When I first heard that Skratch Labs was considering adding recovery drinks to their product lineup, I'll admit I was a little skeptical. With sixty pages of delicious recovery meal recipes already available in their Feed Zone cookbook, I wasn't sure why they would risk moving into a drink category that had always tasted pretty bad in my experience. It turns out that they had spent years asking themselves the same question, with founder Allen Lim championing the idea that fresh real food was always the best option. Unfortunately, post-workout cooking isn't always a possibility for those of us who aren't full time athletes with support crews, and Skratch Labs decided they needed to give the athletes they supported a quick and easy option made with the same care and simplicity as the hydration mixes they have become known for.
Just to clarify, these are not protein shakes. They're designed not as a magic post-lifting potion to aid our quest for 24-inch biceps, but (as Exercise Recovery Mix implies) as a recovery drink specifically formulated for the recovery needs of endurance athletes. With a 5:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, the focus is on using simple sugars to restore our muscles' glycogen stores. While the milk proteins do help with muscle building, they are primarily added based on research that shows carbohydrate/protein mixes to more efficiently restore glycogen than carbohydrates alone. The mix also contains a sodium level similar to the Exercise Hydration Mixes to aid in post-workout rehydration. As with other Skratch Labs products, they contain only a few simple ingredients, with no artificial colorings or preservatives, and are naturally flavored with chocolate, vanilla, or coffee.
Now, a disclaimer... I'm not an endurance athlete. I'm a climber who gets sucked into running a few times a week because it lets me see more of the woods in the little time that I have available. But with climbing workouts that can go for hours, and even some of my relaxing runs burning well over a thousand calories, it's a safe bet I'll be keeping some of this stuff on hand.
I tasted all three flavors after my workouts this past week and enjoyed them all. The chocolate and vanilla were the most similar to other recovery products I've had, but without the nasty artificial aftertaste. Good flavors in both, and the chocolate especially felt like I was just drinking a thin chocolate milk (which I basically was). The coffee was hands down my favorite though. All the joy of a cold creamy iced coffee that I want in the afternoon before going off to teach again, without worrying about what the coffee acids will actually do to my stomach that soon after a workout. All three flavors were sweet without being overpowering, and I was surprised that none of them seemed at all salty considering the sodium concentrations.
The only other consideration for me was that, although I always preferred milk-based proteins back when I used to go through a lot of protein drinks, the smell was always a little strange to me. I find that drinking out of a glass instead of sticking my nose in a bottle helps with this, but this does make the preparation a little harder. In a bottle, the powder blends easily into the water with just a few good shakes. In a glass, it floats on top and clumps no matter how hard I stir. Bond references aside, this is probably why the official Skratch Labs directions specifically say to shake not stir. For those of you non-conformists who want to be like me and enjoy your Exercise Recovery Mix in a glass, it's actually easy enough if you stir in just a small amount of water first to make a paste, and then continue stirring as you add the rest of the water.
So there you have it. Go get your hands on some!
*All photos courtesy of Skratch Labs. For more detailed information about the science behind Exercise Recovery Mix, check out the detailed article on Skratch Labs' website (link here)