Sugar in Recovery Drinks

Sugar gets a bad rap because of sedentary lifestyles and poor diets similar to how fats used to get a bad rap. Just like all things in life, an important balance is critical. Timing and quantity play a big role in your health.  

For an athlete who is training and working out hard, carbohydrates post workout are essential to restore muscle glycogen and to begin the recovery process. Post workout - an athlete's body is in a biological state that responds optimally to carbohydrates and sugar - driving consumed nutrients to depleted muscle cells and restoring muscle glycogen. High glycemic carbohydrates are quickly converted to glucose replenishing muscle glycogen and maximize the insulin response to stop muscle breakdown. 

It would be a lot easier for us to market a low carbohydrate/sugar recovery drink but that would not be optimal for the hardcore athlete which our 31 Muscle Recovery is designed for. Our formula is based upon sound science and not the amount of drinks we can sell because we believe our athletes are a lot more educated than the typical meat head. In fact, if a sports drink is being marketed as a "Recovery" drink and contains zero carbohydrates/sugar, it is a marketing gimmick.

Not All Sugar is Created Equal

Sugar is a broad term used to describe mono and disaccharides (one and two unit carbohydrates). Table sugar, fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Lactose, etc are all lumped into this category. About 70% of our Recovery shake's calories come from our carbohydrates Maltodextrin and Dextrose. Maltodextrin is classified as a complex carbohydrate while Dextrose is classified as a sugar. These two carbohydrates are the two best sports carbohydrates you can buy because of their high glycemic index optimal for sports recovery drinks.

Cheaper sports drinks will often use Fructose or Sucrose (table sugar which is comprised of glucose and fructose) because it will show up on the nutritional facts panel as the same thing, however, they are not. Fructose and Sucrose both have a much lower glycemic index than Maltodextrin and Dextrose and are generally viewed as not as effective (although some studies argue that sucrose can be just as effective). Another problem about Fructose is that it can cause some stomach indigestion. It is recommended to limit your carbohydrates from Fructose to 10-20% if you are going to choose this carbohydrate.

Sucrose can be used as well and there are some studies saying that the lower glycemic index doesn't matter as much if you aren't training again in the same day. However, to take in enough carbohydrates to recover from longer training sessions, taking a higher amount of Sucrose may lead to stomach problems (because it contains Fructose).

It is important to note that at other times of the day, you do not need to be consuming sugar and should avoid it. However, post workout for the hardcore athlete, it is critical.


McDonald, Lyle. Muscle Growth and Post Workout Nutrition.

Chambers, Ashley and Kravitz, Len. Nutrient Timing: The New Frontier in Fitness Performance.

Haff GG, etc. Carbohydrate Supplementation Attenuates Muscle Glycogen Loss During Acute Bouts of Resistance Exercise.

Jentjens R, etc. Determinants of Post-Exercise Glycogen Synthesis During Short Term Recovery.