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Recovery nutrition should be an important goal that is placed at the top of any serious athletes training priorities. Immediately after training, muscles are primed to absorb nutrients such as carbohydrate (restores muscle glycogen) and protein (repairs damaged muscle fibres), both of which are essential for rapid recovery from intense exercise. Proper nutrition is an essential part of the recovery process and is often overlooked or poorly executed. With good planning, it can help the body to adapt to the physiological stresses of training and prepares the body to train again.

Some recommendations for good recovery practices:

  • If the period between exercise sessions is less than eight hours, an athlete should begin carbohydrate intake as soon as practical after the first workout session. Eating carbohydrates can be in the form of small snacks to minimize gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • During longer recovery periods it may be helpful to have a meal plan that organizes the pattern and timing of carbohydrate and protein rich foods according to what is comfortable and practical for the athlete.
  • Quick releasing (glycaemic index) carbs such as sugars are favoured right after training because the sugars can rapidly enter the bloodstream which maximizes carbohydrate uptake.
  • Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery.
  • High protein foods include – bran cereal, lite milk, Swiss cheese, lean steak, baked potato, broccoli. Beans, lentils, cottage cheese, spinach and yogurt are also good sources.

    When plotting your recovery plan, it’s important recognize that every athlete is going to require individual tweaks to their nutrition that works for them. If you want to ensure that you get the most of your recovery nutrition, consulting a dietician or nutritionist is a great option. Training diaries can be essential for this process, since needs change as training progresses. A well designed recovery nutrition plan can play a critical role in replacing energy stores, repairing muscle tissue and maximizing athletic gains.

    References from the SIRC Collection: 

    1. Etheridge T, Philp A, Watt P. A single protein meal increases recovery of muscle function following an acute eccentric exercise bout. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. June 2008;33(3):483-488.
    2. Hofmekler O. Recovery Meals – The Key for Maximizing Muscle Gain. Pro-Trainer Online. April 2005.
    3. Kiens B, Ivy J, Burke L. Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal Of Sports Sciences. January 2004;22(1):15-30.
    4. KURIEL V. NUTRITION BLUNDERS. Australian Triathlete. November 2012;20(1):46-48.
    5. Lunn W, Pasiakos S, Rodriguez N, et al. Chocolate Milk and Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen, and Performance. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. April 2012;44(4):682-691.
    6. Stevenson E, Williams C, Biscoe H. The Metabolic Responses to High Carbohydrate Meals with Different Glycemic Indices Consumed During Recovery from Prolonged Strenuous Exercise. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. June 2005;15(3):291-307.
    7. Wong S, Chen V, Fung W, Morris J. Effect of Glycemic Index Meals on Recovery and Subsequent Endurance Capacity. International Journal Of Sports Medicine. December 2009;30(12):898-905.

    The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.