Dietary Advice During and After Exercise

Recovery drink

Par Nicolas Aubineau - 6 minutes de lecture

recovery drinkWhether one is an amateur or professional sportsman, casual or regular, recovery is as important a moment as the actual exercise. Properly recovering helps to maintain a good state of shape, to limit the risk of injuries, and ultimately to improve its performance over time. For example, in order to prepare a marathon, ultra or a large-scale triathlon (Ironman for example), in a context where training time is directly dependent on the constraints of work and family life, it is recognized as much more effective to reduce the time devoted to exercise and increase the time devoted to recovery. The athlete must realize that the recovery period is an integral part of the training and needs to be addressed on different levels, including nutrition.`


Recovery drink : main nutritional goals


Rehydrate and remineralize the body

Even when there is a sufficient amount of water (greater than 0.5L and generally less than 1Litre per hour of exercise) during exercise, the athlete is at a certain level of dehydration after exercise, especially since it has been carried out intensively, over a long period of time, and in extreme climatic conditions, with a hot slope! Associated with this dehydration, the losses of minerals in the sweat can be important. This is especially the case for sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc … Thus, during the recovery, it is necessary to rehydrate and remineralize the organism. The consumption of pure water does not allow us to rehydrate properly. Scientific work shows that rehydration after exercise can only be carried out efficiently if the sweat losses in electrolytes are compensated in parallel with water losses.


Ensure the resynthesis of glycogen stocks

Glycogen is a combination of several molecules of glucose stored in large quantities in the muscles and liver. It is an important energy substrate during the effort. During exercise, a significant reduction in glycogen stocks leads to a reduction in exercise capacity, which can go as far as stopping exercise. This shows the importance of consuming a diet drink from carbohydrate intake effort in order to delay the depletion of glycogen stocks. But despite the consumption of such a drink, the glycogen stocks (hepatic and muscular) are inevitably diminished after a long exercise. They must therefore be reconstituted after exertion. This requires a supply of carbohydrates, in particular a mixture of glucose and fructose, the first favoring the resynthesis of muscle glycogen stocks, the second, the resynthesis of glycogen stocks in the liver.

Favour the muscular reconstruction

When performing prolonged exercise, certain constituents of the muscles, amino acids included in the composition of muscle proteins (structural and main role of amino acids), are used for energy purposes necessary to achieve the effort. Even if the use of these amino acids is small in quantity, this has important consequences on the functioning of the muscles. After exercise, the organism automatically enters a phase of muscle protein reconstruction (called anabolism) whose effectiveness depends strongly on the availability of amino acids and various hormonal signals, including insulin. Thus, an amino acid intake after exercise will promote muscle reconstruction. For optimum effectiveness, simultaneous intake of certain glucose-type carbohydrates is necessary as they will promote insulin secretion.


These nutritional goals can be achieved by consuming a recovery drink. To be optimal and effective, this drink must comprise at least minerals and trace elements, glucose, fructose (see also maltodextrins in association) and proteins, animal or vegetable, of good quality, easily assimilated, comprising a good composition in amino acids, that is to say a good amino acid.


What about sparkling waters ?

Who has not seen the TV ad with an ex. rugbyman of the French team to praise the merits of a sparkling drink … Before the allegations, the brand authorized « facilitates the recovery after an effort … » but since this European text that regulates the nutritional statements, nothing is mentioned on this ability of the beverage to facilitate recovery! May be that, as explained above, proteins are needed to « help maintain muscle mass », not to mention carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals …


By writing this article, I went to their website to see how they communicated and the least I can say is that they are quiet! On their site, there is a study carried out by a professor but not published, which means that this study has no scientific validity.


This kind of drink is not a recovery drink, it is in no way bad, bicarbonates have a role but that is much lower than those of carbohydrates, proteins … however complementary ! I would have liked this brand to do a 4th test with a real salvage drink in their « scientific study » but I think the result would not have pleased them.


When to take a recovery drink ?

The ingestion timing of recovery drinks is important and studies show that a 5- to 15-minute delay before having an intake of carbohydrates following exercise discontinuation leads to an increase in the rate of glycogen replenishment but also an increase in glycogen levels above pre-exercise values (called « glycogenic overcompensation »). Conversely, if the moment of consumption is too late, the effect will be less important. The same result is obtained with proteins. A rapid consumption after stopping the effort is effective for the resynthesis of muscle proteins, whereas a post-exertion consumption too distant will be ineffective.

Subsequently, the water intake, supplemented with solid carbohydrate and / or protein foods, completes the action of the recovery drink. To do this, I invite you to read Power Supply in Recovery Period.


As a conclusion

The consumption of a recovery drink will be particularly interesting after the long sessions, longer than 1 hour, intensive as split exercises, and competitions. Depending on the duration and intensity, it may be necessary to increase the quantity. An intake of 1 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per hour to carbohydrates seems interesting over a few hours (6 hours max) depending on the end of the effort associated with 10 to 20 g of protein per hour (essentially the first two to three hours).


Sports Dietitian Nutritionist


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