How to Make Awesome Sports Recovery Drinks
When it comes to refueling your body after a hard workout, there are a million sports recovery drinks you can buy. But how do you know what you’re really drinking? Especially if you’re conscientiously trying to follow a low carb diet?
According to chef and cyclist Lentine Zahler, the best way to control what goes into your body is to make it yourself, especially where workouts are concerned. You need to consume “whole, real and unprocessed ingredients,” she says.
Zahler advises sticking to real food with pronounceable ingredients that can help you restore sugar, fat and protein. “My favourites are chocolate milk or iced coffee with milk,” she says. But in truth, there’s an infinite world of possibilities you can explore.
The basic theory behind recovery drinks
When you’ve just finished exercising, your muscles are tired—and your carbohydrates are depleted. By having a recovery drink, you have a chance to reverse all that, minimizing recovery time while replenishing your resources. By adding a healthy source of protein into the mix, you can improve your recovery by enhancing glycogen storage, repairing damaged muscles and stimulating muscle synthesis.
The essential idea of making your own sports recovery drink is to experiment a bit. Figure out what works best for you and your workout. Replenish your electrolytes but be open to trying new things in the process.
You can make a simple drink with coconut water, a bit of honey, sea salt, and lemon or lime juice. This gives you a great base of carbohydrates and electrolytes to build on. Next, it’s time to consider adding some protein.
Adding protein into the mix
For long-lasting energy, try branched-chain amino acids. These occur naturally in rice and soy proteins. Laurent Bannock, a sports nutritionist, advises adding whey powder. Your body digests it quickly and it has all the amino acids your body needs.
You can also add soy and/or casein protein in as well. These protein sources may not be a fast acting as whey, but by combining them into a time-released formula you can maximize your window for muscle building and overall recovery.
It’s also possible to use milk as the base for a recovery shake. If you’re not into cow’s milk, you can always experiment with coconut milk, almond milk, or oat milk. Try different base liquids to see what you like best.
Think about adding probiotics into your sports recovery drink. These “good” bacteria support healthy digestive tract flora and strengthen your immune system. Great sources of probiotics include unsweetened yogurt, kefir and kombucha.
To boost your protein and your fibre at the same time, add some chia seeds to any recipe. Chia seeds also help you replace all the electrolytes—like magnesium and calcium—you can lose through sweat. They’re also packed with iron to help rebuild your red blood cells.
And if you’re looking for vegan protein sources, you might also want to investigate pea, hemp and rice proteins. These veggie-friendly proteins help your muscles recover while also giving you a healthy dose of micronutrients, antioxidants and fibre.
What’s going on?
Working out depletes your muscles’ reserves of glycogen, the multibranched polysaccharide of glucose that energizes our bodies. Downing some carbs right after a session is vital for replenishing these reserves.
And it’s not just for recovering from endurance training. Sure, it can help you out after that 10k run or after you’ve spent most of the day cycling. But it’s also great at helping you recover from resistance training, which also drains your energy reserves.
Getting some protein into the mix provides the amino acids necessary for rebuilding muscle and healing micro tears that can affect your muscles when you’ve exerted yourself. Your muscles get stronger and denser as their fibres regenerate. This will help lead to greater strength and better muscle definition in the future.
If you fail to consume post-workout protein your body could have a negative protein balance, ultimately leading to a loss of muscle mass.
Why do it in liquid form?
When you enjoy a recovery drink after working out, you deliver an easy-to-digest dose of carbohydrates and protein to your worn-down muscles. And making sure the proteins and carbs are in the form of a liquid helps get those much-needed nutrients to your body as expediently as possible.
It replenishes your body much quicker than eating a meal of solid food ever could. Liquids also tend to be easier on your stomach than solid food right after heavy exercise.
To have and have not
You will not require a sports recovery drink every time you flex your muscles. In fact, after only light exertion like a brisk walk or a quick round of chores, post-workout replenishment won’t be necessary at all.
Save your recovery drinks for things you actually need to recover from. Like an hour of cardio. Or a spin class. Or 45 minutes of heavy-duty weight lifting.
Consume your recovery drink as soon as you can after your workout. If you’re working out at a gym, take a non-dairy based drink with you that won’t require refrigeration.
Try to schedule a proper, well-balanced meal about an hour after you’ve had your recovery drink. Concentrate on lean proteins and vegetables.
Finding just the right mix
Under most circumstances, a good post-workout recovery drink will have about 15–20 g of protein and 30 g of carbohydrates. If you’re eating low carb it might be tempting to cut that as much as possible. But as we mentioned above, carbohydrates help quickly replenish your body’s depleted glycogen reserves, reserves that will be severely depleted by a heavy workout.
This is where the trial and error gets tricky. You will have to play around and see how low you can get the carbs in your sports recovery drink while still making sure the drink helps you recover.
But keep in mind that carbs do serve a purpose—driving your muscles—and if you’re going to seriously push them on a regular basis some carbs will come in handy from time to time.
When you buy a sports recovery drink off the shelf, who knows what’s gone into it? Most low-carb dieters need more control over what they put into their bodies than that.
By enjoying do-it-yourself recovery drinks after your workouts, you make sure you’re not getting any hidden carbs factored into the mix against your knowledge.
A well-balanced sports recovery drink will help rebalance your electrolytes, glycogen and amino acids. This will help repair any damage you may have done to your muscles in this session and help them get stronger for your next. You can use water, coconut water, juice, or any type of milk as a base for your sports recovery drink and get as creative as you like. Remember to try adding some probiotics in as well to help boost your immune system.
Taking nourishment in liquid form helps quickly get everything back to normal after you exert yourself. It also helps you avoid feeling wiped out afterward. But only have a recovery drink if you’ve done something you need to recover from, especially if you’re counting carbs.
Make the most of your low carb lifestyle
If you have questions about going low carb, we’ve got answers. Our low carb lifestyle blog is your one-stop source for all things low carb and keto. From cooking tips to recipes and all points in between, we’ve got all the information you need to do low carb right. And, of course, if you ever need help tracking down low carb groceries, stop by our grocery store and check out our full selection of low carb and keto-friendly items.