Best protein-loaded recovery drinks for cycling 2022 rated and reviewed

We look at the best available protein and recovery drinks to ensure you’re recovered and good to go for your next training session

Image shows a rider drinking a protein-packed recovery drink.
(Image credit: Future)

Recovery drinks are massively helpful for any cyclist looking to make maximum gains from their training sessions. These products ensure you’re getting the right amount of carbohydrates and protein for optimal recovery.

For effective recovery after cycling, carbohydrates are needed to refill our glycogen stores, so that we can train again the next day, while protein is needed to allow the muscles to repair and build up stronger and ready for the next workout.

Your approach to cycling nutrition is one of the essential areas to focus on to ensure you reap the positive adaptations from training.

We’ve split this guide into best recovery drink powders, best ready-made recovery drinks and best vegan recovery drinks.

Below we rate the best recovery drinks and why some are better for some than others. Then, we answer your questions about recovery drinks.

Best recovery drink powders for cycling

Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

Wiggle Nutrition Recovery

Best value protein drink we reviewed

Specifications

Protein content: 17g
Carb content: 41g
Price per serving: $0.91 / £0.91

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes good
+
Low price
+
Mixes well
+
Great carb to protein ratio

Reasons to avoid

-
Only available in bulk

The Wiggle Recovery drink does exactly what it needs to and for almost half the price of most of its competitors.

With around a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, this drink provides the optimum amounts of both for recovery after a tough or long training session. Add to that the carbs and proteins being faster acting, and this recovery drink will help you be primed and ready for your next training session.

The drink mixes very well, leaving no clumps at all. And with the guided amount of water the drink was a good consistency similar to a milkshake with a nice natural taste to match. The banana flavour has no artificial taste to it and after drinking we felt like it left us full enough.

Based on performance and value, there was nowhere that this recovery drink faltered, hence the 5/5 perfect score!


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

High5 Recovery

Ratio of carbohydrate to protein is better than most

Specifications

Protein content: 18g
Carb content: 36g
Price per serving: $2.72 / £2.21 per sachet or $1.68 / £1.88 per serving from 1.6kg tub

Reasons to buy

+
Mixes well
+
Option for batch tested

Reasons to avoid

-
Some flavours weak tasting

The High5 recovery drink was the only other protein powder on test to offer the same ~3:1 carbs to protein ratio. It’s the right balance for getting sufficient protein in for rebuilding your muscles, without having to take on an excessive amount of carbs.

A bonus point for High5 is the option to get the product batch tested, which helps to put your mind at ease that there isn’t contamination with any banned products that would fail a doping test. Although most of us won’t get tested, it is good to know what you are taking is ‘clean’.

The drink mixed very well and gave a more watery consistency than many of the drinks, possibly preferable for some after a hard session, as it’s easier to drink than a thicker shake. The flipside is that it’s maybe a little less filling – not by much, though. Flavours were good on the whole, but I found the banana one to be a little too weak. 

Value was pretty good among competitors, and the only reason we docked half a mark was due to the inconsistency between flavours. Other than that, an ideal recovery drink.


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

SiS Rego Rapid Recovery

Informed Sport tested

Specifications

Protein content: 20g
Carb content: 20g
Price per serving: $1.92 / £1.12 per serving from 1.6kg tub

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes good
+
Mixes well
+
Informed Sport tested
+
Very good vitamin and mineral content for recovery and hydration

Reasons to avoid

-
Soya protein perhaps not as fast acting as whey
-
Not enough carbs

SiS Rego Rapid Recovery has been around for a long time, and does well with a high amount of protein and solid amount of carbs. It is a 1:1 ratio, though, so the carb content is perhaps a little lacking – but it can be consumed alongside a meal more rich in carbs.

The drink mixes very well with no lumps and has a nice flavour without any artificial taste. A nice addition is a full profile of electrolytes, which makes this a great drink for rehydration – an aspect sometimes forgotten by other recovery drinks and a big bonus. 

The drink left me feeling satisfied after a work-out, but still a bit hungry after around 30 minutes or so. When bought as a 1.6kg tub, the value is exceptional. Additionally, all SiS products are batch tested which is a great feature.

