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The 3 R’s – Rehydrate, Refuel, Rebuild

How we recover is paramount to overall performance. Just as important as that Sunday long run and Tuesday strength session. The reality is, if we recover better, we train harder. It is this that makes an impact on performance and if done effectively, proper recovery can make us faster and stronger. When a session is done or a race completed, many of us switch off too early. It is important to understand a little more about how we can help our bodies recover from all type of exertion.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the process. Providing the body with the correct nutrients at the correct time can affect the rate at which we recover. Dehydration, glycogen depletion (when our carbohydrate stores have been used) and muscle soreness can all be tackled by a consistent nutrition strategy.

What do we need?

Carbohydrate and protein are the main nutrients we need to get the recovery process going. Although both play equally important roles, protein is always the main nutrient that is associated with recovery. Indeed, it is the main driver for muscle protein synthesis, the process that instigates muscle repair and adaptation. However, carbohydrates are just as important. When we train we use up fuel (muscle glycogen) and when we finish, the tank can be close to empty. If we don’t replenish these stores, our next session may be hampered.

Rehydrating is also a focus point. Dark coloured urine after any exhaustive activity is to be expected but the aim is to get clear again within a few hours. Once you have achieved this, you know your body is rehydrated and back in balance.

A certain amount of inflammation and stress occurs when you train and it is part of the training. The body’s adaptation process helps us improve and get fitter. Alongside ensuring you meet your carbohydrate, protein and hydration needs, foods with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties will help recovery. Look for brightly coloured fruit and vegetables and ensure you have at least 5 portions a day (more is ideal).

Good fats found in fish oils can also regulate some of the stress and inflammation that we get from hard exercise. Regular intake of oily fish, olive oil and nuts, for example, is a good habit to get into. This fine balance of all the nutrients can be achieved by a well-balanced snack or meal. Alternatively, if, like many, you are in always rush, EXALT drinks have a perfect balance of carbohydrate, protein, antioxidants and even good fats from the nut butter and vegan protein blend to kick start the recovery process.

How do you do this?

If you follow the rule “3 R’s of recovery” after every hard session, race or even long day you will be sure to recover quicker and on a more consistent basis.

  1. Rehydrate with water or/and electrolyte drink. You need to take on fluid at a rate that you are not peeing it straight out! As soon as you have finished a strenuous training session drink ~500mls of fluid. After that, drink little and often until urine is clear. If you have sweated a lot or it is a particularly hot day you may want some added electrolytes to help the hydration process. If you want to be more exact drink 1.5L of fluid for every 1kg lost in weight (1).

  2. Refuel with carbohydrate but no need to overcompensate! Everyone likes to indulge a heavily training session or long run but after most training sessions you don’t have to go crazy. Here are some guidelines:

    If you have 24 hours between sessions, your strategy can be a little more relaxed. Follow your daily carb needs appropriate for your level of activity and ensure a well-balanced meal within an hour of finishing exercise. Simple, but effective.

    If you have less than 8 hrs hours between sessions, or you have had a gruelling fasted session, this is where you need to be more exact. Take approximately 1g carbs/kg of bodyweight each hour for 3-4 hrs to maximise glycogen synthesis (2). This way you will ensure your glycogen stores are as restored as much as possible for the next session.

    A bottle of Big Red, Type A and Berry Beast all have around 50g of carbohydrate per portion so perfect to have immediately after training to get to start rebuilding those fuel reserves.

  3. Rebuild with protein. Protein is not essential for the immediate post-session recovery (i.e it won’t make any difference to performance in a second session a few hours later) but it will play a large part in long term recovery and adaptation to training. As mentioned previously, it is the main driver for muscle protein synthesis but this process occurs over many hours and days. So getting into the habit of having approx of good quality protein post-session (around 20g) and then regularly at each meal/snack for rest of the day, will ensure adequate adaptation to training and an improvement in performance.

The EXALT Meal Support range all have a minimum of 20g of protein per bottle, so are a great go-to if you cannot access a post-training meal or you are short of time. Call it a ‘recovery on the go’.

In essence, you need to think ahead. Simply by ensuring you don’t go hours without eating after training or racing and eat a snack or meal with adequate carbohydrate and protein you will ensure effective recovery. I always advise my athletes to ensure their training bag has snacks for post-session, even grabbing a quick bottle of Big Red will ensure you get your recovery underway quickly, setting you up for the next session. Always remember, a prepared athlete is a successful athlete.

1. M, Sawka MN, Burke LM, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2007;39(2):377–390.

2. Burke LM, Kiens B, Ivy JL. Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2004;22(1):15–30.

  1. national Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 1-10

About The Author

ALEX COOK

Our sports and endurance dietitian

Alex Cook is a registered clinical and sports dietician with over a decade of experience in dietary management, nutrition planning and sports performance. Specialising in endurance nutrition and supporting a range of athletes, from ultra-distance enthusiasts to elite-level junior athletes, and assisting with multi-day expeditions in challenging environments.

Alex has had varied experience in the past, having worked with the Ministry of Defence, NHS and a number of rehabilitation and physiotherapy clinics too. She is a contributor to a number of publications within the diet and fitness industries including Athletics Weekly, Running Fitness,Trail Running magazine, Fit and Well and Woman's Own.

Alex has worked with EXALT to analyse the ingredients used in our products and help us to create formulas that work to support sports performance, so you can become the best version of yourself at the grab of a bottle.