The Best Recovery Drink for Runners
Picture this: you have just finished a long training run for an upcoming race. You are tired, sweaty, and craving both air conditioning and a shower. Yet, all you can think about is getting inside and laying down on the sofa to watch your favorite show. While you can (and should) do all of these things after a tough run, if that is what you look forward to, you need to add an extra step or two to this routine.
Within the first 30 minutes after your run, you should have a recovery drink that will initiate the process. Post-workout recovery is just as important as that run you just finished, and a sports drink containing the right ingredients can be an easy addition to your day.
Keep reading to learn what to drink after a run, if recovery drinks work, and why you need a post-run drink.
What is a recovery drink for runners?
You already know you need a drink containing electrolytes during your long runs, but did you know you also need a drink after running?
A recovery drink is tailored specifically to your post-workout nutrition and hydration needs. It contains certain nutrients and ingredients that will catalyze the recovery process your body needs to go through after a long or difficult run.
Sports drinks may come pre-made in bottles or in a powder to be mixed with water that you can easily store or take with you on the go. The best recovery powders for runners quickly and easily dissolve in water so you can prepare and consume your drink as soon as you need to. These mixes may come in single-serve packets you can keep in your bag or car, as well as in larger bags that you can store in your pantry and use to make multiple drinks.
When you go for a long run or a particularly tough run that is hilly or hot, your body will burn through all or most of its energy that is stored in the form of glycogen, mostly in your liver but also in your muscles. And speaking of muscles, you will also damage the muscles in your legs that you use during your run, which probably sounds harsh but is completely normal!
Your energy stores need to be replenished, and your muscles need to be repaired, which can be done with the best recovery drink on top of proper nutrition, hydration, and rest. To replenish and repair, your drink should contain certain ingredients and nutrients that have been found to improve post-run recovery.
What ingredients are in the best recovery drinks for runners?
Recovery drinks for runners should include certain ingredients that are needed to restore energy and repair muscles. These ingredients include protein, carbohydrates, and electrolytes. Some drinks also contain ingredients like healthy fats for a little added benefit. We will look at each ingredient individually to gain a better understanding of how they help you recover after a long run.
Carbohydrates are arguably the most important macronutrient for runners and non-runners alike. Your body converts both stored carbohydrates and those in your bloodstream in the form of glucose to usable energy while you are running (remember the Krebs cycle?). You need new energy to be constantly produced and available so you can keep going and not run out of gas in the middle of your run.
As a runner, you have surely at least heard of “the wall,” but you have also probably experienced it first-hand. You can hit “the wall” when you do not have enough energy stored as glycogen when you start your run, which can be the result of improper recovery between runs. Refueling and replenishing your glycogen with a protein recovery drink could mean leaping over the wall rather than running into it face first.
You will more than likely completely run out of glycogen while on a run that lasts longer than about 90-120 minutes. Fortunately, your body has a backup system once stored, or free glucose and glycogen are not available. However, you want to be sure that your stored energy is at its max before your run, which you can achieve with the help of the best recovery drink.
Consuming glucose, or carbohydrates, within 30 minutes of completing your run has been found to result in higher glycogen levels when compared to delaying glucose consumption. This is partly due to higher insulin sensitivity shortly after exercise, which leads to increased glycogen storage. So taking advantage of this window of time is an essential part of your post-workout recovery.
The number of carbohydrates, as well as the carbohydrate to protein ratio in your running recovery drink, are two important factors. Your body will need more carbohydrates than protein to recover, but protein will play an important role in how carbs are digested and absorbed in your body (more on that later). There are running protein recovery drinks on the market with varying carbohydrate to protein ratios, but a ratio of about 4:1 has been found to be sufficient.
The American College of Sports Medicine, along with the American Dietetic Association and the Dietitians of Canada, recommended intake of 0.5-0.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 minutes of your long run. This would look like about 75-105 grams of carbs for a 150-pound person. For some extra math fun, if you're taking in 75 grams of carbohydrates, then you should have at least 19 grams of protein for a 4:1 carb to protein ratio needed for glycogen storage. You can find a similar ratio in our Recovery drink.
Protein and amino acids are other essential ingredients that should be included in your endurance protein recovery drink.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, meaning they synthesize proteins in your body, among other important functions. There are 20 amino acids, but nine are considered essential because your body cannot produce them, and they must come from your diet. When a food contains all nine of the essential amino acids in the right proportions, it is considered a complete protein.
When you eat a complete protein source, it will get broken down in your body into the smaller essential amino acids that then repair the micro-tears that were created during your run. This repair work from the amino acids not only recovers your muscles but also makes them stronger and more efficient. Think of these amino acids as tiny workers who go straight to your muscles to put them back together.
Three essential amino acids, in particular, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are also known as branched-chain amino acids, and they may play an even more important role in recovery for runners. Not only do branched-chain amino acids stimulate muscle repair and muscle building after a workout, but they can also be used for energy production during your next run if glycogen stores are depleted. Leucine, in particular, is thought to stimulate the synthesis of new glucose in your body that can be used for energy during a run.
