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The Best Recovery Drink for Runners
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The Best Recovery Drink for Runners

By Byron Fergerson, M.D. Chief Science Advisor to Freak Shake

The Best Recovery Drink for Runners

If you're wondering what is the best recovery drink to replenish your body, our Chief Science Advisor breaks down the key product attributes that are crucial for runners. High performance recovery drinks can provide multiple benefits in one place. They provide essential hydration, replace lost electrolytes, expended carbohydrates, and deliver nutrients that aid muscle repair and replace energy stores.

We’ll dive into the landscape of recovery drinks specifically tailored for runners. We’ll talk about the importance the importance of replenishing the body’s resources to quick start natural biological recovery processes.

We understand that each runner's body is different, and encourage you to try different nutritional strategies, drinks and usage to find the approach that works best for you.

 High performance running recovery drinks should deliver an energy-dense serving of carbohydrates in addition to high electrolyte content. The body is primed to rapidly replenish energy reserves and electrolytes lost in sweat immediately following exercise for about 2 hours.  Drinks fortified with a bit of protein are also recommended to optimize glycogen synthesis post-workout in endurance athletes: A ratio of 1 g protein to 3-4 g of carbohydrates is ideal.


What is a Recovery Drink?

For endurance athletes like runners or cyclists, recovery drinks focus on the rapid replenishment of resources exhausted during strenuous exercise and bridging the athlete from workout to a meal or snack. This includes:

  1. Fluid and electrolyte replenishment to restore hydration balance after sweating.
  2. A high serving of carbohydrates to begin replenishing glycogen stores rapidly depleted during strenuous exercise.
  3. Just a bit of complete protein to optimize recovery and help kick start muscle repair.
  4. A functional serving of plant-based flavonoids to boost resilience and accelerate muscle cell adaptations that contribute to peak endurance.

What to look for in a high performance Recovery Drink

60% of elite runners will experience the serious symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome at least once in their careers - compared to 30-40% of elite athletes across all sports. If you’re doing a high volume of daily conditioning for over an hour or more, ensuring complete recovery before your next workout is key to making performance gains and avoiding the counterproductive effects of over-exertion. If you are a power endurance athlete like a Crossfitter or Rower, your recovery needs are quite similar to long distance endurance athletes. (Learn more about Crossfit recovery here)

Let's drill down on the 4 key nutritional benefits to look for in a high performance recovery drink for running or any endurance sport.

1) Hydration balance

Recovery drinks are mostly water (the definition of a drink), and they generally include electrolytes too.

We excrete both water and electrolytes in sweat, so replacing fluid and mineral electrolytes like sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium is critical to restoring hydration balance after strenuous, sweaty exercise.

Gatorade popularized electrolyte enhanced sports drinks in the 80’s and 90’s, and now you can find electrolyte replacement in nearly every category of beverage from sports drinks to energy drinks to coconut water, bottled water. Oral rehydration drink mixes like Liquid IV, Drip Drop or LMNT contain much higher levels of sodium as well as other electrolytes compared to mainstream sports drinks and are geared toward the hydration demands of longer duration endurance exercise like running.

Electrolyte drinks support hydration because they play a role in regulating fluid balance in cells. That balance can be disrupted through dehydration, or insufficient electrolytes, or both. The result can be either too little or too much water inside muscle cells relative to the tissue around them. Both situations can hinder recovery and make us feel wonky, fatigued, or even nauseous.

2) Carbohydrate replenishment

Carbs are the king of nutrients to drive recovery after running.

Our bodies utilize carbs to synthesize glycogen. Glycogen is a rapidly accessible energy source stored in blood, muscle and liver that we quickly deplete during high intensity or prolonged exercise. Unfortunately, we can only store enough glycogen to fuel about 1 hour of exercise at moderate intensity which is not necessarily even a particularly long training interval for most distance athletes like runners.

Our bodies are primed to rapidly replace glycogen during and immediately following exercise, ideally within 2 hours after exercise (Ivy, 1991). Endurance athletes like runners need between 1.2 – 1.6g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass per hour of exertion (Podlogar, 2022). For example, a 180 pound athlete who exercised for 1 hour at moderate intensity or higher would ideally consume 100 to 150g of carbs within 2 hours following exercise in order to maximize recovery.

Look for recovery drinks offering  20-40g of carbohydrates per serving to help bridge the gap between exercise and a healthy snack or meal featuring whole-foods with slower digesting complex carbohydrates. This will be a relatively small percentage of the total carbs required to fully recover glycogen stores, so we recommend simple sugars in a post run recovery drink because they are nearly immediately absorbed from the gut, providing the fastest way to quick-start glycogen replacement.

