Recovery from Exercise
If you think “recovery” from exercise means sipping some flavored water or Gatorade, think again. Recovering from intense exercise not only includes restoring body fluids and electrolytes, but also replenishing energy stores and repairing damaged tissues. While some of these processes take minutes, others may take days. Determining an optimal recovery strategy requires knowledge of, and integration between, many factors including: anatomy (specific muscle mass involved), kinesiology (type of muscle actions involved), physiology (metabolic and hormonal responses to the exercise bout), and other critical individual characteristics (age, current diet, training experience, training volume, overall health status, etc.).
Phases of Recovery
As a general rule, the more intense and prolonged the exercise bout, the longer and more involved the recovery process. For example, recovering from 60 minutes of soccer is much easier than recovering from successive “two-a-day” football practices. In the former scenario, the body’s metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory, and hormonal systems normally return to pre-exercise values within a few hours. In the latter scenario, it may take several days for these systems to recover completely. Fortunately, a well designed nutritional support program can speed recovery from exercise, optimize performance, and minimize the possibility of overtraining.
The Five Pillars of Recovery
Table 1 provides prudent advice to exercisers for maximizing recovery from intense training. Regular guidance from a credentialed health-care professional with expertise in exercise science (NASM) and sports nutrition (ISSN) is highly recommended.
– Evidence-Based Recovery Strategies
Rehydration & Electrolyte Balance Pedialyte, Gatorade, Cytomax
Replenishment of Energy Reserves Bars, Gels, Liquid Meal Replacements
Minimize Oxidative Damage Antioxidant vitamin blends, l-carnitine
Reduce Muscle Protein Breakdown and Stimulate Muscle Repair Carbohydrate/Protein Blends, Essential Amino Acids, Creatine
Immune System Support Glutamine, zinc, vitamin C
Summary of Recommendations
- Proper recovery from exercise begins in the pre-exercise period. Unless there is a specific reason to do so, never train in a dehydrated or glycogen-depleted state.
- When dietary intake of micronutrients is suboptimal, multivitamin/mineral and antioxidant blends should be the starting point of a nutritional support program.
- During prolonged exercise in the heat (and/or high humidity, and at an altitude), sports drinks containing primarily glucose and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride) should be used.
- Sports drinks containing a blend of carbohydrates and proteins (or essential amino acids) are recommended immediately after training to enhance muscle glycogen regeneration and increase muscle repair.
- Under certain circumstance, creatine monohydrate (5 g/d) and l-carnitine (2 g/d) may be used to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and speed recovery.
- Immune system support may be enhanced with the inclusion of glutamine, zinc, vitamin C.