In case you were wondering, all nine essential amino acids (including the three branched-chain amino acids) have been added to Tailwind’s Recovery drink, which means your tired, broken-down post-run muscles will get the nutrients they need to start to rebuild.
Because runners are not necessarily looking to bulk up, they do not need huge amounts of protein like some other types of athletes might, but protein intake is still essential and should be done in conjunction with carbohydrate intake. Using a protein recovery drink with the right balance of carbs and protein will be beneficial to your recovery because the protein will slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, leading to better utilization and storage in your body. The two macronutrients work together in the digestion process to benefit each other.
Electrolytes cannot be forgotten when it comes to the recovery process, and these must be included in any post-workout drink. You should already be taking in electrolytes during your run and must continue to do so after a long run, hot run, really sweaty run, or any run where you feel overly fatigued afterward.
Along with glycogen depletion and muscle tears, you also lose fluid and electrolytes during a long run. You lose electrolytes through your sweat, and these must be replenished during and after running to prevent dehydration and also improve your recovery.
Your running recovery drink should contain sodium, chloride (or sodium and chloride together as salt), potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These electrolytes must be balanced in your body before your next run to avoid getting dehydrated, which can seriously diminish the quality of your run and even lead to illness. If electrolytes are not properly replenished after running, many important bodily functions, like balancing acidity and regulating muscle function, may falter.
Electrolyte status also dictates the overall water and hydration status in your body. We have all heard that our bodies are made up of 70% water, which should show you how important it is to many body functions, from protecting organs and cells to carrying oxygen throughout your body. This is why Tailwind’s recovery drink contains the electrolytes you need to restore your fluid status quickly.
Healthy fats sometimes have a bad rep. But these and other types of stored fats are used in conjunction with glycogen for energy during your long runs and continue to be converted to energy once glycogen is gone as well. This means you should not forget about fat in your recovery!
Another reason to add healthy fats to your recovery process (and running recovery drink) is that doing so can save the glucose you are also eating from getting broken down too soon and not being changed to glycogen. Fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein (nine calories per gram versus four calories per gram, to be exact), and this can help allow the other two macronutrients to be properly absorbed and utilized for recovery.
Think of fat as an energy backup once your glycogen has been depleted and you cannot safely take in enough glucose during your run without getting an upset stomach. This means fat should be part of your running recovery drink, making your drink almost like a complete meal. Plus, using healthy fat, like the kind found in coconut milk, will be better for your heart than some other types of fat. Now, that’s what you call a double whammy.
We did our research at Tailwind, and that is why our Recovery drink has all of the above ingredients your body craves after that big race or training run. And, of course, we did not forget to make it taste good, which is why we use organic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and salted caramel that you may start thinking about before your run is even over.
Do protein recovery drinks work?
In case you have not yet been convinced that a good recovery drink can work, here is a little more information to convince you.
You know by now that a recovery drink needs to at least contain carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes to give you what you need after your run for adequate muscle recovery. The carbs will replenish your glycogen stores, the protein will repair your muscles, and the electrolytes will rehydrate your body. Top it off with some healthy fats for extra calories, and you are well on your way to a full recovery before your next run.
Consuming a combination of carbohydrates and protein, with a higher carb to protein ratio, has been associated with improved time to fatigue as well as less soreness when compared to consuming carbohydrates alone during the recovery period. Carbohydrate plus protein intake (as well as during the run) has also been found to lead to more physical energy, less mental fatigue, and less soreness 72 hours after running a marathon.
Besides these and other studies proving that recovery drinks work, runners themselves are singing the praises of their favorite drink after a run. Tailwind recovery drink reviews may be all the proof you need, with reviewers noting less fatigue, faster recovery time, and even extra energy the afternoon after a long morning run (plus, it tastes great!).
Why do you need post-exercise recovery?
Runners, and especially runners going long distances or training for big races, need a recovery drink. Why? Because the right running recovery drink will mean less soreness, fatigue, and downtime between runs.
It is important to mention again how essential recovery is to runners. Without proper recovery, you will not make progress in your running. Without recovery, you will not become a faster and stronger runner, and isn’t that what we all want as runners?
It can probably be difficult enough to fit a run into your schedules sometimes, which can make taking the time to properly recover seem impossible. But you simply cannot skip this step, no matter how long your to-do list is. Whether you are taking a full rest day or just taking the time to get in the right nutrition and hydration between runs, recovery must occur.
A few things happen while you run. First, you are improving your endurance, especially when training and increasing your weekly miles. You are also creating those micro-tears in your leg muscles that will lead to stronger muscles, but only if you take steps to recover. These endurance and strength improvements come at a bit of a cost, though, which is depleted nutrients and fluids as well as torn muscles that must be repaired.
Recovery includes nutrition, hydration, and rest. During recovery, your body repairs and resets in a way that only makes you stronger and your endurance higher. Your muscles, bones, and tendons get a break and chance to replenish and avoid injury.
