Recovery is a key focus for all athletes and nutrition often plays an essential role in optimising recovery. After training and competition, your body can suffer from fuel depletion, muscle damage and dehydration. Therefore, the goal of post-training nutrition is to refuel, repair and rehydrate the body to ensure it recovers optimally to support your training the next time you perform.
You can use nutrition to support recovery by providing carbohydrate, fluid, protein and, potentially, bioactive food components.
Post-training it is often beneficial to replenish carbohydrate stores in preparation for the next training session or match. The amount of carbohydrate consumed at this time should be specific to the session undertaken. If it has been a light session where muscle glycogen stores would have not been significantly reduced, then there is no need to consume high amounts of carbohydrates at this time for recovery. If the session was intense and significantly reduced glycogen stores it is often beneficial to increase carbohydrate intake to replenish stores.
Training can increase both muscle protein breakdown and muscle protein synthesis. If protein intake is not sufficient then the net protein balance will remain negative. A negative protein balance can have negative consequences for performance and recovery.
Following resistance-based training sessions, muscle protein synthesis has been shown to be elevated for up to 24 hours. There is still some evidence to suggest that it may be beneficial to consume protein directly after training to optimise recovery, especially if limited time is available until the next training session or match. To further maximise recovery and muscle mass development, consuming a meal consisting of 20-30g of protein every ~3hrs has been shown to be beneficial. Furthermore, including sufficient protein in your last meal of the day may also support maximise recovery.
The type of protein consumed may also be linked to recovery. Animal protein contains more of the amino acid, leucine, which is thought to be the main trigger for increases in muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein sources can be quickly digested and absorbed and contain a high proportion of leucine.
Post-training it also recommended to replenish fluid lost. A simple way to track how much you have lost during training is to analyse body weight pre and post-training and replenish by drinking 1.5 x lost the weight lost. For example, if you lost 1kg during training, drink 1.5L of water/sports drink or recovery drink after. The most important aspect of rehydration is to ensure you are hydrated for your next exercise session. Use the pee chart as a simple way to determine if you are hydrated or not. Never start training in a dehydrated state.