Best recovery drinks 2014
Recovery is a huge part of training so the right post-exercise nutrition is crucial. Andrew Hamilton tests six drinks to get you back to full strength…
After exercise, your muscle glycogen stores are low and your muscles’ ability to soak up glucose (from carbohydrate) and amino acids (from protein) is temporarily increased.
Consuming a recovery drink within 30mins or so can provide an ideal ratio of these nutrients, along with fluid to rehydrate (and maybe electrolyte minerals too). Whey tends to be the protein of choice because it’s rapidly assimilated and is rich in the amino acid leucine, which is critical for muscle recovery.
Likewise, some quick-releasing carbohydrate is desirable to help spike insulin levels, which boosts uptake of glucose and amino acids into muscles. The consensus is that a carbohydrate/protein ratio of around 2-3:1 works well for endurance athletes such as triathletes.
USN Recover Xcell
Price: £29.99 from uk.usn-sport.com
Providing a 3.5:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, USN’s drink also supplies generous levels of electrolytes to replace those lost from sweating, plus vitamin C. Carbohydrate comes courtesy of maltodextrin, waxy maize starch and corn syrup solids, with protein supplied by rapidly assimilated whey protein isolate.
Less-welcome ingredients are added colours (E100 and E103), along with artificial sweetener (sucralose). Mixing with water as directed resulted in a rather green-looking drink, but one with a refreshing, fruity and authentic tropical taste – albeit quite sweet. At 3p per gram the price is reasonable, but one downside was that mixing with a shaker resulted in copious amounts of froth.
Verdict: Well formulated, tasty and reasonably priced – 80%
High5 Protein Recovery Drink
Price: £41.99 from highfive.co.uk
High5’s drink supplies a blend of carbohydrate from maltodextrin and protein from whey protein isolate to provide a 2.3:1 carbs to protein ratio. Although there are no other added nutrients, this one’s free of all artificial colours, preservatives, flavours and sweeteners.
High5 recommends mixing with water for a rapid release of nutrients, or with milk for a more sustained release (before bedtime, for example). Either way, it mixed readily to give an authentic banana flavour, not too sweet and with a smooth consistency. We preferred it with skimmed milk, which gave it more body, making it very moreish. And, while £40+ sounds a lot per tub, 2.6p per gram is quite reasonable.
Verdict: No-nonsense, good-tasting drink that’s decent value – 85%
SiS REGO Rapid Recovery
Price: £31.80 from www.scienceinsport.com
REGO Rapid supplies a 2.4:1 ratio of carb to protein, with the protein coming, unusually, from soy protein isolate (a big plus for anyone dairy or lactose-intolerant), while carbs are supplied by a maltodextrin/fructose blend for rapid uptake.
Other ingredients include a generous sprinkling of vitamins and minerals, plus the sweetener Aspartame. Mixing as directed produced a smooth texture (albeit a little powdery), with a decent chocolatey flavour and nutty overtones. Add in an extremely competitive price of 1.8p per gram and it’s hard not to be impressed!
Verdict: Dairy-free, great price and good-tasting formulation – 88%
We continue our ‘Best recovery drinks 2014’ grouptest…
Powerbar Recovery Regeneration Drink
Price: £26.99 from www.powerbar.com
The protein here comes mainly from skimmed milk powder (a source of casein and whey protein) with some added soy protein, unlike many others which use rapidly assimilated pure whey protein. Carbohydrate is supplied from dried glucose syrup, sugar and maltodextrin.
Together, these provide a 3.5:1 ratio of carb to protein. It’s also fortified with 10 vitamins and three minerals, with especially useful amounts of zinc and magnesium – important for muscle repair/growth and energy production.
Mixed as directed with water resulted in a pleasant but not especially chocolatey taste. However, there was a rather powdery consistency and aftertaste. At 2.2p per gram, the cost is low, but this is only fair for what is a cheaper formulation.
Verdict: Decent budget option, but faces stiff competition – 78%
Price: £30 from www.paligap.cc
The 1.2:1 carb to protein ratio in CNP’s drink is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate than others on the market. It also uses milk protein topped up with peptide-bonded glutamine and whey, rather than pure whey to help sustain the release of amino acids. Carbohydrate, meanwhile, is provided by a blend of maltodextrin and fructose.
As well as added vitamins and minerals, Recover also contains added probiotics, claimed to help digestion and support immune function. Mixed as directed with water resulted in a very pleasant vanilla taste that was surprisingly smooth and creamy, yet not too sweet despite the presence of the artificial sweetener sucralose. At 2.3p per gram, the cost is competitive – but bear in mind that you might also want to consume some extra carbohydrate after longer training sessions.
Verdict: Good formulation and taste, with useful added nutrients – 85%
Kinetica 100% Recov
Price: £39.99 from www.kineticasports.com
Although it costs 4p per gram, Kinetica’s drink provides very high-quality protein in the form of whey protein isolate and hydrolysed (chemically broken down into small fragments) whey protein isolate, which supplies amino acids to recovering muscles rapidly.
Combined with a triple carbohydrate blend of isomaltulose, dextrose and maltodextrin for rapid and sustained energy release, 100% Recov provides a 1.7:1 carb to protein ratio. Other additions include the amino acids L-arginine and L-carnitine, vitamins C and E and the sweetener sucralose.
Mixing with water in a shaker produced lots of froth, so this is another best stirred in. Despite the undoubtedly high-tech formulation, the taste was disappointing: quite sweet, not particularly citrusy and with a rather odd aftertaste (probably an unavoidable consequence of using hydrolysed protein).
Verdict: Most advanced (and pricey) formulation, let down by taste – 79%
And the best recovery drink of 2014 is… SiS’s Rego Rapid Recovery!
Don’t forget to check out our other 2014 grouptests: best aerobars, best wetsuits, best lightweight run shoes, best trail shoes, best energy bars, best bike helmets, best TT helmets and best tri-suits