I suppose I should preface this by saying that I’m not particularly focused on diet as part of my training. Other than keeping an eye on total calories, I’m not a picky eater. I’ll eat some pasta the night before a longer race, drink a pint of skim milk after a hard workout, but for the most part, if it tastes good, I eat it.
That said, I ride with plenty of people who are far more serious (and in a lot of cases, faster) than I am. This group can be split roughly into two camps—those who swear chocolate milk is the greatest recovery drink of all time, and those who feel that a post-workout glass of cocoa might as well be a pack of cigarettes. ReGen muscle recovery beverage just might prove to be the bridge between them, providing the flavor and anti-oxidant effect of cocoa without the junk calories and limited nutrient value of most chocolate syrups.
Along with some other goodies (an 11oz sample of ReGen, a velcro-closure water bottle belt, and a 2GB flash drive, in the interests of full disclosure), ReGen sent me some data on studies assessing the drink’s effectiveness. While the conclusions support the product claims across the board, a lot of the science isn’t particularly compelling—all of it was funded at least in part by the Hershey’s corporation (which owns Apure, the maker of reGen), and relies heavily on objective reporting of muscle soreness in not-especially fit subjects (avg body fat 19.11% ± 4.97%) in exercise scenarios that may have tested caloric value as much as recovery aid.
Still, the research had some better points in the ReGen’s favor—one study took blood samples at .5, 1, 2 and 6 hours after exercise and found a statistically significant reduction in creatine kinase (a well-established indicator of muscle damage, including heart attacks) levels in test subjects who used cocoa-based recovery drinks, compared to subjects who drank water and regular sports drinks. But obviously, I wasn’t going to just take their word for it.
I tested the drink on a race weekend consisting of a 50 mile road race with some easy climbs on Saturday, followed by a pancake-flat criterium the day after. In the road race, I hung in with the group, made a few attacks but suffered some severe cramping on the last 10 mile lap and couldn’t contest the sprint. After some cool-down, I rolled back to my car to drink my ReGen and was pleasantly surprised to see the ingredient list contained relatively high amounts electrolytes.
I was impressed by the taste—sweet enough that it doesn’t have to be choked down, but not so sweet that you’d need a moment to recover between sips. The flavor is definitely chocolatey, and while it’s not quite velvety gourmet quality, it still tastes good. The drink is chuggable without meal-replacement effect, but still has the sort of substance you (or at least I) find myself craving after a longer race.
In Sunday’s crit, I’ll have to admit my legs did feel pretty good. My left calf was still sore and stiff from the cramps, but after a short warm-up and some embro, the legs were definitely there. I moved up in the pack at will, had no trouble closing gaps, spent a lap off the front, and sprinted well—by my standards, anyway—just missing a prime and not losing too many places in a group sprint to the line. I think it’d be an overstatement to attribute the performance entirely to ReGen, but at the same time, it clearly didn’t hurt.
In the future, I would really like to see a powdered version. There’s a variety of reasons for this: I don’t feel like paying Hershey to for water when it comes out of my tap essentially for free; it takes up a fair amount of space; it’s heavy; I can’t experiment with various concentrations or mix it with milk. A resealable container might also be useful for smaller-stomached riders—the 325ml container it currently ships in, once opened, can’t be reliably closed again.
The current TetraPak packaging does fit nicely in a jersey pocket, though, and has a fair amount of give to it—not so much that you’d have to worry about puncturing it, but enough that it won’t take five minutes of fiddling with your arm behind your back to slide a set of tire levers in next to it.
So, were I a pickier man in my choice of foods, I’d almost certainly make ReGen part of my training regimen. As it stands, I’ll probably pick up a four-pack or two for use in the tougher stage races, where there’s more of a premium on serious day-to-day recovery.