this is not the most organic option out there, it certainly is free of unwanted and harmful ingredients.

Versatility

Although this recovery drink is perfect for all athletes, it is best for post workouts and should not be used as a meal replacement.

Value

This one is pretty affordable, but it is also really comparable to other recovery drinks on our list. It tastes great and is perfect for those of you on the go.

5. Body Armour

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.4
Body Armour
Effectiveness
92
Compatibility
91
Product Purity
92
Versatility
90
Value
92
best offer for today
$15.98
Pros:

Great taste (really!)

Loaded with vitamins

Effective hydration option

Cons:

Expensive

High in sugar

BodyArmor is an easily accessible and highly affordable sports drink that will provide runners and athletes of all types with adequate nutrition and supplements to replace what they lose during their workouts. It is also one of the healthier and more organic options currently available.

Read more

Effectiveness

The Body Armor drink is full love of electrolytes and is perfect for hydration during and post workout. It is delicious and will definitely help you keep your body in tip-top shape for sure.

Compatibility

This drink is perfect for all athletes--and the best part is that it tastes great. While some users may find that it is too sweet, you will love to hear that it use all natural flavors and sweeteners, so there is nothing artificial about it.

Product Purity

Since it is made of Coconut water you can count that it is packed with electrolytes. It is free of artificial colors and flavors and also uses cane sugar as a sweetener.

Versatility

While it isn't the most versatile, it is definitely perfect for during and post workouts. You can't use this one as a meal replacement, but you can certainly hydrate with it throughout the day as well.

Value

This is definitely one of the more affordable options on our list and it is totally worth it.

6. Nuun Hydration

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
75
Nuun Hydration
Effectiveness
85
Compatibility
65
Product Purity
85
Versatility
50
Value
90
best offer for today
$41.99
Pros:

Good source of electrolytes

No sugar

Good value

Cons:

Some customers preferred the old formula

Some people felt taste was mediocre

The Nuun Hydration tablets have been available for a few years now and they are a tried and true form for electrolyte replacement. Nuun Hydration tablets are really easy to use; you simply mix them with water and you're ready to go.

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Effectiveness

The Nuun hydration tablets are really effective. They provide you with the electrolytes you need post workout and there are several flavors to choose from as well.

Compatibility

Convenient, reliable, powerful, and affordable, you cannot go wrong with. They are easy to take with you and use anytime, anywhere so you can replenish yourself. So, if you are looking for an effective, healthy recovery source then this is the one for you.

Product Purity

They are low in calories and not too sweet. They also utilize Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium for electrolyte replacement and provide athletes with an adequate amount of electrolytes they need post-workout.

Versatility

If you want good nutritional value and a reliable source of restoration nutrients, then Nuun Hydration tablets may be perfect on the go supplement for when you are out for a run.

Value

These tablets are highly affordable, easy to use, and come in several different flavors.

7. Vega Sport Recovery

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.8
Vega Sport Recovery
Effectiveness
80
Compatibility
70
Product Purity
81
Versatility
78
Value
85
best offer for today
$25.92
Pros:

Ingredients are entirely plant-based

4:1 carb-to-protein ratio

23 ingredients to help increase the effectiveness of your recovery.

Vegan

Gluten, dairy, and soy-free

Cons:

Although ingredients are plant-based, they are not organic whole food based

Each container will get you about 20 servings. The cost here is quite fair considering how well the product is advertised to work, but if you find yourself taking this frequently, costs could add up quite quickly.

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Effectiveness

If you are looking for an effective recovery drink for you to implement into your workout routine you will love this one. It is packed with electrolytes and nutrients that you need for your muscles to recover quickly.

Compatibility

This is a good recovery drink for active runners and avid athletes. The Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator is a convenient way to get the nutrient you want and need.

Product Purity

They are made with high-quality materials and ingredients that supply everything you need without a lot of the negative side effects that are associated with some other health drinks and mixes that are out there. This is a great option for amazing health benefits on the go!

