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Nell’s Corner: Why bone broth is nature's best recovery drink

By Nell Stephenson, B.S.
September 11, 2020
Anna Hoychuk/ Anna Hoychuk/

When you think of a sports recovery drink, what comes to mind?

Protein powder shakes, a DIY smoothie, or perhaps a ready-to-drink beverage you grabbed at the local health food shop? Many of us turn to prepared concoctions thinking they are a requisite part of the recovery process.

For example, in 2019, millennial consumers in the United States spent an average of $62.73 per trip to the store on supplements. (1) In the “greatest generation” age category, the average spend per trip on vitamins and supplements was even higher, upwards of $130 per trip.

These figures help illustrate a significant trend in people’s attitudes toward food: many people believe that the meals they are eating can’t satisfactorily replenish lost nutrients, particularly after exercise. Thus, they look to supplementary products to recover from their athletic endeavors.

However, if you’re someone who understands that food can truly serve as medicine, you already know the value in whole, nutritious, complete meals. Commercially prepared recovery drinks quickly become an afterthought.

Case in point: Wholesome, all-natural bone broth, an age-old drink made in many cultures around the world, can quite accurately be referred to as nature’s recovery drink. It is a rich source of anti-inflammatory glycine and proline, two amino acids that can help speed up the recovery process.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, nutrients that build cells, support muscles, and promote energy production. They are essential for post-workout recovery, but our bodies only naturally produce 11 of the 20 amino acids they need (2). As a result, we must consume the other nine through food.

When we take in these amino acids, we enhance our post-exercise recovery by increasing skeletal muscle growth and repair. They also help reduce muscle proteolysis (the breakdown of muscle tissue). These amino acids also help to reduce post-exercise inflammation and oxidative stress – meaning that you’re less likely to feel sore later. (3)

Bone broth is also a great source of gelatin, which breaks down into collagen in the body and works to support the joints. Cartilage in the joints tends to wear down or shrink with continual use. This can add more stress to the joints, which may become damaged as a result of the added pressure. (4) Collagen can help prevent this deterioration.

This brings up the question of how and where to find the best bone broth, one that has been made from mindfully sourced ingredients and in a sustainable manner. The easiest thing to do, of course, is to make it yourself.

While it takes an average of 24 hours to make, the process is not complicated.

Here’s a simple recipe I’ve created outlining a method you can prepare at home, in your oven, without needing any special equipment or ingredients, using leftover bones you’ve saved in your freezer.

Now, onto the fun part: how to drink it.

While the old standby of heating your broth on the stove top and drinking it out of a mug is a perfectly fine way to consume your daily dose, you can also use it as the liquid base of a recovery smoothie.

If you’ve done a longer endurance activity, you can start with this recipe for a Blueberry Smoothie using bone broth, and then simply add some strategic carbs from healthier natural sources like fruit, such as a ripe and spotty banana. Or try this Avocado Coconut Bone Broth Frappe.

Bone broth is a wonderful way to nourish our bodies after a workout, and provide our guts with a healthy, anti-inflammatory boost at the same time. It might seem a bit strange at first, but give it a try—and see if you notice a difference in how your body feels the next day.


  4. Nicastro H, da Luz CR, Chaves DFS, Bechara LRG, Voltarelli VA, Rogero MM et al. Does branched-chain amino acids supplementation modulate skeletal muscle remodeling through inflammation modulation? Possible mechanisms of action. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:1-10.

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