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Best Cycling Recovery Drinks: Per Experts
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Best Cycling Recovery Drinks: Per Experts

Contributed by Byron Fergerson, M.D. 

Best Cycling Recovery Drinks

Post workout recovery is arguably as important as the ride when it comes to short- and long-term performance. Recovery is a distinct physiological state between exercise and rest when the body is primed to replenish and adapt to the stress of exercising. A cycling recovery drink right after training sessions is an effective way to time post-workout nutrition and ensure you jump-start recovery in depleted muscles. So if you haven’t thought much about what you’re drinking after your rides, read on!

 For high intensity and long duration endurance cycling, the 30 minute post-workout recovery window is a crucial time to replenish depleted and dehydrated muscles with carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes. Cycling recovery drinks make it easy to time your nutrition with a nutrient-dense jump start to post-ride recovery.


Best Recovery Drinks for Cyclists

Freak Shake Endurance Fuel - A complete carb, electrolyte & protein recovery mix formulated for endurance training & supplemented with epicatechin to boost recovery.

Chocolate Milk - An optimal blend of carbs & complete protein that’s budget friendly.

Ka’Chava Superfood Shakes - Carbs plus vegan protein with a smorgasbord of plant micronutrients that can substitute for whole foods and meals.

Cherry Active Juice Concentrate - High Carbs with beneficial antioxidants and a smidge of protein.

Green Tea & Spinach Smoothie - Adding green tea extract and spinach to a high carb & smoothie provides a concentrated serving of recovery-friendly catechins.

When Should You Drink a Recovery Shake?

“The recovery period after exercise contributes significantly to performance,” says David Stuart PhD, Plant Biochemist and Phytonutrient Expert. As founder of Food & Nutrient Impact, Dr. Stuart studies the relationship between nutrition and performance in people and athletes. “The recovery period is when our bodies are primed to restore energy reserves and repair damaged and inflamed muscle tissue after depleting bouts of exhaustive exercise. To return to peak performance for the next ride or workout, complete recovery is a must.” Over longer training cycles, the quality of recovery drinks or foods also may significantly impact longer term adaptations in muscle that contribute to endurance and strength, he adds. 

Cycling drinks can be an incredibly effective tool to optimize post-workout recovery. They help rapidly replenish depleted muscle, and can help supplement a healthy diet with nutrients that might be challenging to ingest immediately after a workout.

Electrolytes, Carbs and Protein all play important roles in replenishing, repairing and rebuilding depleted muscle. The best cycling recovery drinks replenish all three in a format that’s easy to consume and (hopefully) delicious because let’s face it - a recovery drink after a hard session should also be a reward.

Advantages of Recovery Drinks for Cyclists


We lose water and electrolytes in sweat. A rule of thumb is to drink a couple glasses of water for every pound of weight lost on a ride. Sodium and chloride (together they make salt) are rapidly excreted in sweat along with potassium, calcium and magnesium to a lesser extent. Recovery drinks can help replenishing these mineral electrolytes after a long or heavy workout to aid in restoring hydration balance to muscle cells and promoting muscle repair during recovery.


When we ride, muscles use energy stored as glycogen, but the body only stores enough to power about an hour of moderate to intense exercise without refueling. For muscles to fully recover after a long or hard ride, a high amount of carbohydrates must be consumed post workout to synthesize and restore depleted glycogen reserves (Tarnopolsky, 2005).

Dr Stuart explains, “When carbohydrate ingestion is delayed by several hours, research has shown that this may lead to 50% lower rates of muscle glycogen synthesis.  The effect of consuming carbohydrates along with high quality protein has been shown to be an aid to post-exercise recovery.  (Saunders et. al, 2004).

Consuming carbohydrates immediately, that is within 30 minutes of exercise, and then at intervals several hours after exercise has been demonstrated to maximize glycogen replacement.” A recommended serving is 2g of Carbohydrates per Kg of body mass within 30 minutes post-workout, then again at 2 hour intervals for 4-6 hours after workout (Jentjens, 2003). For a 165 lb cyclist, that equates to 150g of Carbs within 30 minutes, and then another 150g every 2 hours for another 2-3 feedings. Carbs taste amazing after a hard workout so reward yourself with enough of them!