Versatility

This product is perfect for those of you who are always on the go. It can easily be mixed in a blender bottle when you are done running or exercising--and the best part is that it also tastes pretty good as well.

Value

A little pricey, but definitely not expensive.

8. Labrada BCAA

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.8
Labrada BCAA
Effectiveness
97
Compatibility
80
Product Purity
95
Versatility
92
Value
90
best offer for today
$28.37
Pros:

Very effective for recovery and muscle building

Contains BCAA

Vegan friendly

Cons:

Taste

Have to mix to drink

This BCAA formula provides athletes with necessary amino acids/BCAA's and L-Glutamine to properly fuel your body after your workout, replenish what it lost, and help your muscles recover much more quickly.

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Effectiveness

This BCAA powder is perfect for all athletes--but the ladies specifically love it. It tastes great and will give you the BCAA's and electrolytes that you need in order to get back to it each and every day.

Compatibility

Regardless of what type of athlete you are, this is an excellent product to consider. It tastes great but is not overly sweet.

Product Purity

This product is made of top quality ingredients and it is also completely vegan—so pretty much anyone can use it, just make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of its listed ingredients.

Versatility

Easy to use and easy to blend in a blender bottle, this one is perfect for those of you on the go--but don't expect this to be a meal replacement because it is not meant to be that.

Value

Great pricey and not too expensive—and definitely worth every cent.

9. Jacked Factory Power Build

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.8
Jacked Factory Power Build
Effectiveness
96
Compatibility
85
Product Purity
85
Versatility
89
Value
89
best offer for today
$35.99
Pros:

Very effective

Naturally sweetened

Helps with joint pain

Cons:

Some users reported upset stomach or bodily tingling

This product is one of the best recovery options out there. It utilizes all natural ingredients to provide you with the amino acids, vitamins, and supplements you need to quickly recover and encourage muscle growth. It is easy to use and will not cause any stomach issues.

Read more

Effectiveness

If you want to replenish your system after a run and also boost muscle production and fat burning power, then the Jacked Factory Power Build mix may be exactly what you have been looking for.

Compatibility

It can be a little difficult to mix at times but most users say it dissolves easily and is a quick and easy way to get your nutrients and vitamins and keep everything in the proper balance after your runs.

Product Purity

Not the most organic option but it certainly is not full of harmful ingredients you won't want to put in your body. Although you definitely won't want to this one if you are looking for something completely organic.

Versatility

This one is really difficult to mix and may need to be blended more vigorously but it is an easy one to keep in your gym bag for post workouts.

Value

Great price—not too expensive and definitely affordable.

10. Legion Recharge

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.8
Legion Recharge
Effectiveness
95
Compatibility
80
Product Purity
94
Versatility
80
Value
85
best offer for today
$34.97
Pros:

All-natural ingredients

Includes creatine monohydrate

100% money-back guarantee

Very effective

Cons:

Some users reported an upset stomach after use

Legion is one of the most recognizable brands out there, and as a result, it carries a bit of a higher price. However, the extra cost seems to be well worth the overall functionality that Recharge is able to deliver.

Read more

Effectiveness

Really effective at what it is designed to do, this product will give you the recovery that you need.

Compatibility

With a good brand and reputation to live up to, the Legion Recharge recovery drink mixes are perfect for the active runner who is on the go.

Product Purity

Made of safe ingredients but definitely not the most organic option.

Versatility

With bulk containers, it is easy to have what you need on hand, it will last a good while, and is a great option for runners who cannot be bothered with refrigeration or keeping up with a lot of bottles and containers all the time.

Value

The higher price is a downside for some but it is still a great investment many runners like.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Effectiveness

In order for a recovery drink to adequately do its job in helping you recover, a few essential things need to happen. First, timing is everything. Studies suggest that the golden window of opportunity to get the most out of your post-exercise recovery drink or snack is within 20 to 30 minutes after completing your workout. The longer you wait to properly nourish yourself, the more your body’s ability to refuel and repair itself diminishes. (And we all know what can happen to our moods and general demeanor when we let ourselves get overly “hungry”… the “hangry” becomes all too real!)

