Post-exercise Nutrition

Post-exercise Recovery

Burke, L. M. Nutrition for recovery after competition and training. In: Clinical Sports Nutrition (2nd ed.), edited by L. Burke and V. Deakin. Sydney: McGraw-Hill, 2000, p. 396-427.

Hawley, J., and L. Burke. Eating for recovery. In: Peak Performance: training and nutritional strategies for sport by J. Hawley and L. Burke. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998, p. 313-334.

Burke, L. IV or not IV? Only for grueling multi-day sports. Sportscience News May-Jun 1997.
http://www.sportsci.org/news/compeat/iv.html

Burke, L. M. Nutrition for post-exercise recovery. Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 29: 3-10, 1997.

Burke, L. M., G. R. Collier, P. G. Davis, P. A. Fricker, A. J. Sanigorski, and M. Hargreaves. Muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise: effect of the frequency of carbohydrate feedings. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64: 115-119, 1996.

Burke, L. M., G. R. Collier, S. K. Beasley, P. G. Davis, P. A. Fricker,  P. Heeley, K. Walder, and M. Hargreaves. Effect of coingestion of fat and protein with carbohydrate feedings on muscle glycogen storage. Journal of Applied Physiology 78: 2187-2192, 1995.

Burke, L. M., G. R. Collier, and M. Hargreaves. Muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise: effect of the glycemic index of carbohydrate feedings. Journal of Applied Physiology 75: 1019-1023, 1993.


Burke, L. M. Nutrition for recovery after competition and training. In: Clinical Sports Nutrition (2nd ed.), edited by L. Burke and V. Deakin. Sydney: McGraw-Hill, 2000, p. 396-427.

Recovery after exercise poses and important challenge to the modern athlete. Important nutrition goals include restoration of liver and muscle glycogen stores, and the replacement of fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat. Rapid resynthesis of muscle glycogen stores is aided by the immediate intake of CHO (1 g/kg BM each two hours), particularly of CHO-rich foods of high GI, towards a total CHO intake over 24 hours of 7-10 g/kg BM. Rapid refuelling may be important for the athlete who has less than eight hours between lengthy exercise sessions. Provided adequate CHO is consumed, it appears that the frequency of intake, the form (liquid versus solid) and the presence of other macronutrients does not appear to affect the rate of glycogen storage. Practical considerations, such as the availability and appetite appeal of foods or drinks, and gastrointestinal comfort may determine ideal CHO choices and intake patterns. Rehydration requires a special fluid intake plan since thirst and voluntary intake will not provide for full restoration of sweat losses in the acute phase (zero to six hours) of recovery. Steps should be taken to ensure that a supply of palatable drinks is available after exercise. Sweetened drinks are generally preferred and can contribute towards achieving CHO intake goals. Replacement of sodium lost in sweat is important in maximising the retention of ingested fluids. A sodium content of 50-90 mmol/L may be necessary for optimal rehydration, however, commercial sports drinks are formulated with a more moderate sodium content (10-25 mmol/L) to allow a greater overall use and palatability. Of course, sodium replacement can occur via salt added or eaten with meals and snacks. Caffeine- and alcohol-containing beverages are not ideal rehydration fluids since they promote an increased rate of diuresis. It may be necessary to consume 150% of fluid losses to allow for complete fluid restoration. Since athletes often compete in a foreign environment, the practical issues of food availability and food preparation facilities must be considered when making recommendations for post-exercise nutrition.

Further details on Clinical Sports Nutrition can be found in the Publications section of our site.


Hawley, J., and L. Burke. Eating for recovery. In: Peak Performance: training and nutritional strategies for sport by J. Hawley and L. Burke. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998, p. 313-334

The finish line has been crossed, the final whistle blown, the winning shot played, or the last set in the training session completed. Should these have involved a medal-winning performance, a premiership cup or the athlete's retirement, then this chapter may not be necessary. But for the vast majority of athletes, even if the immediate schedule reads 'rest', it is likely that another workout or competition event is looming on the horizon. Therefore, recovery is an important item on the athlete's agenda. As outlined in Chapter 2, recovery is the desirable process of adaptation to physiological stress. In the training situation, with correct planning of the workload and the recovery time, adaptation allows the body to become fitter, stronger or faster. In the competition scenario, however, there may be less control over the work to recovery ratio. A simpler but more realistic goal may be to face the next opponent, or the next round or stage in a competition, in the best shape possible.