3) Just enough Protein

10-12g of protein in a drink is likely to be adequate to boost recovery after running (assuming it is also high in carbs)

A complete recovery drink for endurance athletes will also incorporate a modest amount of protein. Look for a complete protein source, providing all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce internally.

Traditional powdered protein or ready to drink products like Premier Protein, Fairlife Nutrition, or Muscle Milk are less than ideal to recover from running and endurance training because they’re simply overloaded with protein.  With 30-40+ grams of protein and very few carbs, these drinks ignore the carbohydrate replacement needs of endurance athletes, allocate too many calories to protein, and can result in slower recovery and reduced performance for endurance training.

Chocolate Milk makes for an excellent recovery drink after strenuous endurance training – it’s high in carbs, high in electrolytes (sodium, potassium and calcium) and happens to have an ideal ratio of complete protein to carbs to optimize recovery from running. Dairy proteins Whey and Casein are highly effective because they have a complete amino acid profile, and they offer complimentary absorption with whey being extremely rapidly absorbed, and casein digesting slower, but with very complete absorption.

After endurance exercise, adding a modest amount of protein to carbs in a ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 (carbs-to-protein) can improve glycogen storage rate and require fewer carbs to achieve an equivalent replenishment of glycogen than carbs alone (Kerksick, 2008). A bit of protein also provides amino acid building blocks that the body needs to repair and build stronger muscle fibers damaged from exercise during your recovery.

4) Plant-based Flavonoids

The wild card. These natural antioxidant micronutrients provide a host of recovery boosting benefits, but require supplementation to deliver a functional dose that can impact post-workout recovery.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring micronutrients found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, cacao, and tea. In addition to being a potent antioxidant, the flavonoid epicatechin offers a number of well documented recovery benefits for endurance athletes when included in a post run drink. Plant-based whole foods can be a source of these beneficial nutrients, but to get a functional serving that can benefit recovery immediately post workout requires supplementation.

The upshot of flavonoids, in particular epicatechin, is to help accelerate recovery and cellular adaptations that happen during exercise recovery contributing to greater endurance.

There are multiple pathways during recovery where flavonoids have demonstrated benefits:

  • Antioxidant properties that can help reduce the impact of stress and muscle dmaange from strenuous exercise
  • Enhancing blood flow to allow more oxygen and nutrients to reach muscles, speeding repair and recovery
  • Anti-inflammatory properties that can help muscle cells tolerate slightly more stress and reduce the inflammation response to strenuous exercise that leads to soreness and prolonged recovery time
  • Mitochondrial metabolism can benefit from flavonoids, helping muscle cells adapt faster to the demands of endurance exercise and contributing to VO2 Max. Happy mitochondria unlock peak efficiency and peak output in an athlete’s aerobic zones.

Our blog contains a detailed article about the physiology of exercise induced stress and benefits of flavonoids in mediating recovery for  runners who want to go deeper into the science.



Try Freak Shake

  • High 33g Carbohydrates per serving
  • >1000mg Electrolytes
  • Optimal 3:1 Protein-to-Carb Ratio for Running Recovery
  • Fortified with 100mg Epicatechin to speed recovery & optimize endurance!

The Best Recovery Drink for runners to get now

We want to help you choose an ideal recovery drink for running so you can recover faster and train harder tomorrow! While Freak Shake is often compared with leading recovery products from brands like Tailwind Nutrition, Skratch Labs, and XEndurance, you might wonder what sets us apart. Here's an overview of the standout features and benefits our customers rave about.

Freak Shake Endurance Fuel was formulated to provide all four components of recovery discussed above, making it one of the best running recovery drink options available for endurance training. Each serving is high in Carbohydrates and high in Electrolytes with a modest amount of complete Protein at a 3:1 Protein-to-Carb ratio. All Freak Shake products are uniquely fortified with 100mg of Epicatechin flavonoids to help speed muscle recovery and resilience as well as accelerate adaptations of muscle cell machinery that can improve endurance and stamina.