The lack of carbohydrates is the only point we could mark down, but the addition of salts and other vitamins and minerals for better hydration was a big enough bonus to only dock half a mark – especially as it’s quite easy to get your carbs from another source.


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

OTE Sports Whey Protein

Uses whey and casein protein for faster acting and longer acting protein

Specifications

Protein content: 25g
Carb content: 19.2g
Price per serving: £2.75 per sachet or £2.13 per serving from 1kg tub

Reasons to buy

+
Mixes well
+
Contains essential amino acids

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly artificially sweet aftertaste
-
Not enough carbs

OTE Sports’ Whey Protein recovery drink offers a little more protein than most of the others on test, landing it slap-bang in the middle of the recommended 20-30 grams. The carb content, on the other hand, was a bit lacking for a recovery drink, though.

That said, the inclusion of essential and branched chain amino acids was a bonus for muscle recovery. And the option for batch testing, along with everything being made in a facility that is Informed Sport Certified is another perk. 

The drink mixed very well and left us feeling full, ready for a proper meal later on. However, there was a strange artificially sweet taste – although there are apparently no artificial sweeteners present.

The drink is quite expensive compared to some of the more value-oriented options, but it still sits around the middle of the spectrum when bought in bulk. The option for sachets is useful for those travelling or bikepacking, but it is more expensive. 

One point is lost due to the reduced carb amount and funny flavour, but when bought in bulk this offers a great protein drink at a solid value.


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

Torq Recovery

Offers a complete meal replacement if required

Specifications

Protein content: 21g
Carb content: 84g
Price per serving: $3.00 / £3.00 per serving from a 1.5kg bag

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes good
+
Complete recovery meal
+
Mixes well

Reasons to avoid

-
Might be too much of a meal replacement for some
-
Smaller sachets don't provide enough protein
-
Expensive

Torq’s recovery drink is very different to most on this list, in that it contains a huge amount of carbs. The price per serving is high, but the recovery drink you get is near enough a meal replacement which – for people having just finished a race or short on time – might actually be ideal. 

The drink also features branched chain and essential amino acids, as well as a very large list of vitamins and minerals that are essential to recovery and hydration. 

When mixed, the drink is quite thick but has no lumps and tastes delicious – it was one of my favourites in that regard. Due to the high carb and protein content, it left me very full afterwards and not needing any additional fuelling. 

One issue is that the smaller sachets don’t really offer either enough protein or carbs for recovery. The ratio is good, but the total content is low. To get enough protein, you do need the full dose – but that will constitute a meal replacement for most people. 

Consumed like this, the value isn’t bad. But given the £3/serving we couldn’t give it higher than a 4, despite its great hydration benefits that are only present to this extent in a few recovery drinks.


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

Veloforte Vita

High quality natural ingredients

Specifications

Protein content: 13.1g
Carb content: 39.3g
Price per serving: £2.99 per sachet, price decreases based on quantity ordered (3, 10, 15 and 24)

Reasons to buy

+
Natural ingredients
+
Refreshing taste
+
Good fibre levels
+
3:1 carb to protein ratio

Reasons to avoid

-
Low protein content compared to some
-
Gritty texture from natural ingredients may not appeal to everyone

The Veloforte Vita recovery drink is ideal for those who want completely natural ingredients, without excessive processing or artificial flavours. This does lead to a slight grittiness in the drink when mixed, so it tastes more like a smoothie or fruit juice than a milkshake. The flavour was refreshing and natural and I did quite like it. 

It is a little weak, though, and didn’t leave me very full. The amount of carbs and the ratio of that to the to protein is quite good, but the overall protein quantity is still too low. You can mix it with milk, though, which will boost the carbs and protein as well as leading to a thicker consistency. 

The price per serving is high, likely due to the quality of ingredients. Another nice touch is that Veloforte has a recycling service for all their waste and wrappers, as well as not using any plastic in their delivery. This is really the only option for those who are environmentally conscious. But considering the lower protein content and a high price, it missed out on the top scores.


