In order to reap the benefits of training, athletes must adhere to a smart recovery plan. Nutrition and sleep are the top two factors that can accelerate the recovery process. Goals of post training nutrition are to replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores, restore fluid and electrolyte balance and stimulate protein synthesis.
In order to enhance glycogen storage and assist with muscle repair, athletes should consume a meal containing carbohydrate and protein within 30 minutes to 2 hours of completed training. This window of opportunity for refueling is especially important for athletes training 2-3 times a day. Research suggests that the optimal ratio of carbohydrate to protein is 3:1 to 4:1. In order to meet this recommendation, athletes should aim for 0.5 grams Cho with 0.15 grams protein to 1.0 gram Cho with 0.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Athletes should be encouraged to use whole foods to aid in recovery. Recovery drinks may be helpful if the athlete has a depressed appetite and he is not able to eat a well-balanced meal within 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Restoring fluid balance is essential to the recovery process. The athletes have hopefully dialed in their fluid needs during training, but they should aim to replace each pound lost with 20 oz of fluid if they finish the training session with a significant fluid loss. Fluid and electrolyte balance can be restored with sports drinks (one with 100-150 mg of sodium per 8 oz) or water combined with a recovery meal that includes lots of vegetables, fruits and even a little added table salt.