High quality protein plays two parts in replenishing us. When consumed at a ratio 1g of protein to 3-4g of carbs, it works in league with carbohydrates to optimize glycogen synthesis (Kersick, 2008). Additionally, the essential amino acids in complete protein supply the building blocks to repair and grow new muscle while recovering.

A traditional protein shake after cycling won’t hurt recovery - but remember to get your carbs too! Many popular protein supplements, shakes, and drinks prioritize a high serving of 20-30+g of protein at the expense of carbohydrates, which is suboptimal for recovering from endurance training like cycling.


While we restore equilibrium during recovery, our muscles begin adapting to the stress accumulated during a ride. These adaptations contribute to new, stronger muscle fibers, and changes in muscle cells that improve resilience and metabolic efficiency contributing to endurance.

A healthy diet of whole foods loaded with complex carbs, healthy fats, protein, and micronutrients provides a baseline availability of resources in your body to support training adaptations. Dr Stuart expands by saying, “Supplementation may also contribute to the quality of recovery by offering higher concentrations of micronutrients linked to recovery processes and adaptations in muscle. It can be difficult to ingest nourishing foods or snacks immediately after endurance training in high enough concentrations to benefit the recovery period because of stomach discomfort and the time it takes to digest.”  A recovery drink can be a more tolerable way to quickly ingest beneficial macro- and micronutrients, especially in the 30 minute post-workout window he explains.

It’s no coincidence that Dr Stuart is also a preeminent expert in a class of endurance-boosting micronutrients called flavonoids which are supplemented in our favorite cycling recovery drink. (Don’t worry – we’ll introduce it below.)

Time Management

A cycling recovery drink is an efficient, controllable way to help hit your first 30 minute carb quota immediately after a training session and bridge to a meal or snack, ideally consisting of whole foods with complex carbs.

While timing of proper nutrition may help optimize or even reduce the amount of time to fully recover, there is no substitute for time itself. Allowing adequate time to restore equilibrium after a strenuous training session is key to maximizing recovery. Intense or long rides generate more stress on muscle and demand more time to recover fully. Delayed onset muscle soreness and fatigue are two indications the body may need more time to recover fully.

Freak Shake for High Performance Cycling Recovery

Freak Shake Endurance Fuel is a high performance recovery drink mix tailor-made for endurance athletes like cyclists. With high carbs, electrolytes and an optimal portion of protein, it’s also uniquely supplemented with a functional serving of Epicatechin. This potent plant-based antioxidant occurs naturally in plants like tea and cacao and possesses properties that support  recovery processes and endurance-boosting adaptations in muscle cells. 

Freak Shake offers cyclists and endurance athletes a single convenient and comprehensive nutritional platform to launch post-workout recovery in the crucial 30 minute post-workout window. It contains:

  •         1000+mg Electrolytes (3x mainstream sports drinks)
  •         29g Carbohydrates
  •         10-12g Protein (varies by flavor)
  •         100mg Epicatechin (a natural flavonoid extracted from tea)

Why supplement with epicatechin after cycling workouts?

Dr. Stuart specializes in the physiological effects of plant micronutrients, explaining that, “Epicatechin demonstrates compelling properties that may benefit recovery. These include stimulating Nitric Oxide production and blood flow to muscles, helping regulate excess inflammation, reducing soreness, and stimulating skeletal muscle cellular growth. There is also substantial evidence that catechins may stimulate endurance-related adaptations that could benefit aerobic metabolism, and help muscle cells tolerate and regulate exercise induced stress and inflammation.” (See References: 4,5,6,7,8) While the benefits of supplementation will vary depending on an individual’s level of fitness, Dr Stuart notes that 80-100mg is a sufficient functional serving of epicatechin to correlate with significant outcomes in studies. 

Jump-Start Recovery After Cycling

  • Recommend drinking immediately after workouts within 30 minutes
  • Maximize Glycogen Replenishment
  • 1000+mg of Electrolyte Replenishment
  • Optimal protein composition for endurance trainining

Supplemented with Epicatechin

  • Support Aerobic adaptations in muscle while recovering
  • Help regulate excess stress and inflammation response after strenuous exercise
  • Support resilient muscle while endurance training on a daily schedule



Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Ride Recovery Drinks

What should I drink after a long bike ride?

