Today we’re looking forward to being able to get stuck back into the outdoor races and events as the country continues to open up. Over recent years there’s been a proliferation of obstacle race type events such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race that have added a new edge to an already well-established calendar or running style races. Whilst we’re all been pounding the pavements, roads and tracks during lock down, racing in an actual endurance event raises the game!
Let’s face it these events are gruelling at the best of times, but after a year off we need to be ready to recover properly after the event.
So, picture this. The hard work is done! You’ve finished your run, ride, swim or other endurance exercise or event and now your attention turns to recovery. Although the recovery process is a lot less strenuous than the training itself, it is by no means any less important in the grand scheme of enhancing performance. In this blog we will take a look at three important aspects of the recovery process; rehydrating, replenishing and resting.
Most of us will know the importance of keeping hydrated whilst we exercise and have our bottles by our side when we’re exercising. However, it can be all too easy to neglect the fluids once we’ve finished our workout.
Indeed, research has found that many athletes will begin a session of exercise in a state of hypohydration[1, 2], i.e. inadequately hydrated, likely due to insufficient rehydration following the completion of a prior bout of exercise. Commencing with further exercise in a hypohydrated state is inevitably going to elicit further hypohydration, exacerbating the detrimental effects that insufficient hydration can have on performance – low blood pressure, light-headedness and premature fatigue to name a few [3, 4]. So, the first thing to note is to ensure you are properly hydrated and rested before your start the event.
Unfortunately, the rate at which fluid ingestion following exercise supports maximal rehydration efficiency has yet to be ascertained . A simple strategy to follow is to, when you’ve caught your breath, ensure you keep taking small sips of fluid and often in the 2-3 hours after exercise.
When we exercise, we use up the stored glycogen (a stored form of glucose we use for fuel) in our muscles. Replenishing these stores after exercise is crucial to ensure we are ‘good-to-go’ for the next session. After a long, strenuous session, consuming simple carbohydrates such as glucose, fructose and sucrose will provide a “quick fix” when it comes to replenishing glycogen stores as they are easily digested and stored in the muscles and liver. Complex carbohydrates such as starch are more slowly digested and as such will provide a gradual, transient top-up of stores.
In terms of timing, there is research which suggests that those consuming simple carbohydrates within 60 minutes of finishing exercise experience greater glycogen replenishment and subsequently improved skeletal muscle recovery compared to those who wait longer than 60 minutes[6, 7]. The exact amount of carbohydrates you need is dependent on size, duration of exercise and your current goals so it is tricky to nail down a one-size-fits-all figure.
Ensuring sufficient protein as well as carbohydrate is also important. According to sports nutrition consensus statements mainly based on data from NBAL studies, protein recommendations for endurance athletes have been suggested to be 1.2–1.4 g protein/kg/d . This level of protein is elevated from the sedentary person, so endurance exercise does increase the protein requirement to ensure optimal recovery.
Getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night has a plethora of benefits to recovery and subsequent performance – so many that entire books have been written on the importance of sleep to human function. Insufficient sleep can result in:
- Increased cortisol (“stress hormone”) production 
- Reduced alertness 
- Impaired muscle recovery 
- Negative effects on mood 
And so many more…
Make sure you’re allowing yourself to rest after a hard session, giving your body the best chance to recover and ensure it’s ready for the next session! Check out our blogs on how to improve your sleep here and here.
- Ensure you continue to ingest fluids after exercise to avoid starting your next session in a state of insufficient hydration – as this can significantly impair performance.
- Consumption of carbohydrates and protein after endurance exercise is necessary to replenish glycogen stores in the body, meaning you’re full of energy for the next session, and amin acid stores to help you repair and recover.
- Make sure you’re getting sufficient, good quality sleep each night to avoid debilitating effects on performance and health.
1.Maughan, R.J., et al., Fluid and electrolyte intake and loss in elite soccer players during training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2004. 14(3): p. 333-46.
2.Maughan, R.J., et al., Fluid and electrolyte balance in elite male football (soccer) players training in a cool environment. J Sports Sci, 2005. 23(1): p. 73-9.
3.Carter, R., 3rd, et al., Hypohydration and prior heat stress exacerbates decreases in cerebral blood flow velocity during standing. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2006. 101(6): p. 1744-50.
4.Cheuvront, S.N. and R.W. Kenefick, Dehydration: physiology, assessment, and performance effects. Compr Physiol, 2014. 4(1): p. 257-85. 5.Evans, G.H., et al., Optimizing the restoration and maintenance of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2017. 122(4): p. 945-951.
6.Ormsbee, M.J., C.W. Bach, and D.A. Baur, Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients, 2014. 6(5): p. 1782-808.
7.Berardi, J.M., et al., Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2006. 38(6): p. 1106-13.
8.Leproult, R., et al., Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep, 1997. 20(10): p. 865-70.
9.Killgore, W.D., et al., Sleep deprivation reduces perceived emotional intelligence and constructive thinking skills. Sleep Med, 2008. 9(5): p. 517-26.
10.Dattilo, M., et al., Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses, 2011. 77(2): p. 220-2.
11.Cartwright, R., et al., Role of REM sleep and dream affect in overnight mood regulation: a study of normal volunteers. Psychiatry Res, 1998. 81(1): p. 1-8.