Best ready-made recovery drinks for cycling

Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

For Goodness Shakes Recovery Drink

Pre mixed drink with ideal carb to protein ratio

Specifications

Protein content: 16.1g
Carb content: 48.3g
Price per serving: $2.20 / £1.69

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes great
+
High protein and carb content
+
Practical
+
Price

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

The For Goodness Shakes Recovery drink was as close to perfect as possible for. Not only a great ratio of carbs to protein, but also a good profile of vitamins and minerals for hydration and recovery. Obviously not lactose free, but using milk as a base gives a great source of protein and calcium (great for cyclists where bone mineral density is important), but also very good for hydration post exercise.

The taste and consistency is close to that of a really good milkshake, and left me feeling very satisfied after drinking. The taste may be a little sweet for some, especially the vanilla fudge flavour, but I loved it and my desire to raid the sweets cupboard after a training session was quenched!

The price is good too, with the ready-made shake being one of the more competitively priced options, there isn’t a need to buy in bulk! Being pre-mixed, it’s also easier to bring along with you for consumption after a race or a gym session.

5/5 was well deserved!


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

For Goodness Shakes Protein shake

Easy to drink protein drink

Specifications

Protein content: 25g
Carb content: 25g
Price per serving: $2.55 / £1.99

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes great
+
High protein content
+
Practical

Reasons to avoid

-
Not many carbs for a recovery drink

The For Goodness Shakes Protein drink is a great tasting recovery drink that I really liked after short, sharp sessions or gym workouts. The protein amount is higher than most and right in the 20-30g range that is recommended. However the carb content is a bit low with the 1:1 ratio.

The taste and consistency of these drinks is fantastic and I absolutely loved them – just like a milkshake! They also contain a good profile of vitamins and minerals for recovery and hydration, leaving me feeling satisfied after one serving – but wanting more for the taste!

The price per serving sits pretty much bang in the middle of what we saw with recovery drinks. Buying in bulk doesn’t offer much of a discount, although the single helping option is a nice inclusion. 

It only slightly lost out in its score due to the lack of carbs compared to the protein, but the taste, practicality, and good amount of protein were all on point.


Best vegan recovery drinks for cycling

Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

Veloforte Nova

High quality natural ingredients

Specifications

Protein content: 13.5g
Carb content: 40.7g
Price per serving: £2.99 per sachet, price decreases based on quantity ordered (3, 10, 15 and 24)

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes good
+
High quality ingredients
+
Good fibre levels
+
3:1 carb to protein ratio

Reasons to avoid

-
Gritty texture
-
Slightly low on protein amount

The Veloforte Nova vegan recovery drink is the perfect drink for those who are environmentally conscious. Not only are all the ingredients natural and limited in their processing, but Veloforte offers recycling on all their wrappers as well as sending the products free of plastic in the packaging. 

The 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein was ideal, and the inclusion of BCAAs in a vegan drink was much appreciated – typically these are harder to get in a vegan diet. However, the overall amount of protein was low, which is disappointing as it can be harder to get enough protein in a vegan diet in any case.

The drink mixes well but leaves some grittiness, although the taste was very nice and refreshing. The higher levels of fibre probably contributed to me feeling quite satisfied after the drink. Based on the quality of the vegan proteins used as well as the flavours and environmentally friendly elements, it ranks highly. However, it misses out on the very top marks as the price per serving is high.


Image shows protein recovery drink for cycling

(Image credit: Andy Turner)

OTE Sports Soya Protein

Vegan option prepared in an Informed Sport certified manufacturing facility

Specifications

Protein content: 25g
Carb content: 18.6g
Price per serving: $2.86 / £2.18 in bulk

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes good
+
Mixes well
+
Good amount of protein

Reasons to avoid

-
Not enough carbs for a recovery drink

The OTE Soya protein recovery drink is very similar to the non-vegan one in pretty much every way except for the protein used. The balance between protein and carbs per serving is reasonable, but a little more carbs would have been ideal. 

The inclusion of some salts is good for hydration and the 25g protein you get each time is good for the 20-30g recommendation.The drink mixed very well and tasted great, no artificial sweet taste and was very moreish. It left me pretty satisfied after drinking.

The price per serving is good when bought in bulk, but individual sachets are expensive. The fact that you can get Informed Sport batch testing is also a plus point, as well as the fact that the facility where very is made has been Informed Sport certified. 

If there had been a higher carb content, this drink would be perfect for a vegan recovery drink.