Secondly, it is all about what is going into your recovery drink, which in turn, goes into you! You might have heard of the 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and were just never sure what exactly that meant. This ratio of 4:1 (though some studies suggest 3:1 work equally as effectively) is what allows for the most efficient recovery of the muscles and body after a hard workout, and refers to the totals (in grams) of each in your recovery meal. So, for instance, a post workout drink that contains 40 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein fits well into the 4:1 ratio. But why this ratio? Well, both carbohydrates and protein help restore your energy levels. Energy is stored in the form of glycogen (“glucose”) which is part of the reason why more carbohydrates are necessary.

Studies also show that protein, aside from directly growing and repairing the muscle fibers, actually assists in helping the body more efficiently absorb the energy from carbohydrate. One benefit of purchasing recovery drinks and protein powders is that they come conveniently pre-made with the proper ratio of carbs to protein – giving you the most effective post-workout recovery fuel you can have. But it is also important to not settle for a recovery drink of subpar quality. Specifically, the drinks on our list use high-quality protein and carbs. The best, most effective type of carbohydrates in a recovery drink is simple carbs (as opposed to complex) because they can be effectively digested in the short window of time after a workout that you should drink them. Check and see which type of protein is in your recovery drink as well.

There are two types of protein that are most commonly consumed as post-workout protein supplements, and both are natural dairy byproducts, derived from milk. (It is important to note that you can also consume other types of protein from other animal or plant sources in your recovery snack or drink and still reap the benefits of muscle recovery, healing, and repair. Milk proteins just happen to be the most commonly used in recovery drinks on the market today).

Casein

The first, casein, is a slow digesting protein. Upon entering the acidic environment of the stomach, casein peptides become denatured and form a kind of gelatinous ball of casein. For that reason, many athletes choose to consume casein just before bed so that their bodies might have a slow digesting protein source to tap into to refuel and recover throughout the night while sleeping. The second, whey protein, is more commonly consumed as a post-workout recovery supplement because it is emptied from the stomach faster and the body more readily absorbs it. Therefore, it works to recover and rebuild muscles more quickly because it has higher levels of leucine (a critical amino acid in building muscle).

Whey

Whey also tends to be cheaper than casein. You also might see recovery drinks and protein powders that are marketed as containing “whey protein isolate.” This is just a “purer” form of whey protein, in that more fats, sugars, vitamins, and minerals, and lactose is stripped out of the whey. So what if you want to reap the fast acting recovery benefits of whey and the slow digesting recovery benefits of casein, without having to remember to take multiple forms of protein and recovery drinks every day? Simply mix your whey protein powder with milk (in which casein is the most abundant protein) after a workout and speed up the refueling and healing process all day!

Compatibility

You might prefer the convenience of a pre-mixed drink – simply chill it ahead of time and you can just grab it and go in the busy mornings or immediately after a workout. In this way, you don’t have to worry about having a blender or remembering to bring a blender bottle, dealing with the ickiness of the smell, or the hassle of cleaning it. But these pre-mixed drinks are generally more expensive. On the other hand, recovery powders allow for more versatility for use in different recipes and can be easily added to other meals. But the texture of powders also tends to be less palatable, especially if not mixed thoroughly or correctly.

Lactose Intolerance

If you are lactose intolerant or typically have an aversion to lactose in dairy products, be wary before committing to a recovery drink. Typically, the common recovery proteins of casein and whey are derived from dairy products and may contain lactose. However, the good news is that products containing whey protein isolate (as opposed to whey concentrate) are typically free of lactose, and safe for individuals with a lactose allergy to consume. Read the labels on your product and know what type of protein it contains. Other types of animal proteins found in meat, poultry, and plant products will be proteins like collagen and myosin.

