The best food for recovery after exercise

3Wednesdays

quinoa
Quinoa is a high-quality source of carbohydrate. Photograph: Alamy
Many runners do a great job in fuelling themselves for training and racing, but are you thinking enough about nutrition to ensure you recover properly between sessions?

Recovery is a fundamental element of training and racing, but is underestimated by many athletes. It is particularly important for those who train multiple times per day, six days a week, as inadequate recovery can reduce the body’s capacity to maintain high-volume and high-intensity training sessions. In the long term, this can lead to fatigue, illness, injury and compromised performance.

During training, muscle proteins are broken down, and glycogen (carbohydrate) stores and electrolyte levels are reduced. Proper recovery allows the muscles to repair and adapt to the demands being made of them. This, in turn, leads to improvements in performance. For optimal recovery the body requires the right kinds of food in the right amounts.

Consumption of carbohydrates and fluids (including electrolytes) after exercise is recommended. Both are particularly important for those completing endurance exercise, when the likelihood of glycogen depletion and dehydration is high. The role of protein however is less well understood. Consumption of rapidly digestible, high-quality proteins such as whey and soy following intense training or racing will aid muscle repair and muscle soreness.

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