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What Is a Recovery Drink?

Recovery drinks may contain carbohydrates and protein to help repair muscles after a workout.
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  • Written By: D. Messmer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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A recovery drink is a fluid that an athlete ingests after a workout in order to speed his or her recovery from the workout. There are different types of recovery drinks that sports scientists have developed to help in the recovery from a variety of workouts. Regardless of the type of workout, though, a recovery drink always aims to accomplish some combination of two primary goals: to replenish nutrients that the body loses during the exercise and to provide the necessary nutrients for the body to get the greatest possible benefit from the exercise.

Recovery drinks are different from energy drinks because the athlete will ingest a recovery drink after exercising rather than before exercising. Sports scientists design energy drinks to provide athletes with the nutrients necessary to perform an exercise at the optimal level. A recovery drink, though, emphasizes providing the body with the means to minimize the fatigue and muscle soreness that exercise can cause, usually so that the athlete will be able to return to physical activity sooner than he or she otherwise would.

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There are different types of recovery drinks that can be used, depending on the type of activity that the athlete performs. An endurance athlete, for instance, generally will use a recovery drink that replenishes the electrolytes and carbohydrates that he or she loses during extended aerobic exercise. When an athlete works out for an extended period of time, he or she loses several vitamins and minerals because of sweating and burns a large amount of energy in the form of carbohydrates. In order to recover from such activity, then, it is important to find a recovery drink that will supply the body with these necessary nutrients.

An athlete who is focusing on weight training will require a very different type of recovery drink. Lifting weights causes the muscles to break down in addition to burning carbohydrates. The muscles to continue to break down even after a workout is complete. It is this breaking down of the muscles that causes soreness and that prevents an athlete from being able to lift weights at more regular intervals.

In order to minimize this process, then, an athlete should chose a recovery drink that provides a large concentration of both carbohydrates and protein. When the body does not have enough carbohydrates, it begins to consume proteins, and it is this protein consumption that, in part, causes the muscles to break down. The carbohydrates in a recovery drink will give the muscles the energy they need to function without the need to burn extra proteins. Meanwhile, the protein in the sports drink will provide the body with the nutrients it needs to repair the muscles and to produce new muscle tissue.

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