A Post exercise recovery drink is something that someone who has depleted their muscle’s glycogen stores by working out for a long time drinks to recover faster. I have personally found that 90 minutes is not quite enough to “need” one but two hours is. This from a person that still has enough fat stores to help me through a 90 minute workout better than the fit athlete that has nothing to spare. I would imagine someone with a lower body fat percentage would hit this point sooner (that would be me in 90 days).
How did I figure this out you ask and where did the 90 minutes to two hours come from? I recently increased my Saturday workouts to two plus hours of pretty intense work from ones that were not more than 90. What I found is that when I get home I am tired and want to nap. OK, no real surprise there. But, we are not talking about a nap like those my dad used to take where he would turn on the golf tournament and proceed to drift in and out for then next 3 hours. I am talking about I can’t hardly keep my eye lids open I feel like I didn’t sleep last night I need to go to bed. And then find myself under a few blankets hours later feeling like I just woke up after surgery in the recovery room straining to lift my drool covered face off the pillow and focus on something in the room. Which just happens to be about 3 hours later, not really a “nap” in anyones book. I chalked the first week up to not sure what is wrong, maybe I am a little sick and just didn’t know it. But the second week sort of made me think it had to do with burning more than 1500 calories while only eating a 300 calorie breakfast and a 100-200 calorie energy bar afterwards. Also a point I must make, my typical 60-90 workouts always includes me eating a 100 calorie mini-cliff bar at a minimum. My guess is that it may have been some help but not enough and with no food I would hit the wall sooner. With this study consisting of one it is all anecdotal evidence anyway.
As I am sure you know, I am trying to lose weight by triathlon, and have now reached a point where I can work out longer and this eating like a bird does not work if long workouts are the order of the day. I can have my 300 calorie breakfast no problem, but then to work out and burn what is approching 1800 calories in 150-160 minutes of working out without more energy is a problem. I need to consider what my body needs not only after that workout but during it as well. I decided to eat a 100 calorie mini-cliff bar between the swim and bike and bike and run. I also tried a gel pack during the bike instead. I think I need to skip the bars, they have too much chance to upset my stomach, and the gel is kind of pointless cause you need to swash it all down with a ton of water anyway. Instead I am going to try a gatorade equivalent this Saturday. I will start drinking it after the swim and finish it off at the end of the bike to head out for the run, since that is the easiest time to drink. Last Saturday I made a post exercise recovery drink using the protien drink powder, some milk, and a packet of hot chocolate to boost the carbs and make the stuff tase better. I don’t think I had the ideal mix yet, but I did have 25 grams of protien and another 40 grams of carbs. This is about 260 calories and although this might be a little bit light on the calories and carbs, it sure did make all the difference in the world. I had no overwhelming tiredness, and I felt later in the day and the next morning like I hadn’t even worked out. Most all of the weeks in the past I felt a little tight Saturday evenings and the next morning I knew the day before was a big workout. I also did not have the chew-chew-train of eating urges that normally follow a big workout. I made sure I had the drink ready and downed the thing about 10 minutes after I got back from the run over a 5 minute period. So I didn’t even flirt with the time frame recommended to get something in you within 30 minutes to an hour. I also ate my lunch within 90 minutes of the workout, so I did not stop at 260 calories. I am trying to lose weight as well, so I am trying to find the balance between endurance workouts and running a daily calorie deficit.
My last thought on this is that the commercially available drinks that cost $2 a serving are a rip off. I am sure they work and do the job, don’t get me wrong. But, it’s not like they have some magical ingredients that only the right mix of rare earth compounds mixed with special a slew of special chemical reactions can conjure out the healthiness. I mean what can possibly be in these drinks anyway that makes them so expensive? There is protien. There are carbohydrates. They also name off several amino acids which are super duper mondo important, in a way to make you feel impressed with all the studies and research that went into the development of their drink. The problem is that these amino acids have another name. They are called protien. Protien just refers to the whole group, and I can’t argue against what may be the drink manufacturers point that maybe it is benficial to have slightly more of the ones specially required for the recovery process to be more abundant in the drink. In fact I will go along with that as an assumption. So what are the ones that are more important? Hint, hint, they list them for us on the label. Nice! And if I make my homemade drink to also have more of these than the standard protien then didn’t I accomplish the same thing as them?
OK, back to the list. They also have some vitamins and then some electrolytes. Well these should be easy to add in too. Even if we have to resort to special powders for some of the ingredients, as long as the powder isn’t being sold as a “recovery drink” then it is probably much cheaper anyway and I can hopefully still add it in and keep the cost under a quarter. As a quick example, the electrolytes are probably going to be had from salt and salt substitutes. Salt is so cheap you just buy it if you need it and we could care less if they doubled the price. What is it like 25 cents a pound or something?
Now before we go any further let’s consider this drink. Protien drink with lots of carbs, a few vitamins and electrolytes. Call me crazy but this sounds like chocolate milk, or better yet fortified chocolate milk as in “more ovaltine please”. A few sprinkles of various salts and voiala we have a delicious drink. Uh, maybe, or we can call it an equivalent drink anyway. So I will probably take this direction for my first homemade drink, including a version with a shot of espresso and maybe blended with ice to make it frozen if I am at home. Although I can certainly see how a fruit juice and soy milk smoothie might also fit the bill once a dash of electrolytes are added. Nothining like going all natural, I think the key there would be to keep the fiber out as the whole point is to absorb the thing fast and leaving in the fiber will slow things down. There might finally be a point to breaking out my guy-with-the-big-fat-gray-eyebrows-that-sold-me-the-juiceman-juicer on tv juicer from the back of my cupboard collecting dust. I always knew that thing had a purpose.
So now you have the ideas behind my research and my roadmap of the next few posts. Links follow to some of the research I am looking into.
Here is the research, completed by Jason Karp, that Wendy mentioned in her article that completed a study comparing chocolate milk vs Endurox vs. Gatorade as a recovery drink. An excerpt of the study follows for those not inclined to read the whole thing:
In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that, chocolate milk, with its high carbohydrate and protein content, may be considered an effective alternative to commercial FR (fluid replacement drink= Gatorade) and CR (carbo replacement drink = Endurox) for recovery from exhausting, glycogen-depleting exercise.
Here is a nice blog entry about post exercise nutrition by Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS. So many letters… he definitely knows what he is talking about.
And an article about post exercise recovery drinks by Jessica Seaton, D.C.
Finally, one last article by Erica Lesperance, RD, LD.