After long and/or intense training sessions, recovery can be optimized with the help of adequate nutrition. The idea is, on one hand, to quickly restore muscle glycogen levels and, on the other hand, to support the re-synthesis of muscle proteins. Think about athletes repeating high intensity efforts within days, or even hours: perfect recovery is especially relevant for them.
Based on numerous research reports, it has become pretty clear that a mix of carbohydrates and proteins taken during the first hours after a workout was both practical and efficient to improve subsequent performance. Recovery drinks following these principles suddenly appeared on the sports nutrition market. Today, we are testing one of them: the Recovery drink from Aptonia. And, yes, it’s chocolate flavor!
1/ Aptonia, the company:
Aptonia is the sports nutrition brand of the Decathlon Group, one of the world’s largest retailers of sports equipment. Within a giant group, Aptonia is a relatively small brand, producing diverse nutritional products, ranging from cheap cereal bars to high-end sports drinks. I’ll say it upfront, I know the group pretty well because I have done my master thesis in collaboration with Aptonia and worked another 18 months in the R&D department of Decathlon. This was about 6 years ago. Then, I moved on and transitioned to an academic carrer in Switzerland. I am definitely biased because I know the brand from the inside and have a pre-conceived idea of what they do great and where they could improve, but I will try to review their Recovery Drink as objective as possible… oh.. and obviously, I am also biased because it’s chocolate flavor.
2/ The product and its category:
All sports nutrition brands have their own version of a recovery drink… they have to. I am not sure how well they sell, though. Recovery drinks are mostly used by very ambitioned amateurs or pro athletes, and this of course is a niche market. Also, it’s most probably not the core of Aptonia’s customers, because serious runners tend to consider other sports shops than Decathlon (I’m not saying they are right or wrong, that’s just the way it is).
Interestingly though, Aptonia displays on the package of its drink a “doping-free” label, a feature that may be of interest for serious athletes concerned about product contamination.
Indeed, a lot of sports nutrition products, notably those bought online from non-established vendors, contain traces of banned substances. On top of potential health issues, this can cause an unexpected positive test result. Here, Aptonia’s recovery drink shows the French norm NF94-001. Basically, it means that a list of good practices has been followed during ingredient sourcing, product manufacturing, packaging and transport, to avoid contamination by unwanted substances. For most of us amateur athletes, it does not make a huge difference but “doping free” labels have slowly become standard within the sports nutrition industry. Aptonia followed the trend.
First, a little message to Aptonia: “Dear Aptonia, would you please stop making shiny packages so that I can take decent pictures? Thanks!”
With this being said, let’s have a look at the package. While the front is pretty neat, there is a big problem with the back of the pack… It’s written very small and it’s overcrowded with information… Seriously, it is a nightmare to find simple things like the list of ingredients or the nutritional values. I’m sure that some people give up and choose another product just because they can’t identify quick enough what is in it.
As if it was not enough, Aptonia chooses to have all the languages on Earth on the same package. For this, they use a clever system of sticky leaflet. I mean, clever… it’s even less readable than the rest. Aptonia does this because they have to display the official languages of the countries in which they sell their products. I understand this, but maybe it’s time to have country-specific packages. Or maybe just 2 different packages with just 50% of the languages on each would be a huge improvement.
A positive point is an efficient “ziploc” system that allows to close the pouch nicely until next to use.
Inside is the powdered drink with a beautiful orange spoon.
Transferred into a glass, we see a light brown powder that is not entirely homogenous. Most noticeable are the big and shiny sucrose particles.
Aptonia indicates that the drink needs to be prepared with 64 g of powder dissolved into 300 mL of water. 64 g should be about 3 full spoons.
And after 3 full spoons, I actually reached 63 grams, which is damn close to the 64 g I aimed for. So, trust the magic orange spoon, it’s in the right ballpark.
Transferred into a shaker, we can see that the powder actually represents a non negligible volume.
Pretty excited to try the chocolate drink, I followed Aptonia’s recommendations and added 300 mL of water into the shaker, shaked … and got this…
The drink looked pretty concentrated and heavy to me, and the foam was … let’s say … not appetizing…
I still had a sip and it was way too concentrated, too thick, too sweet…
So, I paused and realized that dissolving 64 g, among which are more than 40 g of carbohydrates, into 300 mL doesn’t make much sense. It makes a 12 % carbohydrate solution (+ proteins)… for comparison, most of the sports drinks are 6-7% solutions. And it seems to be a pretty bad idea to drink a highly concentrated solution right after an intense workout session. Also, it is a recovery drink… and you know what else is important during recovery… hydration!
