What is a Recovery Drink?

D. Messmer

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 may contain carbohydrates and protein to help repair muscles after a workout.
Recovery drinks may contain carbohydrates and protein to help repair muscles after a workout.

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.

Many runners consume sports drink to replace the electrolytes they sweat out.
Many runners consume sports drink to replace the electrolytes they sweat out.

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.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I have heard that milk, especially chocolate milk is a great recovery drink for athletes and other people who have physically challenging jobs. And milk has fewer additives than the average sport recovery drink.


@Drentel - I also have problems with losing too much water when I am working out. I drink both water and sports drinks while I am exercising. The taste of the sports drinks make me want water, so I go back and forth between the two.

Then after I workout, I drink even more of the muscle recovery drinks. I have found that not all of them work as well as some others. You really need to find a drink that works for your system and then make sure you drink enough of whatever you pick.


@Drentel - The key to preventing muscle cramps caused by dehydrating is to load up on liquids long before you begin to exercise. In your case, you should have been focusing on drinking large amounts of water days before the games, and you should have continued to load up on water throughout your basketball season.

Many people think they can wait until the last moment and gulp water to ward off dehydration, but this is not how it works. Even a muscle recovery drink can't work miracles once your body is reacting to water loss.


When I play sports outside during the warm months I sweat a lot. When I was in high school and playing basketball, I would usually start to get muscle cramps towards the end of a particularly tough game. No matter how much water I drank during the game I would cramp when I played a lot of minutes.

I wish we had some of these special sport recovery drinks when I was playing way back then. Of course, I don't know that they would have done much more for me than the water was doing.

Post your comments
Forgot password?