Find out how to use whole foods to create your own recovery and energy drinks with no junk involved. Words by Vicky Ware

You can buy any number of different energy and recovery drink concoctions, but sometimes it’s nice to know exactly what you’re putting in your body, and why. It’s possible to make your own energy and recovery drinks using natural ingredients.

Lentine Zahler is a chef who focuses on using real foods to fuel athletes. “When it comes to nutrition, and sports drinks, the best choices you can make are those where you’re consuming whole, real and unprocessed ingredients,” she says.

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When it comes to a recovery drink she advises: “Stick to real food. My favourites are chocolate milk or iced coffee with milk, because they contain some sugar, some fat and protein — all the things your body needs to rebuild.”

The essentials

  • Experiment to see what works for you
  • Energy drinks need electrolytes
  • Try vegan alternatives like pea protein
  • All foods in moderation

An energy drink could contain coconut water, honey, sea salt plus lemon or lime juice to flavour.

This provides the carbohydrate and electrolytes found in most processed energy drinks, but with a refreshing flavour and no refined sugar. If you want even longer-lasting energy try adding branched-chain amino acids for a protein-based fuel — or even rice or soy proteins which contain these naturally.

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Sports nutritionist Laurent Bannock advises whey protein as a recovery drink ingredient. “Whey protein is easy to use and can be added to a ‘recovery’ shake to provide fast digestion and rapidly available proteins and amino acids,” he explains.

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For a simple ‘super shake’ recipe he suggests adding oats and spinach to whey and blending as an easily digestible pre- or post-training drink.

An alternative to a dairy recovery drink could contain coconut milk, powdered oats and hemp protein.

Other dairy-free alternatives include almond and oat milks. Powdered oat provides carbohydrate and soluble fibre known to lower cholesterol.

Why use recovery drinks?

Key points

Try different kinds of base liquid for recovery drinks to see what works for you. Milk is a classic choice, but almond, coconut and oat milks also contain nutrients that are great for recovery.

Probiotics are another addition you could make to your recovery drink. These ‘friendly’ bacteria can help support your immune health, meaning your body is fighting fit to recover from exercise.

Energy drinks generally contain easily digestible carbohydrates and electrolytes. Honey and coconut water are a natural source of these nutrients. Honey is also antibacterial and anti-viral thereby giving your immune system a helping hand post-exercise.

If whole milk doesn’t suit you, try whey protein. It’s taken from dairy but some people find it easier to digest. It contains essential amino acids and is thought to support immune health.

Try adding chia seeds to your recovery drink for a boost in fibre and protein. They also contain the electrolytes you lose through sweat such as magnesium and calcium along with iron to rebuild red blood cells.

Pea, hemp or rice proteins are great for satisfying vegan protein requirements.

Vegetable smoothies are another great post-training drink. Adding protein such as pea or hemp protein will give you the building blocks for muscle recovery while vegetables give much-needed micronutrients, antioxidants and fibre.

Begin as you mean to go on with a good breakfast