Recovery encompasses a complex range of processes which include:

  • refuelling the muscles and liver of their expended energy;
  • replacing the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat;
  • allowing the immune system to handle the damage and destruction caused by the exercise bout; and
  • manufacturing new proteins, red blood cells and other cellular components.

In other words, although an athlete may appear to be 'resting', a lot of activity is occurring within the body. The traditional approach to recovery is a passive one—'let it happen'. Other athletes take an even less effective route—the 'make it even harder approach'. This might involve activities such as drinking excessive alcohol, further heat exposure via sun or saunas despite already being overheated, or failing to get sufficient rest or sleep. Such activities hamper recovery processes and/or add to the damage that must be repaired.

The best approach is a proactive recovery. In dietary terms, this means providing the body with all the nutrients it needs, in a speedy and practical manner, so that refuelling, rehydration, repair and regeneration processes are all optimised. Where specific recovery processes have been identified and studied, clear nutritional guidelines can be stated. This is the case for rehydration and refuelling. Unfortunately, the post-exercise workings of the immune system, protein metabolism, anti-oxidant defence and many other issues relating to recovery remain unclear. This chapter will outline the guidelines that can be made with a good degree of certainty, and include a safety margin for ideas that are intuitively sensible. Future research will help to fill in the gaps.

Link to full article.


Burke, L. IV or not IV? Only for grueling multi-day sports. Sportscience News May-Jun 1997.

http://www.sportsci.org/news/compeat/iv.html

You may have noticed dehydrated and heat-stressed athletes in the medical tents of marathons and triathlons receiving intravenous (IV) fluids for their medical problems. In the last year or two there has been a growing interest by athletes to use IV feedings as a recovery tool rather than a medical treatment. It has become trendy in tennis tournaments, stage cycle races and other multi-day sports events for athletes to request an IV to speed their recovery for the next day's performance. Athletes are even starting to walk into the medical tents of races like the Ironman triathlon and asking for an IV to boost their recovery.

Link to full article.


Burke, L. M.  Nutrition for post-exercise recovery. Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 29: 3-10, 1997.

Recovery after exercise poses an important challenge to the modern athlete. Important issues include restoration of liver and muscle glycogen stores, and the replacement of fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat. Rapid resynthesis of muscle glycogen stores is aided by the immediate intake of carbohydrate (I g.kg-1 BM each 2 hours), particularly of high glycemic index carbohydrate foods, leading to a total intake over 24 hours of 7-10 g.kg-1 BM. Provided adequate carbohydrate is consumed it appears that the frequency of intake, the form (liquid versus solid) and the presence of other macronutrients does not affect the rate of glycogen storage. Practical considerations, such as the availability and appetite appeal of foods or drinks, and gastrointestinal comfort may determine ideal carbohydrate choices and intake patterns. Rehydration requires a special fluid intake plan since thirst and voluntary intake will not provide for full restoration of sweat losses in the acute phase (0-6 hr) of recovery. Steps should be taken to ensure that a supply of palatable drinks is available after exercise. Sweetened drinks are generally preferred and can contribute towards achieving carbohydrate intake goals. Replacement of sodium lost in sweat is important in maximising the retention of ingested fluids. A sodium content of 50-90 mmol.L-1 may be necessary for optimal rehydration; however commercial sports drinks are formulated with a more moderate sodium content (10-25 mmol.L-1). It may be necessary to consume 150% of fluid losses to allow for complete fluid restoration. Caffeine and alcohol containing beverages are not ideal rehydration fluids since they promote an increased rate of diuresis.

Order full article via the NSIC


Burke, L. M., G. R. Collier, P. G. Davis, P. A. Fricker, A. J. Sanigorski, and M. Hargreaves. Muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise: effect of the frequency of carbohydrate feedings. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64: 115-119, 1996.

We reported previously that intake of carbohydrate foods with a high glycemic index (GI) produced greater glycogen storage and greater postprandial glucose and insulin responses during 24 h of postexercise recovery than did intake of low-GI carbohydrate foods. In the present study we examined the importance of the greater incremental glucose and insulin concentrations on glycogen repletion by comparing intake of large carbohydrate meals ("gorging") with a pattern of frequent, small, carbohydrate snacks ("nibbling"), which simulates the flattened glucose and insulin responses after low-GI carbohydrate meals. Eight well-trained triathletes [x +/- SEM: 25.6 +/- 1.5 y of age, weighing 70.2 +/- 1.9 kg, and with a maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) of 4.2 +/- 0.2 L/min] undertook an exercise trial (2 h at 75% VO2max followed by four 30-s sprints) to deplete muscle glycogen on two occasions, 1 wk apart For 24 h after each trial, subjects rested and consumed the same diet composed exclusively of high-GI carbohydrate foods, providing 10 g carbohydrate/kg body mass. The "gorging" trial provided the food as four large meals of equal carbohydrate content eaten at 0, 4, 8, and 20 h of recovery, whereas in the "nibbling" trial each of the meals was divided into four snacks and fed at hourly intervals (0-11, 20-23 h).