Conclusion

All the drinks contained a level of carbohydrates and protein that would be beneficial to recovery. Much of the additional selling points were the type of carbohydrates, the type of protein, added vitamins or minerals, or the quality of the ingredients. Some avoided sugar, but for a post exercise recovery drink, fast acting sugars are ideal. 

Protein-wise, whey protein has been found to be faster acting than casein, and animal proteins are often more complete (all the essential amino acids) than many vegan proteins, as well as being more bioavailable. This is why we’ve grouped the vegan ones separately. 

All the drinks would be beneficial to add into a recovery routine for those who train intensely during the week, or are perhaps time limited, so post session meal prep is more difficult. I always advise that people should try to get their macro and micro nutrients from their diets, but I also found that having these shakes was very effective with a hectic work/life/training schedule during the testing period. 

My personal favourite for value and taste was the Wiggle recovery drink. It surprised me as I thought the lower cost would mean it might not mix as well or might taste artificial. The SiS rego offers the best option for those racing who need to ensure sport supplements are batch tested and not contaminated – OTE also offers this but at a higher price and I wasn’t as keen on the taste, personally. 

For Goodness Shakes Recovery Shake was top for taste, satiety, ease of use and also at a competitive price point. The bottles are fully recyclable, which is a nice touch, and I found them great straight after a gym session and they would also be ideal for after a race with a longer drive home. 

In terms of sustainability, it’s worth mentioning that Veloforte. As well as using organic ingredients, the brand offers a recycling service for all their product wrappers and packaging. The price is high for the products, but for those who care more about their environmental impact it’s a real bonus.

Testing protocol

Given that actually testing recovery effects is a far more complex process than just having different recovery drinks – sleep, stress factors and temperature to name but a few, as well as the need for a large cohort of willing volunteers – I tested these drinks on three main metrics in terms of subjective measures: Taste, how well they mixed and the resulting texture, and how much they contributed to satisfying hunger/need for something after a workout.

I tried all the drinks within a period of 5-40 minutes after completion of a training session, be that on the bike or in the gym. All the drinks (that required it) were mixed and shaken vigorously for about 30 seconds at the time of drinking and consumed at room temperature. 

Taste is, of course, a very subjective measure, so I tried to include what was noticeable about the taste in neither a positive nor a negative way. Some people may prefer a sweeter drink even if it is a little artificial tasting, some may prefer a more natural taste. Even texture, thin or thick, is very subjective. However, points were deducted for clumps. 

Satiety after exercise again was difficult to measure exactly, but does give an indication of whether the drink consumed adequate levels of carbs and protein for straight after exercise. Some were more successful than others, and some would work well to complement meals rather than be outright meal replacements. 

Price is an easy one to measure and it’s more about your preferences and what you’re willing to pay for. Many of the drinks contained additional minerals and vitamins, but my honest opinion on that is that if you consume a healthy and varied diet throughout the day, you should not require additional supplementation of that. Studies have shown that the only supplements which fill a void that many diets/lifestyles lack are Omega 3 supplements and Vitamin D for the winter months in northern hemisphere countries.

Do post-workout recovery drinks work?

They do yes, although are sometimes surplus to requirements. 

When we exercise – especially at high intensity or after 90 minutes – unless we take on additional carbohydrate fuelling during the ride, we will deplete our muscle glycogen stores. Replenishing these stores ensures that we are able to complete strenuous training the next day, without our performance being impaired.

Many studies have shown that consuming carbs within an hour of competing exercise is most beneficial as the insulin response post exercise directs the carbs (broken down into glucose) to the muscles rather than being directed into fat stores. Of course, there’s more to recovery than one meal, but kickstarting the recovery with fast acting carbohydrates does aid recovery. And when time or access to cooking is limited, recovery drinks offer a great option for fast tracking our recovery for the rest of the day and the following days.

Getting enough protein is also a vital part of this, and consuming carbs with protein assists even further with muscle protein synthesis. When we exercise, we damage the muscles in different ways. This is the reason we experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). To help combat this, adequate protein consumption ensures that there are adequate amino acids present for muscle protein synthesis allowing damage to be repaired. 

This means less pain in our legs, and greater muscle development post training, especially those wanting to build greater muscle mass. Ideally, we want between 20-30 grams of protein, as more than that has been found to be surplus to requirements. 

