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Recovery Nutrition for Athletes

Are you finding it hard to recovery after exercise? Constantly feeling aches, prolonged muscle soreness or fatigue? As we know, there are many reasons why this could be so, but have you ever considered your diet to be one of those reasons? If not, read on to find out how your diet can aid recovery. If you have, well…. Read on anyways!

Priorities for Recovery Nutrition

  • Refuelling the muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores

  • Replacing the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat

  • Manufacturing new muscle protein, red blood cells and other cellular components as part of he repair and adaptation process

  • Allowing the immune system to handle the damage and challenges caused by the exercise bout

“A proactive recovery means providing the body with all the nutrients it needs, in a speedy and

practical manner, to optimise the desired processes following each session.” – AIS Sports Nutrition


  • Muscle glycogen is the main fuel used by the body during moderate to high intensity exercise. Thus, an inability to adequately replace these stores can reduce performance in subsequent sessions.

  • Immediately post exercise, athletes should be consuming a carbohydrate rich snack or meal that provides 1-1.2g of carbohydrates per kg body weight within the first hour.

  • Type and form of carbohydrate can depend on the athletes overall daily carbohydrate and energy requirements, gastric tolerance, access and availability of suitable food options and the length of time before the next training session.

  • Examples of carb-rich snacks – sport gels, fruit juice, cereal bars, white toast with jam/honey, etc.


  • Athletes should aim to consume 125-150% of their estimate fluid losses in the 4-6hrs after exercise. This will take into the continued loss of fluid from the body through sweating and obligatory urine losses.

  • The addition of sodium, either in drink or food consumed with the fluid, will reduce urine losses thereby enhancing fluid balance in the post exercise period.

  • Consuming fluids providing a source of carbohydrate and protein, for e.g. flavoured milk, can simultaneously refuel, repair and contribute to re-hydration goals.

Muscle Repair & Building

  • Prolonged and high-intensity exercises cause a substantial breakdown of muscle protein. During the recovery phase, your body will start to reduce its catabolic process (breaking down cells) and gradually move it its anabolic stage (build new cells/tissue).

  • Early intake of essential amino acids in protein-rich foods can aid in this.

  • It is recommended to consume 15-25g of high quality protein in the first hour after exercise.

  • Carbohydrate/protein-rich snacks, or meals containing 10g protein include – fruit smoothies/low fat flavoured milk, breakfast cereal with milk, baked beans on toast, cooked lean beef/pork/chicken skinless, canned tuna, glass of milo or 1.5 slices of cheese.

Immune System

  • Our immune system can often be suppressed by intense training, placing athletes at risk of succumbing to illness/infections at this time.

  • Evidence suggests carbohydrates as one of the most promising nutritional immune protectors and has been shown to reduce the disturbance to immune system markers.

  • Carbohydrates reduce the stress hormone response to exercise, thus minimising its effect on the immune system, as well as providing energy to fuel white blood cells.

Real Food VS Supplements

  • Supplements are exactly that – something which can be used to aid or supplement a good diet containing rich whole foods. They are not replacements!

  • Of course, poor availability or lack of time can come into play, in which case a liquid meal supplement may be best. However, athletes are best advised to choose real food/fluid options that allow them to meet recovery and other dietary goals simultaneously – for e.g. a bowl of cereal with fresh fruit.

If you would like to know more about recovery nutrition post-exercise then contact us today at

Infinite Health Chatswood - Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology & Massage Therapy on 02

9412 2222 or feel free to click here for the full article.

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