Protein Content

So this may seem confusing, but some recovery drinks don’t actually contain complete sources of protein. For instance, the Legion Recharge Post workout Supplement on our list only contains three ingredients – creatine monohydrate, l-carnitine l-tartrate, and corosolic acid – none of which are complete proteins. Yet creatine is a key supplement in assisting in muscle growth: it provides extra ATP to muscles, which increases overall energy and allows you to exert even more power in your stride, run for longer, and ultimately go further. In sum? Creatine is one of those under-the-radar supplements that can boost muscle growth, recovery, and repair in dramatic ways, and has an added benefit of remaining stored in muscles for days after consumption, so it’s ready to go when you choose to (literally) hit the ground running. Carnitine has been proven to increase the body’s testosterone levels, which will also speed up muscle recovery (however, be cautious of over-consumption of carnitine if you’re a female). And corosolic acid is known for helping maintain blood sugar and glucose levels, which ultimately allow your muscles to have a constant source of energy.

The Right Equipment

Recovery drink protein powders don’t necessarily require a fancy blender or mixer (though they do guarantee a smoother consistency) but you will definitely need a Blender or Spider bottle to mix up your recovery drink to avoid clumps or chalkiness. These can be purchased fairly cheaply online, at sporting goods stores, and even at some grocery stores.

Product Purity

We have talked about the importance of the right amounts of protein and carbohydrates in your recovery drink to best help in healing and refueling your body, to get it ready for your next intense track workout or long run. But the best recovery drinks, like the ones included in our list, will also contain additional ingredients that further assist in the recovery process. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are specifically helpful in the recovery process, and many recovery drinks and powders are fortified with BCAAs. Having an efficient amount of amino acids in your diet (the building blocks of protein) ensures that your cells deliver these amino acids where they need to go during protein synthesis: to recovery muscle fibers to stimulate growth and repair after a workout. BCAAs are especially helpful amino acids in protein synthesis, as long as you have at least three grams present in your recovery drink.

The three branched chain amino acids, isoleucine, leucine, and valine, are all found in milk products (another reason why milk-derived proteins like whey and casein are the most common form of protein used in recovery drinks). When consumed with a carbohydrate, BCAAs are the most efficient amino acids to repair and refuel your body after a workout. They also have been proven to decrease overall soreness caused by an intense run, and when paired with exercise, they may help promote fat burning and weight loss because leucine specifically helps you to feel fuller by improving your sensitivity to the hunger hormone leptin.

Aside from BCAAs, two other critical ingredients to look for in a recovery drink are antioxidants and creatine. Antioxidants block free radicals, which cause a cellular breakdown. Therefore, protecting against free radicals means protecting against muscle cell breakdown. The fewer muscle cells that are broken down, the less damage that is done to your muscles, and so will result in a faster recovery period. As for specifically helpful antioxidants, vitamin C is specifically beneficial in reducing inflammation and fatigue, and may even help reduce muscle pain brought on in subsequent hard workouts.

Vitamin E is also helpful; when taken along with vitamin C, studies suggest it may help reduce a bad case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the days following a bad workout because it works to actively break down lactic acid (the suspected cause of DOMS). For those of you wondering about creatine (a supplement typically promoted as a PRE workout supplement), hear us out. Creatine provides quick digesting energy, and thus makes sense as a pre-workout supplement. But consider your muscles right after you just had a tough run – they are tired (which is why you need a recovery drink in the first place). But just like you need a cup of coffee in the morning to get going to perform at your best, your muscles need a source of energy in order to most effectively carry out the protein synthesis process and be able to most efficiently use the carbohydrates, protein, and BCAAs to recover and repair.

Aside from the ingredients that are good for you and that you definitely want to see listed on your label, there are some ingredients that you probably DON’T want to be added in your recovery drink. Added sugars, while they do provide a carbohydrate source, often times will just end up adding unwanted calories (that might just negate all the calories burned from your workout) and potentially have an overly sweet taste. You might also be trying to avoid sugar substitutes like sucralose and aspartame; even though they are calorie free, many people have a strong aversion to the taste, and some have experienced unwanted bloating, gas, and stomach cramping from sugar substitutes.

