Recovery Part 3: Kitchen-Sink Recovery Drink

What’s the best recovery drink? While each body is unique, nevertheless every body has certain basic needs that are the same. We all need carbs and protein after long and/or hard runs, for example.

I’ve talked about recovery in two other articles (Recovery Part 1: Get Over It and Recovery Part 2: Optimizing Recovery).

In those articles I described my favorite after-run smoothie, the key ingredient of which is Hammer Nutrition’s wonderful Recoverite formula. Recoverite is one of those rare running aids that fall in the category of really good stuff. Recoverite works.

But it’s expensive, at $2.50 for a single-serving packet and $49.95 for a 32-serving container. Last Friday, I swung by REI to buy Recoverite and ClifShot gels for my Saturday long run, and was anguished to discover that REI has dropped Recoverite.

Because my girlfriend works at a health food store where I get a 20-percent “family discount,” and the Recoverite ingredients are listed on the Recoverite page referenced above, I decided to look into making my own.

Long story short – I did, it works great, and it costs less than the real thing. Now, having said that, I’m conflicted. I love the Hammer Nutrition products — Sustained Energy has pulled me through many a marathon and ultra, and Recoverite is wonderful. So I’m not eager to promote do-it-yourself alternatives. But I am on a budget, and sympathize with others who are strapped. So, here goes – with a strong recommendation that if you’re flush, to order Recoverite from Don Lundell and Gillian Robinson at Don and Gillian are high in my list of Every Runner’s Friends. They’re hugely experienced ultrarunners, they’re wonderful people, they’re friendly and knowledgeable, and their customer service is unexcelled.

Okay, the Recoverite ingredients are:

  • maltodextrin
  • whey protein isolate (10g)
  • l-glutamine (3000 mg)
  • xylitol (sweetener)
  • natural flavor
  • white stevia (sweetener)
  • sodium chloride (salt; 74.4 mg)
  • l-carnosine (60 mg)
  • glycine (37.2 mg)
  • calcium chelate (37.2 mg)
  • magnesium chelate (19.2 mg)
  • potassium chelate (19.2 mg)
  • l-tyrosine (13.2 mg)
  • vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine HCl; 4.8 mg)
  • manganese chelate (1.2 mg)
  • Chromemate® brand chromium polynicotinate (30 mcg)

Most of these ingredients are available in health food stores. In mixing my homemade formula, I can’t be much bothered with precise amounts (note exceptions below). Instead of buying manganese caps and carefully measuring1.2 mg, for example, I simply imbibe an el-cheapo Whole Foods Daily multiple formula pill, which contains 1 mg of manganese; same for vitamin B6.

Similarly, instead of shopping for maltodextrin, sweeteners, and flavoring, I dump in a packet of Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink, which contains sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

That leaves only a few specialized ingredients: l-tyrosine, Chromemate, glycine, l-carnosine, and l-glutamine, all of which I can pick up at the health food store.

To make the drink, I throw all the pills in a blender (yes, without opening the capsules) and blend them with buttermilk, dates, frozen pineapple, banana, etc.). Being an old person of undiscriminating taste, I don’t mind that the resulting brew tastes mildly like cherry Kool-Aid, courtesy of the Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink mix. As I explained in an earlier article, I use buttermilk because I’m milk-sensitive and buttermilk causes fewer problems than regular milk.

A word of caution: l-tyrosine is a powerful stimulant of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Taking too much leads to reduced sensitivity of the brain receptors to this substance, requiring increased doses to obtain the same effect. Because extremely important brain functions are localized in the prefrontal cortex (concentration, positive attitudes, the ability to form and persevere in attaining goals, etc.), it’s very important not to wear-out these brain receptors. Note that the amount of l-tyrosine in Recoverite, just 13.2 mg, is just 2 percent of the 500 mg in typical over-the-counter pills from the health food store.

Also: I find that Chromemate-brand chromium is much more effective than the popular chromium picolinate formula. Dr. Michael Colgan recommends chromium picolinate in his book Optimum Sports Nutrition: Your Competitive Edge. At one point, I tried many of the supplements Colgan recommends, and found them either ineffectual, disturbingly stimulating, or with unpleasant mental/emotional side effects (especially chromium picolinate). Improving my race times simply wasn’t worth the aggro.

This is a bit off-topic, but I should mention a recent running-nutrition experiment that failed. In an earlier article, I told how I discovered that eating protein the day before a long run greatly enhanced my endurance and energy, to the extent that I was able to run all-out in the last half-hour of a 2½-hour run, at least once a month (at age 66).