A high-performance recovery drink with high carbs and a bit of protein is going to be geared towards endurance training and the recovery needs of cyclists. Freak Shake Endurance Fuel offers a single-source of high carbohydrates, an ideal protein ratio for recovery, and electrolytes. A recovery shake is easily ingested to quickly get some nutrients on board after a tough ride. It can be inconvenient to access a meal or robust snack immediately after a strenuous training session, and intestinal discomfort sometimes makes it hard to eat within the 30 minute window. REMEMBER not to underestimate the amount of carbs needed to maximize recovery though! A great recovery drink will only get you started… Remember that over the 4-6 hours following a strenuous workout, quite a lot of carbs are needed to fully replenish glycogen stores.  

When should I have a recovery drink after an intense or long workout?

Drink water immediately afterwards - Ideally 1-2 cups for every pound of water weight lost during the ride. A carb, electrolyte and protein recovery drink like Freak Shake is most helpful to quick-start replenishment and support recovery less than 30 minutes after your workout but it is only intended to help athletes ease into the recovery phase. Athletes are recommended about 10 grams of carbohydrates for every 11 lbs of body mass within 30 minutes and again every two hours for 2-3 more feedings to maximize glycogen replacement. That’s 150g of carbs within 30 minutes if you’re a 165 lb athlete - and again 2-3 more times every 2 hours.

What do cyclists drink after a stage?

The guidelines for recovery after a stage are no different than after an intense workout, but timing is more important because an athlete typically has less than 24 hours to maximize their recovery before their next race when peak performance is desired. We are fans of nutrient supplementation, specifically with natural flavonoids like epicatechin and quercetin (MacRae 2006) to help competitors be as resilient as possible, making the most of limited recovery time in staged races or heats of competition.

What are the best supplements for cycling recovery?

We recommend daily supplementation of quercetin and epicatechin to support resilient muscles. Resilient muscles are better able to tolerate and regulate excess stress from exercise. The implication is that a more resilient athlete may require slightly less recovery than another athlete with comparable performance but who is slightly less resilient, more fatigued, or sore after their last ride.


1)  Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala M, Jeukendrup AE, Phillips SM. Nutritional needs of elite endurance athletes. Part I: Carbohydrate and fluid requirements. Eur J Sport Sci. 2005;5(1):3-14. doi:10.1080/17461390500076741

2)  Saunders MJ, Kane MD, Todd MK. Effects of a carbohydrate-protein beverage on cycling endurance and muscle damage. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Jul;36(7):1233-8. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000132377.66177.9f. PMID: 15235331.

3)  Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sport Nutr. 2008;5(1):17. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-17

4)  Jentjens R, Jeukendrup AE. Determinants of Post-Exercise Glycogen Synthesis During Short-Term Recovery. Sports Med. 2003;33(2):117-144. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333020-00004

5)  Brossette T, Hundsdörfer C, Kröncke KD, Sies H, Stahl W. Direct evidence that (−)-epicatechin increases nitric oxide levels in human endothelial cells. Eur J Nutr. 2011;50(7):595-599. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0172-9

6)  McBrier NM, Vairo GL, Bagshaw D, Lekan JM, Bordi PL, Kris-Etherton PM. Cocoa-Based Protein and Carbohydrate Drink Decreases Perceived Soreness After Exhaustive Aerobic Exercise; A Pragmatic Preliminary Analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(8):2203-2210. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181e4f7f9

7)  Moreno-Ulloa A, Miranda-Cervantes A, Licea-Navarro A, et al. (-)-Epicatechin stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and cell growth in C2C12 myotubes via the G-protein coupled estrogen receptor. Eur J Pharmacol. 2018;822:95-107. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2018.01.014

8)  Craig DM, Ashcroft SP, Belew MY, et al. Utilizing small nutrient compounds as enhancers of exercise-induced mitochondrial biogenesis. Front Physiol. 2015;6:296. doi:10.3389/fphys.2015.00296

9)  Goya L, Martín MÁ, Sarriá B, Ramos S, Mateos R, Bravo L. Effect of Cocoa and Its Flavonoids on Biomarkers of Inflammation: Studies of Cell Culture, Animals and Humans. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):212. doi:10.3390/nu8040212

10)  MacRae HSH, Mefferd KM. Dietary Antioxidant Supplementation Combined with Quercetin Improves Cycling Time Trial Performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exe. 2006;16(4):405-419. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.16.4.405

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