What’s the most important part of your run?
You may be thinking that starting strong is it. Or maybe that three-quarter mark when you need to dig deep to find your stamina and push through. Perhaps finishing strong is your goal.
While every part of a run has its importance, I’d venture to say that the most important part is the recovery. I know – it’s technically not even part of the run! It’s the part where you get to put your feet up and watch some TV, ease your aching muscles with a percussive massage, and get the compression gear and recovery shoes on.
…Aaaaaaand eat something! Getting calories and protein into your body within 45 minutes of the end of your run is also a key part of recovery. But not everyone wants to think about putting together a small meal post-run. If that sounds like you, have you tried adding a recovery drink to your routine? If you want to try it out, we recommend GU Roctane Protein Recovery Drink Mix. It contains 30 grams of carbs to increase energy, 20 grams of protein to help muscles repair, and electrolytes to replenish fluids.
The market it flooded with other great options. If GU is not for you, check out our complete list below!
Top 3 Best and Favorites
GU Roctane Protein Recovery Drink Mix
Pacific Health Labs Endurox R4
1. GU Roctane Protein Recovery Drink Mix
This recovery drink contains pretty much everything you need to get your body back to the state it was in before your run. It’s the perfect post-exercise drink to refuel your body, rebuild your muscles, and rehydrate your cells.
One 230-calorie serving will provide you with 20 grams of high-quality whey protein. This goes straight to the muscles, which need protein to heal themselves after taking a beating during exercise!
In addition to that, you’ll get a 30-gram shot of fast-acting carbs to replenish glycogen stores and give you a little bit of an energy boost. Yes, there’s more to carbs than preventing bonking!
Each scoop also contains 230mg of sodium to replenish what you lost during your run, as well as a variety of amino acids to boost the immune system and help it recover more quickly.
This drink is also gluten-free and kosher, so it’s suitable for many different runners.
- 230 calories per serving
- High-quality whey protein
- Helps to refuel, rebuild, and rehydrate
- Gluten-free and kosher
- Not many flavor options
Top All-Natural And Gluten Free
2. Pacific Health Labs Endurox R4
It’s always good to find a sports product that’s all-natural. Avoiding artificial ingredients is better for the body and the immune system. They’re generally more easily digested too, so you’ll feel the effects of the product sooner.
Depending on the flavor, one serving of this drink will refuel between 270 and 280 calories. Within those calories, you’ll find about 50 grams of carbs and 13 grams of protein – roughly a 4:1 ratio.
Other things we like on the label include decent amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium for electrolyte replenishment, vitamins C and E, and L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps particularly with muscle recovery and prevents muscle soreness the day after intense exercise.
- 4:1 carb to protein ratio
- All-natural ingredients
- 270 – 280 calories per serving
- Contains L-glutamine for faster recovery
- This drink may not mix well
- High in sugars (even though they’re natural)
Top Electrolyte and Protein Recovery Drink
3. Nuun Recover
If you are less concerned about refueling with carbs and more about electrolytes and protein, then this drink would be the one for you.
It’s vegan, kosher, dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, so there’s practically nobody who wouldn’t be able to drink is!
In addition to appropriate electrolyte replenishment levels, this drink contains a BCAA blend (3:1:1 Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine) which promotes muscle repair. It’s claimed that this mix is as potent as 30 grams of protein for repairing muscle, but it’s unproven and does leave the actual protein content in this drink a little low, at 6 grams.
On the bright side, there are only 50 calories in a serving of this drink, so if you’re counting calories (not always a great idea in recovery but…), this one is a better option than the heavier drinks.
- 3:1:1 vegan BCAAs
- 50 calories per serving
- Informed Sport Certified
- 6g of protein per serving
- Only two flavors
- The protein content may be too little – the claims about the vegan blend are unsubstantiated
Best Recovery Drink with Caffeine
4. Tailwind Nutrition Rebuild Recovery Drink (Coffee)
If you like a caffeine boost, this may be the best recovery drink for you. It’s coffee flavored, so it’s basically like drinking a more nutrient-dense cup of delicious coffee after your run.
The caffeine content comes from real Arabica coffee, which also adds to the flavor. If you’re not used to strong coffee, this may be a bit much for you, both in taste and in kick!
