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Best Recovery Drinks for Runners

If you’re in search for the best post run recovery drink, you’ll love all of these ideas with nutrition information. Learn why these are the best recovery drinks for runners!

different smoothies made with fruit

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If you are looking to improve your athletic performance and enhance your recovery, refueling after running is going to be a key aspect of your training.

What should you eat after a run? This is a common question! And some people finish a run very hungry, while others aren’t so hungry.

For both groups, but especially for the latter group, a recovery drink may be the secret to refueling quickly.

Why is a Recovery Drink After Running Important?

The post-workout window is a crucial time when your body is primed for nutrition.

Consuming carbs and protein will allow your muscles to absorb those nutrients and hence, use them for recovery.

While you may choose to take in these nutrients through food, or a mixture of food and liquids, you can also take them in through recovery drinks.

The best post run recovery drink will hit on all of these key nutrition points outlined below, be palatable and digestible for you, and be something that you’re willing to drink pretty soon after your workout ends.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, protein, and fluids are the three key pieces of recovery nutrition to think about when choosing the best recovery drink after running.

We like to think of them as replenishing (muscle glycogen), rebuilding (muscle protein) and rehydrating.

Of course, a higher intensity and longer duration workout will require and warrant more carbs to replenish what was used.

Carbohydrates are of utmost importance, not only after your workout but for the remainder of the day.

And we’re not talking about carbs from beer – but you can read more about alcohol and running and how that impacts your recovery.

This is the limiting factor for recovery, since carbs can help with hydration and muscle recovery.

frozen strawberries in blender

We have several recommendations for the best carbs for runners.

For adding carbohydrates, you could nosh on bread or a sandwich, grains, fruit, gels, chews, bagels, oats, waffles, etc.

We like to add oats to smoothies to up the carbs and provide a bit more protein and micronutrients, too!

Protein

Protein needs, on the other hand, are based on body size and stay relatively the same regardless of the workout.

However, they may change slightly based on your goals (ie – body composition, muscle growth, maintenance, etc.).

When talking about protein, we’re talking about complete proteins with all essential amino acids, especially leucine.

Aim for quality protein powders, like whey protein, meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, soy products, grains, beans or legumes for helping to meet protein needs.

yogurt parfait with granola and fruit in glass jar

Fluids

Fluid needs are also individualized based on sweat rate, if you’re a salty sweater, and training conditions, such as temperature, humidity, indoor/outdoor, etc.

Fluid needs will also need to be catered to the length of your race or fun.

For example, if you’re fueling a vegan ultra runner, food and fluid needs will likely vary, as compared to fueling for a marathon.

TIP: Check out our guide to hydration for runners which breaks down every aspect of hydration.

When you’re planning hydration for half marathon, you definitely want to factor in how often and how much you’ll need to drink.

We definitely recommend having a hydration pack to help meet your fluid needs when running.

Micronutrients

Other micronutrients that may be helpful to include are calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, antioxidants and electrolytes!

Running Recovery Drink Must Haves

A good starting place for recovery is a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio.

For example, if you need 20g of protein, a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio would be 40g of carbs + 20g of protein.

If the workout was high intensity or of long duration, that ratio may change to 3:1 or 4:1, meaning the amount of carbs could increase to 60g, or even 80g, while the protein would stay the same, or raise slightly.

Here are some general guidelines for recovery nutrition based on body weight:

Body Weight (lbs)Carbohydrates (g)Protein (g)
120-15030-4015-20
151-18040-5020-25
181-21550-6025-30
216-25060-7030-35
251-30070-8035-40
Recovery Nutrition Needs

Best Recovery Drink for Runners

Many people prefer liquid nutrition after a run or workout, especially in the heat.

If you are not hungry after a workout, it may be easier to drink something than to eat something. Let’s look at some potential recovery drinks for runners after running.

Here are some of our favorite recovery drink options.

Chocolate Milk

One cup of regular chocolate milk has 8g of protein and 12g of carbs. This is a good option as the best natural recovery drink for runners, and is often given out at races at the finish line.

This is also one of my favorite ultra running recovery drink because it’s tasty and also provides a good bit of sodium.

Of course, remember to pair it with other food to meet your overall nutrition needs, but it’s a great start!

glass of chocolate milk

However, it is not enough protein or carbs for most people but could be a good recovery snack post-run before getting home and having a full recovery meal.

Or, add some whey protein to make it an even better recovery drink after running.

Protein Smoothie

If making yourself, protein smoothies and shakes are easily customizable to include enough carbs and protein for recovery after a run.

For example, a good recovery smoothie could include frozen fruit such as a banana, strawberries, and pineapple, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, plus a scoop of protein powder.

CLICK HERE FOR THE QUIZ

Add a source of liquid such as almond milk or cow’s milk and blend. This will give you carbs, protein, and fluids.

Many of these greek yogurt smoothies are delicious, easy options. Here are some other recipes:

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice is full of phytonutrients, which are natural compounds found in plants with antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are typically found in fruits and vegetables, especially the ones that are dark, deep colors such as spinach and berries. Antioxidants help to protect the body from damage from stress, environmental factors, injury, and more.

Tart cherry juice for athletes can be a great addition to your recovery drink. Just don’t skip on the carbs and protein, too!

Ready to Drink Recovery Shakes for Runners

If you’re out and about and can’t make a homemade recovery drink, don’t stress. There are several options for post run recovery drinks.

However, something to know is that a lot of ready-to-drink recovery beverage options have gone too low carb for them to be a complete source for recovery.

Therefore, you’ll want to be clear about getting one with enough carbs (generally at least 30-60 grams), or consuming a source of carbs with your recovery protein drink.

Here are some options:

  • Fairlife CorePower chocolate protein shake – 26g of protein, 8g of carbs. This is a good amount of protein for most people, but the carb content is way too low for a post-run recovery drink.
  • Fairlife CorePower elite chocolate protein shake – 42g of protein, 9g of carbs. Again, this is a good amount of protein for most people (may be more than enough for smaller-bodied runners), but still too low on carbs.
  • Gatorade Recover vanilla protein shake – 20g of protein, 46g of carbs. This is a good option for most people, with a 2.3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
  • Muscle Milk chocolate protein shake – 25g of protein, 11g of carbs. This is a good amount of protein for most people, but the carb content is too low for a post-run recovery drink.
  • Ripple plant-based chocolate protein shake – 20g of protein, 13g of carbs. This is a good protein amount for most people, but again, the carb content is too low for a post-run recovery drink.
  • Owyn plant-based chocolate protein shake – 20g of protein, 10g of carbs. This is a good protein amount for most people, but again, the carb content is too low for a post-run recovery drink.
  • Skratch Recovery – If you prefer to mix your own powder, Skratch is a great option too. While it is actually higher in carbohydrates, it’s lower in protein, so this would be a great option to mix with yogurt or cow’s/soy milk in a shake.
protein shake with vanilla and chocolate protein powder.

Of course, make sure to eat balanced meals as well to get all of your necessary nutrition and micronutrients, like iron for endurance athletes.

Want your running nutrition questions answered?
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Summary

If you choose to use a ready-to-drink protein shake for recovery, unless it is the Gatorade option listed above or another one that has adequate carbohydrates, you’ll want to pair the shake with a carb source.

This could be a fruit, such as a banana, or a bagel, granola bar, pretzels, etc.

Note that electrolyte hydration mixes usually provide only electrolytes and sometimes carbohydrates, but not enough protein.

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