Versatility

One of the great benefits of most recovery drink powders is their versatility. Getting creative in the kitchen can be fun, and with the right tools and ingredients, you can whip up a delicious meal, snack, or dessert with your recovery drink that can satisfy your refueling needs in a new, exciting, and delicious way! Most of the recovery drinks on our list can be used as the base of or added into smoothies and shakes, can be incorporated into desserts to give your sweets a boost of nutrients, or spooned into your morning bowl of oatmeal or other breakfast.

A great snack hack is to make a spread out of your protein powder. Level out a scoop or two into a bowl and then slowly add milk or water until it begins to slightly thicken, but not so much that the powder gets dissolved (usually about 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to a big heaping scoop of powder). Then spread onto your favorite bread, toast, or English muffins, or serve atop yogurt or oatmeal. And with so much protein, recovery drinks typically have “staying power” so they can be consumed themselves as snacks or small meals if you are on the go.

Your Gender

On the whole, protein is protein and the human body breaks it down and uses it all the same, regardless of gender or what form the protein comes in. Still, a powder that is marketed as a man’s product will likely have higher serving amounts, more protein, and subsequently, higher calories. Female products will have fewer calories but may contain more sugar substitutes (aspartame, sucralose, stevia, etc) and will usually highlight itself as having added ingredients that are more quintessential for women’s health than men’s health.

These include such ingredients as folic acid (especially helpful for pregnant women, women looking to get pregnant, or for women who are breastfeeding because it has been proven to reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects in children), Vitamin B6 (known to create and help maintain a healthy immune system) and iron (women are much more prone to have lower iron levels and suffer from anemia than men, especially because of menstruation; athletes and runners, in particular, are in need of iron supplementation because it supplies tired bodies and muscles with oxygen, and thus, more energy).

From our list of best recovery drinks, Melissa’s Mix Recovery Drink for Women is a great option for female runners. As a general rule of thumb, know your gender’s specific health needs, as well as your own individual health needs, and opt for a recovery drink that helps you meet your health, wellness, and nutrition goals.

Value

For our intents and purposes, we gauge the value of a product off of more than just cost. While price is certainly important, (hey, we know how expensive being a runner can become once you start investing in high-quality gear, attire, nutrition, and supplements) we also consider how much of the product you will get out of a one time purchase, the quality of the product, the convenience of each product (saving time adds a ton of value!) and in this case of recovery drinks, the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and other important ingredients that are contained in each.

The price range of the recovery drinks on our list range from just over $20 to nearly $60. This is the total price you will pay for one unit of the recovery drink (i.e. one container or a case of individual bottles). However, this overall cost does not tell the full story. It is important to pay attention to per serving or per unit cost as well. Knowing the per serving cost of your recovery drinks can really help you find the one that gets you the most for your money. For instance, the cheapest container of recovery powder on our list is about $22. However, there are only 12 servings in the whole case, so you are looking at a per serving cost of $1.78. Compare this with another brand on our list that retails for $55 per container, but has a whopping 74 servings, and comes in at under 75 cents per serving! That can mean a huge difference in cost to you in the long run, especially if you are a daily (or even twice daily) runner and want to consume a recovery drink after each workout.

And for recovery drinks, choosing ones with as close to a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is key, and definitely adds to the overall value of the product. Several on our list have close to perfect ratios, including the Vega Sports Recovery Accelerator (technically it has a 5:1 ratio) and Melissa’s Mix Recovery Drink for Women (38 grams of carbs, 9 grams of protein). As for convenience, only one on our list is a pre-made recovery drink that will save you the time of having to mix yours up yourself, and that’s the Gatorade Protein Recovery Shake. Its nutrition stats are great too, as it has 45 grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein, and 50 percent of your recommended daily amount of calcium. The bottom line is to first check per serving costs of the product you are interested in, and then read the labels and know what you are getting!

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Watch out for hidden sugars

So you've just completed a hard workout and you're feeling really great! Don't go ruin all the gains you've just made without checking the sugar content first. And don't forget that "natural" sugars can also set you back if overconsumed. Make sure to check the labels.