This really was quite a wonderful discovery, and I found that the best form of protein to take the day before was eggs, not milk or protein powders. Well, last week I thought I would try milk the night before – and the results were poor. In my experience, milk is a poor endurance food – it’s nicely stimulating for the short run, but I always seem to run out of gas prematurely if I take milk before a run. And if I take plain whey powder the evening before, I wake up feeling terrible.

There’s science to back up my personal experience. On the Hammer Nutrition website, Dr. Bill Misner, who formulated the Recoverite product as well as Hammer’s endurance supplements, explains why he chose soy protein for the formulas intended to be used while running, and whey protein for recovery. In layman’s terms, whey protein metabolism releases ammonia, which works against the exercising body. From the Hammer Nutrition website:

Soy is the preferred protein for use during exercise, as it minimizes ammonia build-up. Sustained Energy and Perpeteum contain an adequate amount of soy protein for your needs during prolonged exercise. Hammer Soy is formulated for meal supplementation; it is far too concentrated for use during exercise.

Hammer Whey (is) the standard for promoting rapid recovery. For rebuilding lean muscle tissue and optimal immune system functioning between workouts and races, whey protein has no peer. It is the most bioavailable form of protein with the highest amount of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) of any protein. One scoop of Hammer Whey provides 18 grams of whey protein isolate. Each scoop also contains a huge six grams of glutamine, providing even more muscle rebuilding and immune system enhancing benefits. [Source: “The Hammer Nutrition Fuels“]

Another point regarding protein powders. In his wonderful book on weight-loss and general nutrition, Eat to Live, Joel Fuhrman, MD explains why eating too much protein can cause symptoms that mimic hypoglycemia, most notably a deep drop in energy. I won’t repeat Fuhrman’s research citations here; suffice it to say that it confirms my own experience.

Johanna Budwig, PhD, a pioneering researcher in essential fats, noted that, in nature, proteins and fats always occur together – for example, in nuts, soy beans, eggs, and milk. What I’ve found, as a runner, is that why protein powder works better if I take it with milk — I’m less likely to experience the dreaded energy plunge, and it seems to help my recovery much better than if I take it plain.

I hope these tips will help your running. Please do let me know if they work for you, or if you’ve had good results in running and recovery using other foods and supplements.

Followup. Last Saturday, I ran 2 hours 45 minutes in San Francisco. After the run, I realized I had a left-over container of Heed, a Hammer Nutrition electrolyte/carb drink  that contains some of the same ingredients as Recoverite, e.g., maltodextrin and electrolytes. Hey, I thought – using maltodextrin will make my homemade drink even more like Recoverite! But the results were very disappointing. The Heed made me feel lethargic and mentally dull to the point of stupor and depression. So I’ll return to the ClifShot Electrolyte Drink, which supplies carbs from organic brown rice syrup solids and evaporated cane juice.

3 thoughts on “Recovery Part 3: Kitchen-Sink Recovery Drink”

  1. Man, you are really good!

    I love Recoverite. I have found that as long as I don’t run out of Recoverite, I don’t get sick. There seems to be a pattern that I get sick when I run out of Recoverite. I think I may need the Glutamine. When I run for more than four hours, I drink two servings an hour apart.

    Recently I noticed that a large tub went up $5. The guy at the store indicated he expected it to go up even more in 2009. It seems like everything is going up, including the size of my two sons appetites. So I felt pinched by the new price. This homemade info is valuable. I will try it.

    Chris, it’s well known that running long (e.g., 4+ hours, as you do) depresses the immune system – hence, very common to get sick afterward. A couple of things I’ve found that really seem to help: (1) Take alpha lipoic acid immediately after the run – best type I’ve found is the Jarrow Formulas brand 300-mg extended-release. ALA is an amazingly powerful antioxidant. (2) Take buffered vitamin C powder after the run – the immune system thrives in a slightly alkaline environment, and very long or hard running acidifies the metabolic environment. Both of these work for me reliably. It’s important not to take ALA routinely, just after the run, and maybe a second one 6-10 hours later, as needed. Also, vitamin C is a strong laxative – it can screw up your digestion if you take large doses too often. I’ve used both of these supplements with success at the very first sign of a cold. – GB

  2. Hello Eneida, thanks for the reply.

    Clever of Dr. Bill, the Wizard of Hammer Nutrition, to include l-tyrosine in the Hammer Recoverite drink mix. L-tyrosine boosts brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, where mental focus, will, and the ability to form and carry out goals are localized. I find l-tyrosine works best if I take the minimum effective does (maybe 100mg or less) by breaking open the caps, and if I don’t take it every day. (I only take it when I feel a real need to focus.) Also, I find that the effect is enhanced if I take it with a couple of fish-oil caps. The DHA and EPA in fish oil also help prefrontal cortex activation. In plain English, I feel more focused and capable of cheerful volition.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.