Recovery drinks

During a ride, carbohydrate from muscle and liver glycogen is used to provide energy to your leg muscles. And immediately afterwards, the enzymes responsible for storing carbohydrates in the muscles and liver are most active. Taking advantage of this glycogen window that is open for the 4 hours immediately following vigorous exercise is recommended for every regular cyclist.

During this interval, ingested carbohydrate will be converted into muscle glycogen at about 3 times the normal rate (and the earlier the better as some data suggests a 50% fall in the conversion rate by 2 hours and a complete return to normal repletion rate by 4 hours). Muscle glycogen repletion (after a 2 plus hour ride) usually proceeds at a rate of 5% per hour, and although it may require up to 48 hours for complete muscle glycogen replacement, most is accomplished during the first 24 hours post event. The athlete training daily, or riding in a multiday event, can use this glycogen window to their advantage to get a jump on the normal repletion process and minimize the chance of chronic glycogen depletion (and the fatigue that goes along with it).

The common recommendation is to drink or eat 100 grams of carbohydrate during this 4 hour period. One study of trained cyclists revealed that those who drank a beverage containing carbohydrates and protein replenished muscle glycogen levels 38% faster than with carbohydrates alone.

There are numerous recovery drinks available, but they are expensive. It has been estimated that if you had one serving a day, 6 days a week, the annual cost would be $1000 per year or more. So if you are designing your own drink, or choosing from one of the commercial products, remember these guidelines:

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