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The Ideal Recovery Drink: The Athlete’s Pick


The Ideal Recovery Drink: The Athlete’s Pick


Apart from the basic workout needs, improvement of performance is one of the biggest headaches that any fitness enthusiast or athlete workout energy

It does not matter what level of performance you have achieved or how many medals you have taken home, you always want to get better at it.

I’m not an athlete myself, but recently I came across a valuable piece of information about one of the factors with which an athlete or even a bodybuilder can improve his form – the post workout or the post practice drink.

Being an athlete or fitness enthusiast, you have your own diet plan. Everything seems fine while you are working out or are on the run. However, many of you face difficulties after you are through with it.

You are often left gasping for your breath after a 200 meter run or an intensive workout session. So how do you deal with it? You immediately grab your energy drink right?

The Ideal Recovery Drink- The Athlete's Pick

But what should your recovery drink be? And, why should you have it?

My research tells me that milk is more beneficial than energy drinks which I will further discuss in this article. As a bonus, I will also add some tips to further optimize your performance.


Why Do We Need Energy Drinks?

Being an athlete, you need fuel for immediate use as well as future need and your body prefers carbohydrates (glucose) as the source of fuel which comes from glycogen stored in the liver and muscles.

Post work out, your body requires more protein to build and repair those strained muscles. Energy drinks are exclusively made to serve this need.

Also, energy drinks help restore the water-electrolyte balance that gets lopsided because of excessive sweating.

What Makes ‘Sports Drink’ Work?sports-energy-drinks

Sports drinks essentially consists of caffeine, taurine, and sugar, apart from other essential vitamins and minerals. Together they offer your body the much-needed boost.

While caffeine stimulates your nervous system, taurine, a naturally occurring amino acid of our body, helps to regulate our heart beat and muscle contractions.

Sugar, however, serves both as a sweetener as well as a source of glucose. Vitamin B, which is present in a good amount too, converts sugar to energy and helps to tone your muscles.

How Safe Are They?

Energy drinks are safe if taken in moderate amounts. [1] The boost of energy that they offer comes from sugar and caffeine. But, with excessive caffeine intake, you might experience restlessness, episodes of insomnia and even palpitations in the heart.

Sugar, also has its side effects, some of which you may already know, like spiking up your insulin level and increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Milk: The Expert’s Choice

Off late, “Milk” -nature’s drink, has attracted huge attraction among sports persons and researchers. Fitness experts are considering it as an effective recovery drink apart from sports drinks.

A new research by Dr Emma Cockburn at Northumbria University revealed that, semi skimmed milk is an effective alternative to commercial protein and carbohydrate recovery drinks. [2]

In 2008, Lough Borough University, UK, conducted a similar study where a comparison was made between milk and a commercial sports drink. Results showed that both milk and milk with glucose, prolonged time to exhaustion as effectively as the commercial energy drink. [3]

So, it becomes clear that milk is a wonderful alternative to energy drinks post workout.

What Makes Milk An Ideal Recovery Drink?

Milk is a wholesome, nutrient rich drink which offers you the excellent combination of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals.

milkCarbohydrate is present in the form of lactose, a double sugar composed of glucose and galactose. Since its purpose is to provide energy, it gets carried to the muscles for immediate use. An insufficient amount of carbohydrates can put your body under severe fatigue.

Protein’s main function is to provide amino acids to build and repair muscles. Milk contains two main proteins- whey and casein.

While whey is a quick digesting protein, casein takes time to do the same. Hence, whey acts swiftly to build and repair sore muscles while casein, on the other hand, keeps you fuller for a longer period by releasing steady flow of amino acids into your bloodstream.

Calcium is one vital mineral milk is rich in. However, calcium cannot be synthesized by our body and needs external sources for replenishment which is where milk comes in.

Apart from these, milk contains important minerals such as sodium and potassium, which helps your body to keep up and restore water-electrolyte balance.

All the above claims prove milk as an effective recovery drink. However, there is still something that can take away milk’s throne – the fat content present in it.

Shall We Stick To Any Specific Kind?

If you haven’t noticed it, the research mentioned above specifically told us that semi skimmed milk can be an effective alternative.athlete holding low fat chocolate milk

Low fat milk or semi skimmed milk cuts down considerable amount of fat content, while retaining its essential nutrients.

