As a high-performance athlete, you’ve chosen a career where taking care of your body is your job. When you are training and competing full time, there are several physiological consequences that occur as a result of hard exercise. A sound recovery nutrition protocol will ensure you can optimize training adaptations and perform at 100% of your body’s potential for the next raining bout or in preparation for competition.


Physiological consequences of hard training The 4 R’s of recovery nutrition
Dehydration Rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes
Depletion of glycogen (carbohydrate stored in muscle and liver) Replenish muscle glycogen stores with carbohydrates
Breakdown of muscle Repair and regenerate muscle tissue with high-quality protein
Cell damage and inflammation Reinforce your immune system with nutritious, fresh foods (e.g., fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, nuts, olive oil)


Key Considerations for Recovery Nutrition

  • How quickly you should refuel and how much you need depends on your training, intensity, volume, timing of next training bout and your body weight. This means your daily approach to recovery fueling may change throughout the week or season.
  • For hard training, research shows that timing is critical and refueling with the following nutrients will optimize recovery:
    • 1 gm of carbohydrate per kg of body weight (0.5 g of carb per 1 lb)
    • 15-20 gm of protein (high biological value from whey, found mainly in animal sources)
    • 24 oz (3 cups) fluid per pound of sweat lost from session
    • Electrolytes from a sport drink or some salty food
  • For moderate training, timing and balance of nutrients is also important, but less stringent. In easy training, recovery can occur through your next meal or a small post-training snack.
  • Successful recovery will only occur with proper planning! Think about your training sessions ahead of time, so you can plan and pack the appropriate fuels with you.


Recovery Nutrition Guidelines


Training Type


Nutrition Guidelines

Examples of Recovery Nutrition
Hard training


·      Higher volume and/or intensity phases

·      Physical adaptation training (i.e., heavy lifting, altitude training)

·      Competition or simulated competition days

·      Multi-day training bouts

·      Refuel immediately after training

·      Ensure a minimum of 1 g/kg carbs, 15-20 g protein and fluids/electrolytes lost are replaced

·      Eat next meal within 1 hour of initial recovery fuel

·      Add a snack 1 hour later

·      Regular fueling and hydration throughout the day

·      Planning is essential

45-60 kg (110-132 lb)

·      16 oz chocolate milk + water

·      6 oz non-fat Greek yogurt + fresh fruit + water

·      Natural ingredient sport bar (fruit/nut) + glass of skim milk + water

·      Recovery mix (carb + protein mix)

70-80 kg (154-176 lb)

·      24 oz chocolate milk + water

·      Sports bar (45-50 g carb/15-20 g pro) + 16 oz sports drink

·      2×6 oz non-fat Greek fruit yogurt + 1 c fruit juice + water

·      Recovery mix + banana

90-100 kg (198-220 + lb)

·      24 oz chocolate milk + banana

·      Sports bar (50 g carb /15-20 g pro) + 24 oz sports drink

·      Recovery mix (aim for 90 g of carbs and 25 g of protein) + banana



Recovery Nutrition Guidelines


Training Type


Nutrition Guidelines

Examples of Recovery Nutrition
Moderate training


·      Single session with training the next day

·      Maintenance of fitness / strength

·      Refuel within 30-60 m after training session

·      Balanced snack with carbs, protein and fluids

·      Eat next meal within 2 hours

·      Regular fueling and hydration in the day

·      8-16 oz chocolate milk

·      6 oz non-fat Greek yogurt + fruit + water

·      Natural ingredient sports bar (35-40 g carbs and 15-20 g pro) + water

·      PB&J + glass of milk

·      Recovery mix + water

·      8 oz of fruit and yogurt smoothie + water

Easy training


·      One session in day, followed by a rest day

·      Recovery day

·      Athlete in a weight loss phase

·      Timing is less critical, but be sure to refuel within 1-2 hours following exercise

·      Top off glycogen storage with a small, high-carb snack or having your next core meal

·      Water followed by core meal

·      8 oz PowerAde

·      Fresh fruit + water

·      Fruit leather snack + water

·      4 oz fruit juice + water

·      4-8 oz chocolate milk or soy + water

·      Plain Greek yogurt + water




Rob Skinner, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS is the Sports Dietitian with Acrobat and Combat Sports at the United State Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For more information from the US Olympic Training Center, go to



About the Author


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.