Getting recovery right

Key nutrients that may be required after exercise are:

• Fluid and electrolytes if rehydration is required;

• Carbohydrates to refuel muscles; and

• High-quality protein to promote muscle recovery and regeneration.

    If an individual has only a small amount of time (less than eight hours) between training sessions or competitive events, it’s usually beneficial to have a meal or snack within the 30–60 minutes after exercise to provide muscles with the building blocks needed for effective recovery. If there is more time between bouts of activity, it’s less critical to recover immediately, and the next scheduled meal or snack can provide the necessary nutrients.

    • Rehydration

      For effective rehydration, fluid needs to be consumed in adequate volumes that replace sweat losses, which will vary between individuals and is dependent on factors like the type of exercise and environmental conditions. Choosing fluids that contain electrolytes helps to ensure the fluid consumed is effectively retained by the body.

      Milk naturally provides both fluid and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) that assist with rehydration. The sodium concentration of milk is similar to conventional sports drinks. The combination of electrolytes as well as other nutrients has led to numerous studies showing that milk is an effective rehydration drink.

      For example, a 2007 study found low-fat milk helped dehydrated cyclists replace sweat loss better than water or a sports drink.1 In four separate trials, volunteers undertook a series of cycling exercises until they had lost about 1.8% of their body mass. They were then given either low-fat milk, a sports drink or water to rehydrate. Four hours after exercise, the cyclists who drank milk were better hydrated by an average 600ml compared with those who drank water or a sports drink.



      1 Shirreffs SM, Watson P, Maughan RJ. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Br J Nutr. 2007;98:173–80.

    • Refuelling

      After exercise, there may be a need to replace carbohydrate stores in the liver and muscle through the intake of carbohydrate-rich foods. Sweetened dairy foods like flavoured milk, dairy desserts and yoghurts all provide a carbohydrate boost along with a natural package of other essential nutrients, like protein, calcium, iodine, vitamin B12 and potassium.

      Research has shown people who drink milk straight after training are able to exercise longer in their next session than those who drink sports drinks or plain water.2 Choosing dairy foods as a carbohydrate source also helps to tick off other aspects of recovery nutrition, like rehydration and muscle repair.



      2 Thomas K, Morris P, Stevenson E. Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009;34(1):78-82.

    • Muscle growth, repair and adaptation

      Eating a source of high-quality protein after exercise promotes the repair and adaptation of muscle tissue.

      The optimal serve of high-quality protein needed to enhance gains in muscle strength and function after resistance exercise, high-intensity interval training and endurance events is about 20–25g depending on body shape and size.3

      Dairy protein has been found to be superior to other protein sources in optimising muscle protein synthesis following resistance training.4

       



      3 Maughan R, Burke L. Nutrition for athletes. Nutrition Working Group of the International Olympic Committee, 2012. Available: http://www.olympic.org/documents/reports/en/en_report_833.pdf

      4 Tang J, Moore D, Kujbida G, Tarnopolsky M, Phillips S. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2009;107(3):987-92.

    • References for this page


      1 Shirreffs SM, Watson P, Maughan RJ. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Br J Nutr. 2007;98:173–80.

      2 Thomas K, Morris P, Stevenson E. Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009;34(1):78-82.

      3 Maughan R, Burke L. Nutrition for athletes. Nutrition Working Group of the International Olympic Committee, 2012. Available: http://www.olympic.org/documents/reports/en/en_report_833.pdf

      4 Tang J, Moore D, Kujbida G, Tarnopolsky M, Phillips S. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2009;107(3):987-92.