Here is a nutritional summary:

Supplement Facts (Chocolate Endurance Fuel)

Serving size: Approx. 1 Scoop (51.25g)

 Calories 190
Total Carbohydrates 33 g
Total Fat 1.5 g
Total Sugars (Includes 28.5 g added Cane Sugar) 29 g
Protein 11.5 g
Dietary Fiber 360 mg
Sodium 360 mg
Potassium 370 mg
Calcium 310 mg
(Total Electrolytes) 1040 mg
Epicatechin 100 mg
Natural Caffeine (from green coffee) 35 mg

Comparison of high performance Recovery Drinks for Runners

So what makes Freak Shake unique among high performance Recovery Drinks marketed to runners? There are a couple of brands that stand out in quality and all do a nice job delivering high carbs, electrolytes and a protein blend that is ideal for recovering from endurance training. Tail Wind offers a drink that is vegan and dairy-free which may appeal to athletes with dietary restrictions. But Freak Shake is the only option that fortifies with a functional serving of flavonoids.

Electrolytes Calories Carbs Protein (carb ratio) Flavonoid Fortification
Freak Shake Endurance Fuel 1040 mg 190 33 g 12 g
100 mg Epicatechin
Tail Wind Recovery Mix 910 mg 240 43 g 11 g
Skratch Labs Recovery 910 mg 240 43 g 11g
XEndurance Capsules Yes
(Undeclared Quantity
in Proprietary Blend)
0 0 0 Yes
(Undeclared Type in Proprietary Blend)


When to take a recovery drink? (Pre or post run)

  • Experimentation is Key: Athletes may need to experiment with timing; preferences vary based on individual needs and training schedules.
  • Pre-Run Strategy: For shorter, high-intensity workouts (like intervals or tempo runs), consider a pre-run recovery drink to meet the body's immediate carb and electrolyte needs.
  • Early Morning Fuel: A pre-workout recovery drink can be beneficial for early morning sessions when eating a meal with complex carbs isn't practical after fasting overnight.
  • Post-Run Importance: After moderate to high-intensity workouts lasting over an hour, try a recovery drink immediately post-workout. Observe how your body and mind respond.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to physical and mental recovery post-training and the following day.
  • Balance and Recovery: Remember, recovery drinks complement training; they aren't a substitute for adequate rest and don’t provide an excuse to over-train.

Frequently Asked Questions About Post Run Recovery Drinks

What is the best drink for runners?

We’re partial but we think Freak Shake Endurance Fuel is worth a try! It is the only high carb, high electrolyte recovery drink designed for runners and other endurance sports that also contains recovery-boosting flavonoids.

What should runners drink after a run?

  • Water! When we run, we sweat – a lot. Replacing fluids is job #1.
  • Replacing electrolytes with an isotonic drink can help cells retain those fluids and restore hydration balance in your muscle.
  • High Carbohydrates. Reach for a convenient source of high carbohydrates preferably in the form of simple sugars, like chocolate milk or a high performance recovery drink.
  • Experiment with flavonoids. Epicatechin has very rapid bioavailability and 80-100mg is enough to experience the potential beneficial adaptations to muscle cells that can improve resilience and endurance during recovery.

Why not try Freak Shake Endurance Fuel in your water bottle after your next hard session to see how it feels?


Ivy, J.L. Muscle Glycogen Synthesis Before and After Exercise. Sports Med 11, 6–19 (1991).

Podlogar T, Wallis GA. New Horizons in Carbohydrate Research and Application for Endurance Athletes. Sports Med. 2022 Dec;52(Suppl 1):5-23. doi: 10.1007/s40279-022-01757-1. Epub 2022 Sep 29. PMID: 36173597; PMCID: PMC9734239.

Kerksick, C. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sport Nutr 5, 17 (2008).

Zawadzki, K.M., B.B. Yaspelkis, and J.L. Ivy. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. J. Appl. Physiol. 72(5):1854-1859, 1992

Taub PR, Ramirez‐Sanchez I, Ciaraldi TP, et al. Alterations in Skeletal Muscle Indicators of Mitochondrial Structure and Biogenesis in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Failure: Effects of Epicatechin Rich Cocoa. Clin Transl Sci. 2012;5(1):43-47. doi:10.1111/j.1752-8062.2011.00357.x

Islam, J., & Kabir, Y. (2019). Effects and mechanisms of antioxidant-rich functional beverages on disease prevention. In Functional and Medicinal Beverages (pp. 157-198). Academic Press.

Massee LA, Ried K, Pase M, et al. The acute and sub-chronic effects of cocoa flavanols on mood, cognitive and cardiovascular health in young healthy adults: a randomized, controlled trial. 2012;5(1):43-47. doi:10.1111/j.1752-8062.2011.00357.x

Ota, N., S. Soga and A. Shimotoyodome. Daily consumption of tea catechins improves aerobic capacity in healthy male adults: a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.  Biosci. Biotechnol Biochem. 12, 2412 (2016)

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