Another benefit of adequate protein is reducing muscle catabolism, as cycling is a weight limited sport (however, always focus first on the ‘Watts’ part of 'watts per kilogram'), when trying to burn fat in a safe manner, it is important to maintain high dietary protein so as to reduce muscle loss during a calorie deficit.

Another benefit of recovery drinks is hydration. Proper rehydration is equally as important as replenishing carbs and protein consumption. A benefit of consuming fluids with carbs is that it prevents the water from passing through as quickly, improving hydration efficiency. Studies have shown that milk is better for hydration than plain water, for instance, and part of this is due to the presence of carbs.

So yes, recovery drinks do work.

What should I drink after a bike ride?

After a ride you should ideally consume fluids with adequate salts, and with the fluid amount recommended being 1.5x the amount that you lost during exercise. However, this isn’t always easy to measure, so drinking to feel is the easiest and still very effective practice. 

Carbs wise, you should be consuming in total (from drink and additional food) between 60-100 grams of carbohydrate, depending on the duration of the training, the intensity, and the training you have in the following days. 

Protein should be 20-30 grams as more than this has been shown to not result in any additional protein synthesis or muscle repair. 20-30 grams every 3-4 hours is best for optimal recovery.

How can I recover faster from cycling?

Recovery for a ride starts before the session begins. Ensuring that you have fuelled enough for the training session in your meals preceding the session will assist in recovery for after it.

Say you are doing an hour of intervals, consuming 60-80 grams of carbs ~3 hours beforehand will ensure that you have adequate carb availability to complete the session without the dreaded ‘bonk’. Also, drinking enough fluids before and during the session, as well as keeping cool if you’re training indoors.

If the session is very hard, then a cool-down (a period of 10-20 minutes of very low intensity riding) has been found to be beneficial for clearing the built-up fatigue metabolites that come from intense or prolonged exercise. This can also be done with both active and passive stretching after a session.

Consuming your recovery drink within an hour of completing the training session has also been shown to improve recovery. Studies have shown that even those who consumed the same amount of carbs and protein throughout the day did not recover as well if they left the start of their recovery nutrition till after 1 hour after the end of exercise. Also ensuring you remain well hydrated in the hours proceeding the session is important. 

Finally, rest! This is the most important part of recovery, be it sleep or just giving your body the chance to recover. Not all of us have the luxury of the pros to rest all day after a tough session, but short bouts of focussed rest will still help. Power naps if you’re able to do them can be beneficial, also yoga or mindfulness training. But the best by far is a good night’s sleep. It beats any massage gun, massage session or other recovery tool, and when combined with proper nutrition and hydration is an unbeatable combo.

What’s the difference between vegan and non-vegan proteins?

Vegan protein, in general, are not ‘full’ proteins, as in they do not contain all essential amino acids which are used as building blocks for much of the tissues in our body, including muscle. Eggs, milk and meats are sources of complete proteins, however so is Soya and vegan EAAs (essential amino acids) can be supplemented into your diet. 

Another difference is that vegan protein has been found to be less ‘bio-available’, which means that say we consume 20g of soy protein, only 12g will end up being available for the body to use. 20g of whey protein, on the other hand, will provide 18g of protein that can be digested, processed and available to be used for protein synthesis.

Another thing is that some vegan proteins are more environmentally friendly per gram of protein than animal ones. For example, cows require more land and produce more greenhouse gases than soya beans. However, soya beans flown from abroad have a higher carbon footprint than beef or milk from your home country.

Some studies have shown that vegan protein sources are more beneficial for health and also your gut microbiome. But these are often found to be more complex issues than just the type of protein. A diet rich in vegetables and fibre will be beneficial for gut health because of the presence of those, not necessarily the source of the protein. 

So that one is a little up in the air, but for most people without allergies or specific medical dietary requirements, a diet mixed of lean animal proteins, different carb sources, plenty of fruit and veg, and good levels of dietary protein, will be optimal for gut health

There are plenty of successful world tour cyclists who follow vegan diets, and many equally successful riders who follow non-vegan diets. Choose what works for you, what matches your ethics and environmental/sustainability views, and what you want to do. Both can work very effectively.