Every 245-calorie serving contains 43 grams of quick-digesting carbs, 10 grams of protein, all the necessary electrolytes, and added amino acids.
It’s vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free, so it’s suitable for most runners. Drink within 30 minutes of your run for the best effect.
- Vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO
- 240 calories per serving
- Easy on the stomach
- Restores electrolytes
- Some people may find the taste to be a bit overwhelming
- If you’re not used to caffeine, you may react badly to the amount in this drink
Top Soy Protein Recovery Drink
5. Science In Sport Rego Rapid Recovery
This drink is soy-based, which some runners may not be happy with. But it’s free from nuts, wheat, gluten, lactose, and banned substances.
If you’re okay with soy, this drink is a good blend of all the necessary nutrients for optimal recovery. 184 calories, 23 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of protein is a nice mix that will replenish glycogen and kickstart the muscle repair process.
This recovery drink is also Informed Sport Registered, which means it’s been certified to be free from banned substances so it’s good to use even if you run competitively.
- 23g carbs, 20g protein per scoop
- 184 calories per serving
- Contains 2g of Leucine (an amino acid)
- Informed Sport Registered
- No flavor variations
Best Recovery Drink With Probiotics
6. Skratch Labs Sport Recovery Drink Mix
Runners with sensitive stomachs, this one’s for you. We all know that sports powders can be hard on the digestive system. But this one is unique in that it contains probiotics, which are live bacteria that are necessary for our gut health.
If you haven’t heard about probiotics, they are all around you, and they are a hot topic in health. many popular and healthy fermented foods such as yogurt and kombucha are rich in probiotics, too. It’s a natural and helpful thing, and we already have them in our stomachs. The addition, extra probiotics helps this drink to be digested easily with minimal digestive effects.
It’s gluten-free and kosher, but it may not be best for runners who have trouble with dairy. There are also flavors containing caffeine and those without, so nobody is excluded! Be aware, though, that caffeine may disrupt the digestive system.
- 200 calories per serving
- Caffeine and caffeine-free options
- Hydrates and replaces electrolytes
- Contains Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086 probiotics
- It doesn’t blend as easily as others
- Not suitable for those sensitive to dairy
Top Plant-Based Recovery Drink
7. Vega Sport Nighttime Rest and Repair
Vegan runners, this one is our best choice for you. It’s completely plant-based and still provides a nice 18 grams of protein in its 100 calories.
In addition to a good dose of protein, you’ll get the full scope of electrolytes and added amino acids to help with muscle repair.
Something unusual is that this drink contains 3mg of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. We like that it’s included here because the best recovery happens while we’re asleep.
It should help you fall asleep faster, soothe restless legs, and help you stay asleep for longer, while your muscles do their thing.
- 100 calories per serving
- 18g plant-based protein
- No artificial flavors or sweeteners
- Contains 3 mg of melatonin
- Pricey for only 15 servings in a tub
Best Endurance and Recovery Combo Drink
8. TriFuel 3-in-1 Endurance and Recovery Drink
If you need that extra bit of endurance for long or intense training sessions, this would be the drink to go for. Technically, it’s a pre-workout drink, but it has good recovery properties too.
It’s made from high-quality ingredients and is considered an anti-fatigue complex. L-citrulline, vitamin C, and vitamin E work together to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness and keep you going for longer, as well as speeding up recovery when you do finish up.
There’s no protein at all in this drink, but you will find 30 grams of quick-digesting carbs for an energy boost. Extra vitamins, an electrolyte complex, and BCAAs all add to the effectiveness of this drink to stave off fatigue and help you push through your race, run, or workout.
It’s suggested that you take this 30 minutes prior to working out, but the effects will last long after your workout ends.
- 112 calories per serving
- Anti-fatigue complex
- Contains 2,000 mg of L-citrulline malate, Vitamin C and E (to delay the onset of fatigue during intense training, reduce soreness and hasten recovery.)
- FDA-registered production facility
- 50 mg of caffeine anhydrous, and if you’re sensitive to caffeine this can lead to heart palpitations, trouble sleeping, or feelings of anxiety
Top High Sodium Recovery Drink
9. Clif Recovery Protein Drink Mix
If you find that you feel exhausted, nauseated, and often have a headache after doing a hard workout or a long run, you’re most likely lacking electrolytes. They become depleted during exercise and need to be replenished.
