The best recovery drink for running or any other sport depends on the amount of time you are doing the exercise. Optimal recovery drinks for a run of more than 60 minutes have different requirements than for a run of 30 minutes or less. The purpose of a recovery drink is to restore fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, replace muscle fuel used during the run and provide protein help repair damaged muscle tissue. Clear to pale-yellow-colored urine ensures good hydration status.
If you are running for less than an hour, water is the best drink during and after your run. Aim to consume between 5 and 12 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. Don't wait until you feel thirsty because you may already be dehydrated. To make sure you are consuming enough fluid during a run, weigh yourself before and after the run. During a marathon, a weight loss of 2 to 3 pounds is normal, while a loss of more than 2 percent of your body weight indicates dehydration. Drink an additional 12 to 24 ounces of water throughout the day for every pound lost. If you gained weight after your run, you may be overhydrating.
If your runs routinely last longer than 60 minutes, you will need something more than water for recovery. Carbohydrate stores start to deplete after one hour of constant activity, and sports drinks can help to replenish those stores, as well as restore electrolyte balance. For distance runs of multiple hours, aim to consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise. Look for a sports drink that contains 100 to 110 milligrams of sodium and 38 milligrams of potassium per 8 ounces. If you are training for a specific race, train with the same sports drink that will be provided on race day.
Chocolate milk is an optimal recovery drink for long runs because of its combination of simple and complex carbohydrates along with protein. The simple carbohydrate will provide quick fuel replenishment while the protein -- in the form of casein and whey -- helps build and repair muscle. Chocolate milk also provides the fluid and minerals for needed for rehydration.
Coconut water contains natural electrolytes like potassium and sodium that are lost during exercise. If you are running for less than one hour, make sure the coconut water you are consuming has no unnecessary added sugars, as some coconut water can have up to 20 grams of sugar in a serving -- more than half a can of regular soda.
It is possible to drink too much water, resulting in hyponatremia. Although rare, there have been reports of long-distance runners consuming too much pure water, overdiluting the bodies' sodium levels, which can be fatal in severe cases.