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The Best Recovery Drink After Running

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
The Best Recovery Drink After Running
A hard run needs a recovery drink. Photo Credit m-gucci/iStock/Getty Images

If you've gone for a run that lasted 45 minutes or longer and taxed your system, you need nutritional recovery. Eat or drink something to maximize your muscle recovery and growth within approximately 45 minutes of your effort.

After a run, choose a drink that hydrates you, as well as offers nutrients to prompt muscle healing and growth. Milk may be one of your best and most accessible choices. Use it alone or blend it into a smoothie to get a few extra nutritional benefits.

What You Need for Recovery

A combination of carbohydrates and protein makes an excellent post-running recovery drink. The carbohydrates refill your emptied glycogen, or energy, stores. Protein helps repair broken-down fibers in your muscles, and promotes their rebuild.

Aim for about 1 gram of carbs per kilogram of your body weight. Figure out your weight in kilos by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2. So, for example, a 135-pound woman would want about 60 grams of carbs after a long run.

A 20-gram serving of protein is a great goal post-run, too. Any old protein won't do. You want one that digests quickly and has been shown to act on worked muscles. Usually animal or dairy proteins are best. If you're going for a plant protein, soy is best.

Read More: Foods for After Jogging

Plain milk is a natural sports recovery drink.
Plain milk is a natural sports recovery drink. Photo Credit pilipphoto/iStock/Getty Images

The Case for Milk

Milk provides carbohydrates and quality protein to assist with recovery. A 1-cup serving of low-fat milk (1%) offers 12 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein. So, you might have to down several cups to really get the right amounts of carbs and protein.

The protein in milk is a combination of whey, which digests quickly and shuttles to worked muscles, and casein, which is a slower acting protein that will continue to help you recover in the hours post run.

A review of research published in a 2008 issue of the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition determined that cow's milk is both safe and effective post-exercise. It re-hydrates you and is more nutritionally dense than commercial, sugary sports drinks.

Some people prefer chocolate milk after a run. It offers a good mix of carbs and protein too, with a higher carb count — 32 grams per cup — than plain milk due to the added sugar.

Smoothie Time

A homemade smoothie might be your absolute best bet after a run, provided you can conveniently make one. You control the ingredients and thus the ratio of nutrients. You may also add electrolytes from fresh fruit to rehydrate and healthy fats to help with inflammation.

Combine fruit, fat and protein for an excellent recovery smoothie.
Combine fruit, fat and protein for an excellent recovery smoothie. Photo Credit DawnDamico/iStock/Getty Images

Perfect post-run smoothie ideas include:

  • A handful of mixed berries, almond milk, scoop of whey protein powder, ice cubes and a teaspoon of coconut oil;
  • Frozen cherries, ground flax seeds, plain yogurt and whey or soy protein powder;
  • Banana, milk, almond butter and ice;
  • Coconut water, frozen pineapple, whey protein and plain yogurt.

Read More: How to Build Any Smoothie Like a Boss

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