However, there was no significant difference in muscle glycogen storage between the two groups over the 24 h (gorging: 74.1 +/- 8.0 mmol/kg wet wt; nibbling: 94.5 +/- 14.6 mmol/kg wet wt). The results of this study suggest that there is no difference in postexercise glycogen storage over 24 h when a high-carbohydrate diet is fed as small frequent snacks or as large meals, and that a mechanism other than lowered blood glucose and insulin concentrations needs to be sought to explain the reduced rate of glycogen storage after consumption of low-GI carbohydrate foods.


Burke, L. M., G. R. Collier, S. K. Beasley, P. G. Davis, P. A. Fricker,  P. Heeley, K. Walder, and M. Hargreaves. Effect of coingestion of fat and protein with carbohydrate feedings on muscle glycogen storage. Journal of Applied Physiology 78: 2187-2192, 1995.

Dietary guidelines for achieving optimal muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise have been given in terms of absolute carbohydrate (CHO) intake (8-10 g.kg-1.day-1). However, it is of further interest to determine whether the addition of fat and protein to carbohydrate feedings affects muscle glycogen storage. Eight well-trained triathletes [23.1 +/- 2.0 (SE) yr; 74.0 +/- 3.4 kg; peak O2 consumption = 4.7 +/- 0.4 l/min] undertook an exercise trial (2 h at 75% peak O2 consumption, followed by four 30-s sprints) on three occasions, each 1 wk apart. For 24 h after each trial, the subjects rested and were assigned to the following diets in randomized order: control (C) diet (high glycemic index CHO foods; CHO = 7 g.kg-1.day-1), added fat and protein (FP) diet (C diet + 1.6 g.kg-1.day-1 fat + 1.2 g.kg-1.day-1 protein), and matched-energy diet [C diet + 4.8 g.kg-1.day-1 additional CHO (Polycose) to match the additional energy in the FP diet]. Meals were eaten at t = 0, 4, 8, and 21 h of recovery. The total postprandial incremental plasma glucose area was significantly reduced after the FP diet (P < 0.05). Serum free fatty acid and plasma triglyceride responses were significantly elevated during the FP trial (P < 0.05). There were no differences between trials in muscle glycogen storage over 24 h (C, 85.8 +/- 2.7 mmol/kg wet wt; FP, 80.5 +/- 8.2 mmol/kg wet wt; matched-energy, 87.9 +/- 7.0 mmol/kg wet wt).

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Burke L. M., G. R. Collier, and M. Hargreaves. Muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise: effect of the glycemic index of carbohydrate feedings. Journal of Applied Physiology 75: 1019-1023, 1993.

The effect of the glycemic index (GI) of postexercise carbohydrate intake on muscle glycogen storage was investigated. Five well-trained cyclists undertook an exercise trial to deplete muscle glycogen (2 h at 75% of maximal O2 uptake followed by four 30-s sprints) on two occasions, 1 wk apart. For 24 h after each trial, subjects rested and consumed a diet composed exclusively of high-carbohydrate foods, with one trial providing foods with a high GI (HI GI) and the other providing foods with a low GI (LO GI). Total carbohydrate intake over the 24 h was 10 g/kg of body mass, evenly distributed between meals eaten 0, 4, 8, and 21 h postexercise. Blood samples were drawn before exercise, immediately after exercise, immediately before each meal, and 30, 60, and 90 min post-prandially. Muscle biopsies were taken from the vastus lateralis immediately after exercise and after 24 h. When the effects of the immediate postexercise meal were excluded, the totals of the incremental glucose and insulin areas after each meal were greater (P < or = 0.05) for the HI GI meals than for the LO GI meals. The increase in muscle glycogen content after 24 h of recovery was greater (P = 0.02) with the HI GI diet (106 +/- 11.7 mmol/kg wet wt) than with the LO GI diet (71.5 +/- 6.5 mmol/kg). The results suggest that the most rapid increase in muscle glycogen content during the first 24 h of recovery is achieved by consuming foods with a high GI.

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