Taste is a factor

For some people, taste is a major factor. Others can push past a less than perfect taste or texture. It is up to your personal preference as to what you choose and whether it is worth passing up a mix simply because of the taste. Consider the benefits and whether it is worth a few minutes of unpleasant taste.

No Protein?

So this may seem confusing, but some recovery drinks don’t actually contain complete sources of protein. For instance, the Legion Recharge Post workout Supplement on our list only contains three ingredients – creatine monohydrate, l-carnitine l-tartrate, and corosolic acid – none of which are complete proteins. Yet creatine is a key supplement in assisting in muscle growth: it provides extra ATP to muscles, which increases overall energy and allows you to exert even more power in your stride, run for longer, and ultimately go further. In sum? Creatine is one of those under-the-radar supplements that can boost muscle growth, recovery, and repair in dramatic ways, and has an added benefit of remaining stored in muscles for days after consumption, so it’s ready to go when you choose to (literally) hit the ground running. Carnitine has been proven to increase the body’s testosterone levels, which will also speed up muscle recovery (however, be cautious of over-consumption of carnitine if you’re a female). And corosolic acid is known for helping maintain blood sugar and glucose levels, which ultimately allow your muscles to have a constant source of energy.

Other Factors to Consider

Bottom Line

Mom always told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and to always eat your veggies–and guess what, she was right! However, if you’re a runner or any type of endurance athlete or weightlifter for that matter, then you know how important the post-workout recovery process truly is. If you want to increase your endurance and overall performance then you need to ensure you are receiving the proper amount of macros (protein, carbohydrates, and fats). Furthermore, it is highly important to replenish your electrolytes, aminos, and fluids. In order to see the best results, you need to make sure you replenish your body in the right window of time after your workout.

So, I am sure it comes to no surprise when we say that nutrition is a HUGE component of muscle repair and body composition. In fact, you may have heard of the 70/20/10 rule when it comes to body composition – our diet makes up 70 percent of the reason our body compositions are what they are, with only 20 percent being from exercise, and ten percent from genetics. The post work out recovery snack, meal, or drink can make all the difference in helping you reach your goals, and we have provided you a great list of some of the best recovery drinks to help you get started! Below is a list of some of the additional factors we used to judge different recovery drinks when finding the right ones to include in our list.

Taste

The functionality of your recovery drink is definitely important. It has to do its main job and help you recover from your tough workout. And from its total cost and convenience level, it needs to fit well into your lifestyle. But all that is to say that you don’t need to sacrifice taste and pleasant food experience. While taste is individually preferential and everyone’s preferences are different, one way to gauge taste is accuracy. Or in other words, does the flavor actually taste how it should? Does the strawberry recovery taste actually taste like strawberry? Chocolate like chocolate and french vanilla like french vanilla?

The products on our list are true to their flavor and taste like they are marketed. Another important factor, and often a deterrent for many folks especially when it comes to powders, is texture. First off, the texture simply has to be palatable because not only is it are to swallow an unpleasantly textured drink in general, but especially so right after a workout. Secondly, powdered drinks that you have to mix yourself can be clumpy, chalky, and still powdery if not mixed well. That is definitely not ideal. If you opt for a powder for your recovery drink, it should mix easily and mix well (with both water and milk). And it should not take an overly fancy blender to mix it well either – you are too busy for that! It should mix easily with a shaker or Blender Bottle. Overall, the recovery drinks on our list go down smooth and taste great.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: How Does Protein Help Build Muscle and Help in Recovery?
a:

The building blocks that comprise protein molecules are amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that, when strung together in different sequences and lengths, create different proteins that have different molecular structures. Of the 20 amino acids, nine are essential meaning humans MUST get them from diets or supplements because it doesn’t create them. The other nine ARE created naturally by the body. Eating protein from animal sources will provide you with “complete” proteins that contain all essential amino acids – so the casein and whey protein found in recovery drinks, because they are from animal products, are complete proteins.