Now, since every milk processing or packaging company has its own manufacturing process, providing a table that gives out the exact amount of nutrients is difficult. You should, therefore, check the product label to know the content percentage.

For a general overview, most semi skimmed milk contains less than 2% fat and skimmed milk contains 0% fat content.

Drinking whole milk just after an intensive workout session will make you feel uncomfortable and full because of its high fat content. Therefore, I suggest low-fat milk, because it is thirst quenching and more palatable than whole milk.

Researchers from Indiana University also have considered flavored milk, such as low-fat chocolate milk, as good . They say that carbohydrates in chocolate milk replenishes our muscles which is why it is a better alternative than sports drink. [4]

According to them, it is good for muscle recovery because of its unique combination of carbohydrates and protein.

So far, I have babbled as if everyone can have milk, as if nobody is sensitive or intolerant to milk or dairy products. Not anymore. Let me tell you why.

Probiotics: Do They Play A Role?

yoghurt probioticsProbiotics are increasingly making noise among athletes and fitness enthusiasts as a recovery supplement. Just because they serve as a good alternative to milk? I don’t think so.

Probiotics are essentially the good bacteria but they do not offer immediate boost to your body. However, they can improve your overall performance in the field.

Their effect on your performance or stamina level is not direct. Probiotics can help in faster recovery from fatigue by boosting your immune system in general. You can find probiotics in a variety of dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese among others.

Another great source is Kefir. Like other cultured milk products, kefir is cultured from kefir grains.

These are not actual grains like wheat, but made of bacteria and yeast. It is a mild drink, naturally sweet and little tangy.

If we were to compare Kefir with yogurt, we will find that kefir is a better source of probiotics as we make it by fermenting 10 to 20 different types ofkefir yeast and bacteria.

Keeping aside the immunity benefits, consuming probiotics in moderate amounts can elevate one’s lactose tolerance level too, as these bacteria take up the role of the lactase enzyme and help in digesting lactose.

Even if you are allergic to milk, you can still have the water kefir or its diluted version. Being rich in probiotics, it nevertheless helps improve your lactose digestion.[5] It is less concentrated than the one with milk, retains its probiotic essence and you can consume it in larger amounts.

However, stick to the plain drink and avoid flavored ones so as not to gain unnecessary calories.

Here’s a tidbit. You can make it at home too. Just add the kefir powder to your glass of milk and leave it for a day or two. Home made kefir is much richer in probiotic count than commercial ones.

Closing Insights

Performance expert Chris Weiler remarks, both plain and flavored milk are decent post-exercise drinks for those athletes who train intensely for more than an hour and half everyday, such as tri- athletes. This means it is an excellent choice if you are a player, runner, cyclist, body builder or even a swimmer.

Also, try to reap its full benefits by keeping yourself energized by diving into real energy source, i.e. fresh whole food rich in nutritional content.

Personal development coach Damian Molto further adds, that, a glass of milk might not be the only thing to help someone to recover from a long race. However, it is certainly 10 times more effective for assisting, improving, and helping you recover post exercise, due to what it contains.

So, believing I have covered the in and around concerns of the ideal post exercise drink, you  better be done with your exasperation and be ready to Get Set Go!

[1] Higgins, J., Tuttle, T., & Higgins, C. (2010). Energy Beverages: Content and Safety Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85 (11), 1033-1041 DOI: 10.4065/mcp.2010.0381

[2] Cockburn, E., Hayes, P., French, D., Stevenson, E., & St Clair Gibson, A. (2008). Acute milk-based protein–CHO supplementation attenuates exercise-induced muscle damage Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 33 (4), 775-783 DOI: 10.1139/H08-057. ^Back to Top^

[3] James, L. (2012). Milk ingestion in athletes and physically active individuals Nutrition Bulletin, 37 (3), 257-261 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2012.01982.x. ^Back to Top^

[4] [4] Spaccarotella, K., & Andzel, W. (2011). The Effects of Low Fat Chocolate Milk on Postexercise Recovery in Collegiate Athletes Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25 (12), 3456-3460 DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182163071. ^Back to Top^. ^Back to Top^

[5] Hertzler, S., & Clancy, S. (2003). Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103 (5), 582-587 DOI: 10.1053/jada.2003.50111. ^Back to Top^

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