The Three R's of Recovery

Our friends at Optimum Nutrition like to focus on the 'Three R's' when it comes to recovery: Rebuild, Refuel, Rehydrate.

Each time you exercise your muscle is damaged to some extent depending on its intensity and duration. This is an important part of adapting to your training session as it allows the muscle to remodel into a faster and stronger muscle fibre. Protein is the primary macronutrient involved in supporting muscle protein synthesis and maintenance post exercise.


• Carbohydrate is the principle energy source used in high intensity exercise. The primary source of carbohydrate used during exercise is stored in the muscle and known as glycogen. Physical activity will deplete muscle glycogen, which may lead to fatigue and may impair performance. Ensuring that we replenish our glycogen stores by ingesting carbohydrates post training will help aid in our recovery.


• Exercise can lead to dehydration through fluid and electrolyte loss. Even a small loss of water in your body can result in a significant performance decrease. This is variable depending on a number of factors such as temperature, humidity, individual sweat rates and exercise intensity.


Protein, which is broken down into amino acids in the body plays an important role in providing essential building blocks to the damaged muscle, allowing it to repair and rebuild after each training session. Consuming high quality protein around exercise is central to providing the muscle with the key elements it needs. The recommended daily amount of protein intake for active people is 1.2 -2.2g per kg of body weight daily to support muscle mass.


Whey protein is a good protein choice, since it is known as a fast digesting protein. It delivers amino acids to the muscle before and/or after training to support recovery. Although food should always be your first choice for consuming appropriate recovery nutrients, it may not always be possible after training due to the lack of desire to eat or food availability. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey helps to support recovery post training. Casein is an additional protein type, which may be used to support recovery. During the night, the body goes for long periods without food. Casein, known as a slow digesting protein, breaks down more slowly and takes longer to digest, which provides protein to feed the muscles while you sleep.


As well as the daily intake of protein, scientific studies have shown that the dose of protein taken immediately after training is important in stimulating the building of new muscle proteins. Research has found that consuming a dose of 0.3g per kilogram of body weight post exercise is optimal to support the growth of the muscle after exercise. This generally equates to 20-40g of protein for most people. Therefore, if you are 80kg you should consume roughly 24g of protein (0.3g x 80 kg) to support muscle building, when taken over time with regular resistance training.


A recovery drink or a post exercise meal should not only contain protein, but also carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is stored in limited reserves in the human body, known as glycogen, with these stores becoming diminished and depleted after completing an exercise session. A reduction in glycogen stores can increase the risk of fatigue and may cause poor concentration during a session. Therefore ensuring that carbohydrate is consumed after exercise is important to replenish carbohydrate stores and avoid subsequent sub optimal workouts.


Simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sugars, fruits, fruit juices and honey are quickly digested and absorbed. This translates into simple carbs being an ideal energy source before high intensity exercise because they provide quick available energy for the exercising muscle. Simple carbohydrates are also an ideal option to replenish muscle carbohydrate stores immediately after exercise getting to the muscle fast to ensure stores are replete before the next exercise session. Complex carbohydrates are also an option post-workout, since these are generally slower to digest and still act as an energy source to replenish glycogen stores.


It is generally recommended that you consume approximately 0.8-1.2 g/kg of body weight of carbohydrate after intense exercise to replenish depleted glycogen stores. For example, this would equate to somewhere between 64 - 96 g of carbohydrate for an 80 kg athlete. This post workout feeding can either be consumed as part of a recovery drink or within a post exercise meal. If one of your goals is to maintain or lose body weight, be mindful of your overall caloric intake.


A loss of sweat equal to 2% of body weight may cause a noticeable decrease of physical and mental performance. Losses of 5% or more of body weight during physical activities may decrease the capacity for work by roughly 30%. Replacing these lost fluids and electrolytes is very important in avoiding prolonged dehydration. Hydration recommendations are highly individualized and also depend on time and intensity of activity, temperature, and training status. Here are some general guidelines for hydrating before, during, and after activity:

• 500-1000 ml of fluid at least 2-4 hours before exercise

• 250-500 ml of fluid per hour of exercise

• Intense exercise lasting more than an hour requires more fluid intake and possibly a carbohydrate electrolyte sports drink if sweating excessively

• Replace fluid lost via sweat

• Estimate sweat loss by weighing yourself before and after exercise

• Drink 1.5 L for every 1kg lost (If an individual finished exercise lost 2 kg during a 60 minute run, they should consume 3L of fluid over a 3 hour period following the exercise.