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Most of the protein you see in post-recovery drinks are for the optimum ratio of carb:protein. This is not to be confused with Protein only drinks for bodybuilders and weight gainers. I discussed this in several past articles, and that ratio can be anywhere from 0:1, 1:1, 2:1 and 4:1.
The logic behind the high carbohydrates, usually in the form of fast acting sugars, is to trigger the insulin response, and therefore aid in the protein and amino acid absorption. The extra protein also helps in increased protein synthesis and prevent proteolysis (muscle breakdown). One of the biggest worries of well muscled men (bodybuilders) and women is going into a negative protein state. Your body can only absorb so much protein, as we urinate the excess amounts. If you want to learn everything about protein, I recommend Lyle McDonald’s The Protein Book.
As a sprinter, I don’t want too many carbs, and feel a 1:1 was ideal for me, which is why I liked Proglycosyn. (more on that below in the all-in-one post-recovery sports drink). It also tastes good. A 4:1 ratio may be excessive, so the ideal ratio is probably somewhere in-between.
Caffeine is usually in a pre-race drink as a stimulant and a cognitive enhancer, but some like it DURING an endurance event in a concentrated form (along with sugar) like Goo or Red Bull.
Smart drinks: Tyrosine, Taurine and others
Smart drinks, or what I call pre-competition “mental alertness neurotransmitter” drinks, are definitely a pre-race drink. These drinks fall into the category of nootropics (which would take an entire article to discuss) but you can get an idea of the market share in this article.
Red Bull is probably the most famous drink and largest in terms of market share and contains the amino acid Taurine.
I preferred Power Drive (Biotest) and Vitalyze (SNAC). Both contains Tyrosine, which blocks the release of Tryptophan, an amino acid that gives you the sleep feeling, especially halfway in the 400m! The new formulation of Vitalyze now contains caffeine. As an experiment, 5 hour energy shots were pretty good, too.
I write about nootropics in a future article.
You’ll see creatine appear in post recovery drinks.
Creatine is probably one of the safest supplements with the exception of cramping. The benefits were covered in several articles. Most athletes take it before, but I feel before and after beneficial. The dosage should be based on your lean body mass and not overall weight.
You can start with a 5 part series here on creatine, and work backwards.
The All in One
As you can see from the list above, supplements in sports drinks is getting complicated. You can always buy simple drinks (or make your own) and add the extra supplements as needed.
The “All in One” drinks are usually the post recovery drinks.
With the exception of caffeine and nootropics, which you can take with Vitalyze, I find SNAC’s Proglycosyn to be a good “all-in-one” post workout drink. The mixability was easy and it taste good with semi-cool or cold water. Trying to find ice cold water after a meet can be challenging.
I’ll probably get a lot of email because SNAC is associated with BALCO and Victor Conte, but I have been using Proglycosyn years before 2003 and the BALCO raid. Unlike other supplement companies, none of his products are on the IAAF list of banned substances in case there is a contamination issue. And we are seeing more and more cases of supplement contamination. Methylhexaneamine is the latest culprit in the news.
If you have read this far, I hope this helps in choosing the differences in sports and energy drinks. It’s a confusing market, but it doesn’t have to be if you read the labels. And save a few bucks along the way.
This is Part 4 of a 4 part series.
- Part 1: Intro
- Part 2: water & electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium)
- Part 3: sugars, starches and (heaven forbid) HFCS!
- Part 4: protein, BCAA, glutamine, caffeine tyrosine, taurine, and other nootropics, creatine, others