When you workout, you push your muscles to their limits both physically and figuratively speaking. They become literally stretched so much that they develop small tears, which is what causes soreness but is also what amino acids in protein come in to repair. The amino acids consumed in a recovery drink following your run will travel through the bloodstream straight to the damaged muscle fibers and start rebuilding the muscle back, growing stronger than before.

q: What Is the Optimal Time Frame After A Workout To Consume A Recovery Drink?
a:

If you’ve never heard about the “anabolic window,” it’s the magical time frame following the end of your workout that it is critical to get in proper nutrition in order to best recover and refuel. It refers to the window of time in which the body switches over from a catabolic state (when glycogen stores are being broken down) to an anabolic state, (when glycogen stores are used to refuel and build muscle mass) and it typically lasts about only 30 minutes after your workout is finished, though some studies have shown that it may last up to two hours.

q: How Much Protein is Recommended After a Workout?
a:

The optimal range of protein to consume for runners and athletes trying to bulk up and gain muscle is .72 – .81 grams per pound of weight per day. For those only trying to maintain, consume .54 – .64 grams per pound of weight per day. Multiplying your weight by these numbers will help you find the right amount of protein to shoot for, depending on your goals. As far as a post-workout recovery drink is concerned, aim to get in 20 to 30 grams of protein after you’ve finished exercising within the time frame we mentioned earlier.

q: Why the 4:1 Ratio of Carbohydrates to Protein? How Does it Work?
a:

The 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is the perfect post-workout nutrition ratio to shoot for because of the way in which it helps replenish your body’s glycogen stores. Glycogen stores are what help provide your body with energy to use and burn while you’re out hitting the trails, pavement, or treadmill. More carbohydrates are needed than protein because carbs are what fill up your glycogen “tank” but protein is still important, obviously, because of its leading role in protein synthesis and muscle repair.

q: What is the Difference Between Casein and Whey Protein?
a:

When you look at the protein in your recovery drink, it will likely be either casein or whey/whey isolate, and even more likely that it will be whey. These two proteins are derived from milk products and dairy and thus are animal source proteins. Whey is more commonly consumed immediately after a workout because it is a fast digesting protein. It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can begin the muscle recovery and growth process more quickly than whey.

Thus, it’s nearly perfect for that short window of time following a workout that is suggested for consuming recovery drinks. Casein protein is more commonly taken before bed because it slowly digests and is broken down by the stomach. In this way, it can be a steady source of protein and amino acid to your muscles while you sleep. Casein will also keep you fuller for longer because of how slowly it's broken down, so many athletes prefer to take it before a long fast (again, before bed or before a stretch of time that you are too busy to worry about meals and snacks). To get the most out of your recovery and refueling regimen, opt for a schedule that combines both whey and casein.

Sources

  1. Dr. Jeff S. Volek, Whey vs. Casein Protein: Which is Better for You?, Nutrition Express Health Article
  2. Andrea Cespedes, Post Workout Carb to Protein Ratio, Running Nutrition Article
  3. Jan ANnigan, Does Protein Help Rebuild Muscle Tears?, SF Gate Nutrition Article
  4. Colleen de Bellefonds, What Are BCAAs and How Do They Affect Your Workout? - Are BCAA Benefits Legit?, Women's Health Magazine Nutrition Article
  5. Vince Kreipke, 4 Essential Post Workout Ingredients, Bodybuilding.com Nutritional Article
  6. Carly Schuna, Can Lactose Intolerant People Drink Whey Protein Shakes?, SF Gate Nutrition Article
  7. Dr. Gabe Mirkin, How Protein Builds Muscles, Nutrition Webpage Article
  8. Dr. Melina Jampolis, How much protein should I take post-workout?, CNN Nutrition Article
  9. Elizabeth Jarrard, Speed-Up Your Muscle Recovery – The Perfect 4 to 1 Ratio, Vega Health and Wellness Article
  10. Paul Salter, What's The Difference Between Whey And Casein Protein?, Bodybuilding.com Nutrition Article