These days there are plenty of choices for recovery products for cyclists. Too many, in fact.
There’s a glut of sugary, processed, low quality supplements that are big on performance claims but a close look at the label tells a more disappointing story.
First, Vega Recovery Accelerator ($40) has a bigger mission and wider benefits than most everything else on the shelf. It was created to be the first all natural, plant based supplement to “address all six key elements of post workout recovery: muscle glycogen replenishment, muscle tissue repair and protein synthesis, hormonal support, soft-tissue repair, immune system support, inflammation reduction and rehydration.”
If all that sounds a bit bold, consider that the company was started by Brendan Brazier, a former Ironman triathlete and vegan. If anybody knows about the limits of human athletic potential and the benefits of clean fuels, it’s Brazier. Pro cycling factoid: when Garmin’s Dave Zabriskie decided to ride the Tour de France on a completely vegan diet, the first person he called was Brazier.
I love the Recovery Accelerator and I’m happy with the whole premise. My wife just finished a career change, becoming an expert in holistic nutrition. She took a look at the label for the Vega Recovery Accelerator and said “wow.”
Her excitement? The “food-based” aspect of Vega is a huge benefit, from a nutritionist perspective, because of the natural, less processed ingredients.
Here’s a comparison of ingredients between Vega and a big selling recovery product that isn’t plant-based and all-natural. First, sugars. Vega used natural sources (stevia and whole grain brown rice sweetener) versus maltodextrin (highly processed and refined) and fructose (intensely concentrated, overly sweet and processed.) Score big points for Vega.
She was also thrilled to see all the phyto-nutrients — which just don’t exist in the processed stuff. These are planted-based nutrients that are neither vitamin nor mineral but reduce inflammation (turmeric and cayenne and devil’s claw) and boost energy (ginseng and maca).
A “clean” recovery product also means that Vega is gluten, soy and dairy-free. That’s huge when more and more people discover they have a food sensitivity or allergy. Those sensitivities often increase with age — I just did a full blood test and found a high sensitivity to eggs and dairy but not gluten. So why not use a recovery supplement that wipes that whole issue off the board?
Now, if you read the ingredients list of the more processed recovery products, you’ll see some good things like antioxidant vitamins E and C. However, based on the overall lower quality of the product, I’d be suspicious of their effectiveness versus Vega. Vega incorporates b-complex vitamins, which are essential in maintaining an active, health body because those water soluble vitamins are drained daily, even in non-athletes. You won’t find b-complex in the other product.
Now maybe you’re thinking yeah, yeah, yeah, but I’m a muscular badass on the bike and this whole vegan thing doesn’t sound extra strength. Then read what NFL running back and Pro Bowl special teams player Montell Owens has to say about Vega.
Now, let me take a break from the evangelizing and give you a few personal thoughts. I’ve been using the Vega Recovery Accelerator for six months. The fruit punch flavor is fantastic — sweet and naturally fruity but not too sweet. The powder mixes easily with water. I drink it after beating myself up on big climbs and gym weight workouts.
And some background — I’m 56, ride three times a week for 1.5 to 2 hours and I’m in the gym three days a week. After ignoring my vanishing muscle mass for a decade I am working my ass off. In the last six months, I have brought my strength back to age 35 levels and posted my best times on Strava. I am riding faster than I have in a long time. The Vega is a mandatory part of my program. (And by the way, I’m not a vegan — I eat meat or fish for dinner almost every night.)
Another thing: I believe that over the long term, high quality, organic food is our best power source and medicine — and for an athlete that goes double. My wife and I spend extra for the best meat, vegetables and fruit and that includes whatever pre and post workout products meet those standards. Given those priorities, the Vega Active Recovery is nothing but perfect.
Final caveat: I get sent a lot of stuff to review — it shows up in a box and I don’t pay a thing. That’s not the case here. My local organic foods grocery stocks the full line of Vega products (Whole Foods is a major distributor) and I’ve been buying the Recovery Accelerator with my own hard-earned cash. I was already a huge fan before the free samples showed up.
This is a smart company — their website is thoughtful and stylish, the information is well presented, the packaging is cool and their mission is admirable. Sure, Vega costs more than the processed stuff just like organic meat and produce cost more than factory meat and nutrient-poor fruit and vegetables. My feeling is if you train hard and care about overall, long term health, then this is without question the best recovery mix.