Ask Levi: Recovery Drink or Protein Shake for Post-Ride Recovery?

Today’s question is about choosing between a commercial recovery drink and a homemade protein shake for post-ride recovery…

Quick question. So of course I know the importance of post workout nutrition and the proper foods to eat. Recently, I started making protein shakes with banana, whey protein powder, water, and oveltine powder for simple sugars or I will add gatorade powder.

My workouts consist of an hour and a half off high intensity spinning, 60 reps leg press, and then about 20 minutes of core. I was talking with my coach and he said to have a recovery specific drink like the ones made from Powerbar. However, a trainer at the gym said protein shakes will help build and repair muscles faster allowing your muscles to get bigger.

So my question is, is a protein shake or recovery specific drink better for building muscle and recovering?

Thanks so much,
Recovering Randy

Hi Randy,

I think of the recovery drinks aimed at cyclists (like Powerbar Recovery, Endurox R4, etc.) and protein shakes based on whey protein powder as completely different things for different goals.

I see the recovery drink as a way to replenish glycogen stores (thanks to calories mostly in the form of carbohydrates) that were used up during exercise, and to help repair slight muscle damage (thanks to a small amount of protein added in.) It’s to make sure you feel energetic for your next endurance workout.

A whey protein shake, on the other hand, is for adding lots of calories to bulk up and provide even more protein than is necessary to rebuild muscles after a strenuous weight workout.

In reality though, you’ll get similar results with either one.

I don’t have the nutrition facts for one of your protein shakes (it will vary depending on how much of everything you put in,) but let’s break down these drinks.

Starting with the Powerbar Recovery drink:

If you take two scoops of Powerbar Recovery drink powder, you’ll get 180 calories, 40g carbs, and 6g protein (along with 500mg sodium.) It will make for fairly easy digestion and quick glycogen replenishment.

I’ll try to break down your protein shake:

Banana: 100 calories, 25g carbs, 1g protein
Whey protein powder: 130 calories, 5g carbs, 25g protein
Ovaltine: 80 calories, 18g carbs, 2g protein

That comes to roughly 310 calories, 48g carbs, and 28g protein. You get more carbs with this, but only because you’re taking in almost double the calories. That’s great for building muscles (when combined with lots of resistance training,) but usually a little too much for a post-ride beverage.

For post-ride recovery (and workouts like yours that are mostly riding and calisthenics based,) I’d go with the recovery beverage. But that doesn’t mean a protein shake wouldn’t be fine in the evening to make sure you are getting enough protein.

Also, you could do a shake with the banana, Ovaltine, and maybe 1/4 scoop of protein powder for use immediately after a workout. I’d actually do that rather than spend the money on a commercial recovery drink.

To summarize, both drinks can be useful for recovery purposes, but I prefer the recovery drink style of beverage for immediate post-ride nutrition.

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