This is our top choice as a sodium-replenishing drink. Sodium is the most critical of the electrolytes, and one serving of this packs 250 mg of it. That’s quite a bit – 10% of the recommended daily allowance, more or less. But if you are working out hard and sweating a lot, it might be needed.
The other electrolytes are not neglected, though. You’ll also get a dose of potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
10 grams of protein and added vitamin D also provide benefits like muscle regeneration and production of good hormones to stimulate recovery.
- 160 calories per serving
- Contains amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, protein and carbohydrates
- No artificial flavors or sweeteners
- It has a slightly chalky feel to it when mixed
Best Recovery Drink with Glutamine
10. Fluid After Exercise Recovery
Glutamine is known to be a muscle-recovery enhancer, so if you feel you need a bit of extra help, try this drink out.
You won’t find synthetic ingredients, gluten, lactose, or stimulants in this formula. All you’ll find is a 3:1 carb to protein ratio, a bunch of electrolytes, and a dash of L-glutamine to kickstart the regeneration of those muscle fibers. The exact numbers depend on the flavor you’re using.
You’ll feel more energetic thanks to replenished glycogen stores, have less muscle pain thanks to the glutamine, repair muscle faster with high-quality protein, and improve the immune system while you’re at it.
- 160 calories per serving
- 3:1 carb to protein ratio
- 3000+ mg L-Glutamine
- 10 grams of protein
- Some buyers report that this product doesn’t blend well and leaves clumps in the mix
Top Organic Recovery Drink
11. Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Recovery
This certified organic drink is healthy, vegan, and non-GMO. You can drink it feeling confident that you’re not ingesting anything that shouldn’t be in the human body.
It features some seriously super ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to see in a recovery drink, including turmeric, holy basil, and Rooibos leaf extract. Don’t worry, though – you can’t taste these at all!
They do provide some great health benefits, though. Turmeric is known as an effective anti-inflammatory, which will go a long way towards improving muscle recovery.
Every ingredient on their list is organic and healthy. A small dose of sodium and a nice bit of magnesium are also helpful.
- 50 calories per serving
- NSF – Certified by Sport
- Made from all-natural products
- Certified organic by QCS
- Pea protein doesn’t mix well and you may see bits of it floating in your drink
Not all recovery drinks are the same. If you have questions about them, start here! We’ve answered some of the most common questions to give you a better idea of what to look for when choosing a drink.
What Should a Good Recovery Drink Contain?
Carbs and Protein
Both carbohydrates and protein are essential for speedy recovery. Your recovery drink should contain a 4:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.
Protein will stimulate the muscle recovery process, while carbs will refill your body’s glycogen stores.
If you know anything about sports nutrition and fueling for workouts, you know that glycogen is the predominant energy source for the body. With higher levels of glycogen in your body equal more intense effort for a longer time.
Your recovery drink should also contain amino acids or BCAAs. These prevent muscles from breaking down, and help them to repair effectively.
When your glycogen levels are low, your body will also use BCAA’s as a source of fuel.
Although it depends on the intensity of your workout, you’ll most likely need to replace vital electrolytes that have been lost as you sweat.
A good recovery drink should include electrolytes to help you to stay hydrated and balance and maintain your electrolyte levels. Replacing lost electrolytes also helps prevent muscle cramps!
When Do I Need to Consume the Recovery Drink and When Should I Eat?
Restoring fluids after your run should be the first priority on your list.
If you last had something to eat 4 to 5 hours before your run, you should have a recovery drink as soon as you finish.
If you don’t carry recovery powder with you, then you should try to have it within 30-45 minutes after your run.
Getting it into your system quickly will help reduce inflammation and can help speed up your recovery process. As your body eases out of workout mode, it takes up nutrients – both protein and carbs – more slowly. Hitting that 30-45 minute window will make the most of your recovery drink.
As for eating, you should get food into you within an hour or two of finishing your run.
What Does a Recovery Drink Do to Your Body?
Not all of us have all the ingredients we need to refuel our bodies in our kitchens at home. By using a recovery drink, you’re able to give your body what it needs to rehydrate, reduce inflammation, begin repairing your muscles, and increase your glycogen levels quickly.
Nutrition and rest are key to improving your performance. Most recovery drinks also contain vitamins that help boost your immune system.