Skip to content
Recovery Drinks

Recovery Drinks

The quality of recovery after training will determine how well you adapt and achieve fitness gains, but perhaps more importantly, your recovery will have a direct impact on how you get through your next training session. Poor recovery can mean arriving at a race or the next workout depleted, sore, tired, fatigued, and with poor focus—reducing your ability to race well or to get the full training benefit of the session. Plan your recovery well (both in the acute post-exercise phase, and with your daily food intake), and you will find improved sleep (more recovery!), better training adaptations, and, of course, better race outcomes.

The goals of recovery are to:

  • Appropriately refuel and rehydrate the body
  • Promote muscle repair and growth
  • Boost adaptation from the training session
  • Support immune function

Nutritional components of recovery include carbohydrates to replenish depleted fuel stores, protein to help repair damaged muscle and develop new muscle tissue, and fluids and electrolytes to rehydrate.

The number one priority for your body after a training session is to replenish its muscular and liver glycogen levels for your next workout. Glycogen is actively used during aerobic exercise and can be depleted during any workout. If you don’t replenish this storage, you may feel flat or under-fuelled during your next workout.

Protein is a hot topic for recovery: some research indicates that there is no specific benefit to including protein, whereas other research suggests the co-ingestion of protein with carbohydrate is necessary to maximize muscle glycogen recovery and protein synthesis. The reason for the discrepancy between these findings is that the outcome is dependent on the type of exercise being performed. Since endurance exercise is fuel depleting and catabolic (breaks down muscle tissue), the co-ingestion of protein becomes a critical component of recovery from endurance training bouts.

The Advantages of Recovery Drinks

After a workout, consuming carbohydrates and protein essentially protects your lean muscle mass and replenishes your system for future workouts. All of this can be achieved by drinking a recovery shake right after your workout. While there’s no such thing as an “ideal” recovery drink, research trends suggest that recovery shakes with a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein offer all of the benefits and no performance detriment. The combination of carbs and protein works synergistically to resynthesize glycogen, and the protein offers an opportunity for muscle synthesis.

Because it’s fast, convenient, and efficient, drinking a recovery drink immediately after your workout is probably the best way to approach your post-workout nutrition. The sooner you consume your post-workout nutrition, the sooner your glycogen stores will be rebuilt. You also have a better chance of ensuring that your carbohydrate intake is sufficient. With a consistent routine around post-workout nutrition, it will also be easier to experiment with your fuel and decide exactly what works for you.

Consuming a recovery drink immediately after every workout can also help you switch into recovery mode. When you transition from an active state to a recovery state, your body changes from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state of rest. Drinking a recovery shake as you cool down can signal to your body that it’s time to start resting, digesting, and rebuilding.


There are numerous ways to approach refuelling after a workout, but drinking a recovery drink immediately after is an easy, fast, and sure way to replenish your glycogen stores and fuel protein muscle synthesis. With a four to one carbohydrate to protein combination, you’ll ensure that you have the fuel you need to protect lean muscle tissue and engage in muscular synthesis. There’s no downside to including protein in the drink and a lot of upsides. As an added bonus, it’s an excellent addition to your recovery routine and a great way to reinforce other habits.

Previous article Determining Hourly Carb Requirements: An Athlete’s Guide
Next article Fat for Fuelling? No Thanks. Why Carbs are still King