Fluid Recovery Drink – The BikeRumor Review

We did a post recently about Fluid’s new flavor, and afterward, the guys there asked if we wanted to try some for a review.  I’ve always been a fan of nutrition as a way to ride, recover and feel better, so the answer was a quick “yes!”

Fluid was founded in San Luis Obispo by a nutritional biochemist and an exercise physiologist at Cal Poly State University.  Their theory, “ Everything you need, nothing you don’t” is evident in the simplicity of their ingredient profile: Maltodextrin, fructose, whey protein isolate, L-glutamine, sodium, vitamin C, and potassium.  The only added extras are natural flavors, citric acid (which enhances the flavor) and soy lecithin (which is a good source of Choline and used here as an emulsifier to help with solubility).

Read on to see if it works, how we tested it, and how it compares to other recovery drinks…


THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD:
First, does it taste good?  Yes, and it smells like candy.  It’s less tart than Endurox and Clif Shot Recovery and on par with Ultragen.

I figured if there’s one way to test if it works, it’s to ride a lot more and a lot harder than I usually do and see if I can ride again the next day.  Normally, I’ll ride a few times a week plus an errand or two done on the cruiser, but rarely with hard rides on consecutive days. So, starting on the Thursday before Labor Day, I decided I’d ride everyday through Monday, pushing harder than normal.  I used a basic, non-protein sports drink during all rides to minimize the effect any other hydration efforts would have on recovery.  The full schedule of “test” rides went like this:

  • Thursday: 40 minutes, road bike, parking deck intervals and downtown sprints
  • Friday: 90 minute road ride, hard effort up all hills
  • Saturday: 70 minute road ride, pulled a lazy friend the whole way.
  • Sunday: 3 hour mountain bike ride
  • Monday: 90 minute road ride with random mild intervals

After each ride, I mixed up two servings and waited for the foam to settle.  And waited.  And waited.  Once I could get the drink past the foam, it was quite tasty.  It had the right amount of sweetness to taste good without leaving a thick, sugary feeling in your mouth.  Why did I have two servings after each ride?  Well, if advertorials and propaganda (along with some legitimate research) have taught me anything, it’s that you can generally consume about 30g of protein in one sitting, and that training athletes need about 1g of protein per pound of body weight.  A “serving” of Fluid contains just 7g of protein, but I prefer to get about 15g to 20g minimum.

RESULTS:
Did it work?  I was able to push pretty hard on each day.  By the fourth and fifth days, the legs felt a little fatigued in general, but on the bike, they performed better than expected.  I also never felt run-down in general, which can sometimes happen after hard training combined with a general sleep deficit (I have an eight-month-old that doesn’t like to sleep through the night).  Besides aiding muscle growth, whey protein boosts the immune system, so using a high quality recovery drink can help keep you healthier during hard training, too, and it seemed to do the trick for me.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE:
For the purposes of this review, we’ll keep it simple.  Since Endurox is the best known recovery drink, we’ll compare to that.  Some quick stats:

  Fluid Endurox
Carbs 25g 53g
Sugars 8g 30g
Protein 7g 13g
Sodium 250mg 190mg
Potassium ~33mg 100mg
Vitamin C 166% DV 420% DV
Glutamine 2500mg 420mg
Protein Source Whey Protein Isolate Whey Protein Concentrate
Carb Source Maltodextrin, Crystalline Fruit Sugar (Fructose) Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Fructose, Dextrose
Carb/Protein Ratio 3.6 to 1 4.1 to 1
Servings/Container 16 28
Cost/Serving $1.88 $1.96

What’s the difference between Whey Protein Isolates and Concentrates?  Isolate is a purer form of whey protein in that it is easier to digest and is about 93% protein by weight, versus  about 80% for Whey Protein Concentrate.  Fluid uses the higher quality Isolate, whereas Endurox uses the Concentrate.  Interestingly, Endurox also contains fat (1g total / 0.5g sat) and cholesterol, which is most likely a by-product of using the less pure Concentrate.

SO, WHY ONLY SEVEN GRAMS OF PROTEIN?
For this, I went straight to the source, Rich Smith, one of Fluid’s formulators and founders, who said:

“The benefits of recovery nutrition have been shown with as little as 100 calories, as long as they were ingested immediately post workout. This alludes to the fact that its not the amount of calories or nutrients that is as crucial as the timing of nutrient ingestion. Remember, post workout recovery nutrition is about time frames and ticking clocks. Slugging down a heavy protein shake with lots of calories right after a workout is ok, but may take hours or more to fully digest. When you need nutrients within 15-30 min, this clearly isn’t the best option. It also appears that protein may be less important than individual amino acids, with glutamine playing the most crucial role in recovery.”

OK, and with Endurox having released their new Endurox-lite “Restore” version with only 7g of protein (using WP concentrate, no added Glutamine, $1.60/serving), perhaps my perceived protein needs have been a little too high.  After all, most of my rides are only in the 80 to 100 minute range.

THE VERDICT:
Considering the quality of the ingredients, the great taste and the lower cost per serving than Endurox, I’d recommend giving Fluid a try.  It uses a higher quality whey protein, has about 6x the glutamine and is better tasting in my opinion.  The only negatives I can mention are that the foam takes a really, really long time to go away and that the canister is pretty small.  The good news is they’re coming out with a larger canister sometime next year, which should make the cost/serving even more economical. They also have a new flavor, Berry Treasure, that just release on Sept. 5.

It’s worth noting that you can find Fluid online for as low as $27, bringing the cost/serving down to $1.69. They have a complete list of online retailers and a store finder feature on their website.

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