Guidelines for Post Race Recovery

By Bill Pryor M.S., CTS Expert Coach

Carbohydrates are the only form of calories that can replenish muscle glycogen (the main source of energy for high intensity performance).

Studies show that time to exhaustion is at a high intensity is correlated with the amount of muscle glycogen present in the muscles. More glycogen stored, more energy available to do work, longer time to exhaustion. When glycogen stores are depleted, fatigue occurs.

Carbohydrates are absorbed and converted to muscle glycogen the fastest 15-60 minutes post training/competition.

Post race protein is necessary for resynthesis of muscle proteins and aids in the absorption of carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores (the main source of energy for high intensity performance).

Training/competition stimulates protein synthesis, and a well balanced diet is sufficient for providing enough protein. Excess protein can be converted to fat and does not increase protein synthesis beyond what occurs with about 1-1.5 grams per kilogram per day (70-100 grams per day for a 150 lb individual).

When the protein is broken down, it has a nitrogen component that must be excreted from the body as urine via the kidneys. This required extra water and can lead to a decreased ability to rehydrate and may lead to dehydration with very high protein consumption. Follow these guidelines for maximum recovery-

  • A 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein maximizes synthesis of muscle glycogen.
  • Consume .75 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight (about 110 grams for a 150 pound individual) and about .2 grams of protein per pound of body weight (about 30 grams for a 150 pound individual) within 60 minutes post training/competition.
  • Specially formulated recovery drinks such as PowerBar Recovery, cereal with skim milk, most energy bars (excluding the protein bars), and most pastas have a high ratio of carbs to protein (close to 4:1)
  • Remember that carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, so if you want to use calories as a measure, this would be approximately 440 calories of carbohydrates.
  • Protein also has 4 calories per gram, so using the 4:1 ratio; a 150 pound individual should consume 440 calories of carbs and 110 calories of protein post training/competition.
  • Repeat every 2 hours for the next 6 hours post training/competition for maximal glycogen resynthesis, as this is the best “window of opportunity”. Remember that all of your other daily meals should consist of high carbohydrates to continue building muscle glycogen further.
  • Often times when these nutritional guidelines are followed, glycogen storage increases beyond that of previous levels, giving you more energy to train or race longer the next time out!