Consequently, I decided to add some more fluid and added up another 400 mL of milk to the solution. I chose milk because, in my experience, it makes chocolate drinks taste better and because it contains the carbohydrates and proteins that may further help recovery.
And the magic happened. The color got better…
Even the foam looked better!
In these conditions, the drink was much more pleasant! And I could start drawing my favorite tasting graphs! Remember that I can’t say whether you will like the product or not. I can only try to describe the texture and flavor as objectively as possible. So, if my “objective” description matches what you may like, go buy the product and reach out on social media to give your opinion!
Eventually, I am pretty happy about the taste of the drink. On top of that, I had no GI issues or feeling of bloating like I might have with other recovery product. All in all, once you found out the much-needed adaptations, it is a pleasant chocolate drink.
How does Aptonia’s recovery drink compare to the current scientific guidelines for post-exercise nutritional recovery? Well, it depends how you see it … Here is a quick recap of what Science says.
To maximize the rate at which muscle glycogen is resynthesized, large amounts of carbohydrates are required (1.0 to 1.8 grams of carbohydrates / hour / kg of body weight), and this during the 2 to 5 hours following exercise. When this carbohydrate intake is reached, the addition of proteins or amino acids does not further increase the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis. The addition of proteins, however, does 1/ increase the rate of glycogen synthesis when carbohydrate intake is suboptimal (below 1.0 g/kg/h) and 2/ stimulate post-exercise muscle protein anabolism.
Practically speaking, it means that a mix of carbohydrates and proteins bringing about 60 to 80 grams of carbohydrates and about 20 to 25 grams of proteins per hour may be efficient to speed up muscle glycogen and support muscle protein synthesis. As you can see, the nutritional values of the final 700 mL drink I prepared (64 g powder + 300 mL water + about 400 mL semi-skimmed milk) are pretty close to it!
|/ 3 spoons (64 g)||/ final 700 mL drink|
|Carbohydrate (g) / Sugar (g)||41 / 37.1||61 / 57.1|
|Fat (g) / Saturated fat (g)||0.6 / 0.4||11 / 6.4|
|Calcium (mg)||?||480 from milk|
2 more things about the ingredient list:
1/ the recovery drink contains several antioxidant vitamins. It is now clear that the chronic intake of antioxidants post-exercise reduces the natural antioxidant capacities of our muscles. In other words, it may not be a great idea to drink this recovery drink after each of your training sessions, because you may disturb the natural capacity of your muscle to buffer the exercise-induced reactive oxygen species. I would preferably use this drink only for competition days.
2/ In this recovery drink, proteins are brought by powdered milk (so containing all types of milk proteins including caseins and whey) and by whey protein isolate. There is a lot of debate about the type of milk proteins that may be the most efficient for muscle recovery and, of course, there is no clear answer to this question. So, I can’t really comment on the choice to mix the two, except that it is probably a good idea in terms of taste, because powdered milk tastes much better than whey concentrates or isolates.
CONCLUSION … AND THE POINTS!
In terms of usage, Aptonia’s recovery drink gets a 3 out of 5! The powder dissolves easily, the product comes with a spoon that is surprisingly precise and the package can be closed properly after use. But the unclarity of the label is for me a big problem. It is already difficult enough to scan through the ingredient list or the nutritional values on a normal package… this product is beyond limits!
The quality of the powder is overall pretty good. Too bad that the shiny package with a book stuck on it does not help to give a good first impression.
I don’t really understand how Aptonia can advise to add only 300 mL of water to more than 60 g of powder… It just makes the drink so thick and sweet. In a recovery period when rehydration also is an issue, they should have advised a much bigger volume. If you add another 400 mL of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, the drink will just taste great (I would have given a 4 out of 5).
Aptonia has got the macronutrients right. Also, they had the good idea to use milk proteins that usually taste relatively good rather than purified whey proteins that usually taste… well.. . interesting… Most important, I never had gut issues after drinking 700 mL of it. However, Aptonia doesn’t get a 5 because of the high amount of anti-oxydants added.
Overall, it’s 11/20 for the Aptonia Recovery Drink
(or 14/20 if you follow my way of preparing it!)
In short, with an appropriate mix of macronutrients, a nice chocolate flavor, and a good digestibility, this recovery drink has great potential. If you can tolerate the lousy packaging and adapt the mode of preparation, you’ll get a great value for the money!
As a final word, I need to say, like for all sports nutrition , that you can get all these nutrients from real food items.These sports nutrition products are just a ready-made, easy-to-carry-around option. There are lots of possible post-exercise snacks that would support recovery at least as well as all products on the market. And it’s way less boring over the long term! I’ll give you examples in a next article!
Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for more testing!