Plus, rest and recovery are good for your mental health. If you are running too much or not taking the time to get in proper nutrition and hydration after your runs, then you can have elevated cortisol levels that have been associated with stress and trouble sleeping. A stressed and sleepy runner is not going to be breaking personal records.
Besides taking the right time off from running, you now know that you must also focus on your nutrition during that time off. You need the right nutrients at the right time after your runs to start the recovery process, and the right running recovery drink is the best and easiest way to get you what you need.
While you can get the same nutrients you need to recover through food, a recovery drink is quick and should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet. When you are tired after a running workout, it will be easy to drop your recovery powder into a water bottle, shake, drink, and know you are doing something good for your body.
You may find that sometimes after a run, you just do not have an appetite. When this happens, a recovery drink will most likely be more palatable and easier to get down, as liquid calories tend to be more appetizing when solid food just does not sound good.
A running recovery drink will also be your best friend when you are in a hurry. As a busy adult, you may often have to squeeze in a training run before a soccer game, work event, or other obligation. At these times, a recovery drink will hold you over until you get a full meal in (just do not wait too long to get some food!).
When you restore the glycogen in your liver and muscles through the right carbohydrates and in a timely manner after one run, you are setting yourself up for success for the next run. And when you consume a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids along with those carbohydrates, you are starting the process of repairing your torn muscles that so desperately need repairing before you hit the trails again. Top the carbs and protein off with electrolytes for extra hydration, and you will be back on your feet in no time after a big run.
How to use a recovery drink
There are a few ways to use a recovery drink after your runs. But one thing about how to use a running recovery drink is essential, and that is the timing. You have just learned that you should get your recovery drink within 30 minutes after completing your run, but you may want to know why.
As you run, your body uses your stored energy, or glycogen, to keep your legs and arms pumping. This means that as soon as your run is over that glycogen is gone and can only be restored through nutrients you ingest.
You need that recovery drink within that 30-minute window after your run because this is the time that new glycogen synthesis and storage takes place most efficiently. Think of the empty storage in your liver and muscles where glycogen was before your run as a hole that needs to be filled.
Basically, glycogen depletion during your run sets you up for post-workout glycogen storage. This process is aided by the increased insulin in your bloodstream that is a result of endurance exercise. Insulin also improves and increases the rate of new glycogen that will be stored and ready for your next run.
Recovery drink mixes should be mixed with water so that you can rehydrate your body at the same time as you are replenishing it. You will simply mix a serving of your recovery drink with water, drink it within the first 30 minutes after a running workout, and be on your way.
When using Tailwind Recovery, for example, you will mix a serving in 16 ounces of water, stir, and enjoy. If your run was very long, very hot, or very intense, feel free to have a second recovery drink in the next 30 minutes. You could use single-serving packets while on the go or keep a stock of Recovery in your pantry to make several recovery drinks over time.
For an extra boost and buzz, try the caffeinated Recovery, the perfect option for after that super early morning run. With all of the same replenishing, rehydrating, and rebuilding ingredients plus 80 milligrams of Arabica coffee, it’s a win-win!
And for a fun and extra cold way to drink your running recovery mix, try a homemade recovery shake. You could make one of these by adding your already mixed recovery powder and water with other ingredients like ice, chocolate milk, or even ice cream to a blender. That’s right! You could easily turn the already delicious Tailwind Recovery into an extra delicious running recovery shake.
Where to buy a recovery drink mix for runners
Now that you are ready to buy the best recovery drink for after running, you may be wondering where to find it. You are in luck because you can buy Tailwind online or in numerous stores around the country (and even Canada and Aruba!).
If you like to touch and feel your future purchases in person before you take them home, then you can easily use our store finder on our website to find the nearest place where you can buy Recovery and other Tailwind products.
If online shopping is more your style, then we have you covered. Our online store is your one-stop-shop for all things Tailwind, including all three flavors of decaffeinated Recovery, our caffeinated Recovery, and our recovery drink bundle that includes two decaffeinated flavors and our caffeinated one. You could even give our new salted caramel flavor a try.
Whatever flavor of recovery drink you choose, be sure to also add Endurance Fuel to your cart. You will need this drink mix during your runs to stay ahead of dehydration and fatigue. With both Endurance Fuel and Recovery in your hands, you are sure to feel stronger during and after your runs.
If you do not have a running recovery drink as a part of your routine, hopefully, you are now convinced why you want to add the best recovery drink on the market.
- The best recovery drinks for runners contain electrolytes, carbohydrates, complete protein, and some healthy fats.
- The ingredients in a running recovery drink will replenish your glycogen stores, start to repair your damaged muscles, and rehydrate your body.
- You need a recovery drink in the first 30 minutes after finishing your long runs to start the all-important recovery process that many runners skip.
- Research has shown us that your recovery nutrition after a tough or long run is an integral part of your training and improvements as a runner.
- You are busy, which is why Tailwind recovery drink mixes are easily dissolved in water and can be made either on the go or at home.
- You can find all flavors and types of Recovery online or in stores around the US, as well as Canada and Aruba.
You will feel good trying Tailwind Recovery for the first time (or tenth time) because it was made for runners by runners.