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The 4R’s of Exercise Recovery Nutrition

If you want to get the most from your training sessions, especially if you exercise several times a day, then you need a recovery strategy!


Failing to recover well can have multiple consequences, including negatively effecting your performance, fatigue, muscle soreness, immune system and risk of illness, and impacting on your mood.

exercise recovery nutrition

So let’s go through each of the 4 elements to good recovery….

1. Refuel

Like a car has a specified and limited fuel tank size, which can get guzzled up and then needs to be refuelled, we too have limited fuel supplies of glycogen (- the storage form of glucose, a carbohydrate), which is stored in our liver and muscles. Exercising muscles rely on carbohydrates, so we too need to refuel after exertion!

What with?

Foods or drinks rich in carbohydrates


  • Bananas
  • Dried fruit
  • Cereal bars or flapjacks
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Rice
  • Pasta Potatoes
  • Fruit juice or smoothies
  • Sports drinks

2. Repair

Exercise causes some degree of micro-trauma, especially after resistance exercise, and consuming protein can help to repair this damage, plus aid glycogen replenishment (Thomas et al, 2016).

What with?



  • Meat, fish, poultry
  • Eggs
  • Milk, dairy products (N.B. dairy milk alternatives are typically low in protein)
  • Beans, pulses
  • Nuts, seeds (- a good source of protein but high in calories)
  • Informed Sport certified protein shake

Amount of carbohydrate and protein needed depends on various factors, such as exercise type, frequency, intensity, duration and goals.

Need some ideas? – click on the picture below and have a read for some ideas!

Click the image!

3. Rehydrate

It is essential for general health to be well hydrated, with dehydration having detrimental impact on factors such as body temperature regulation, electrolyte balance and performance (Burke & Deakin, 2013). Check out more info here.

What with?

If exercising at low to moderate intensity for less than 1 hour: water

If exercising over an hour/heavy exercise:

  • isotonic drinks
  • 500mL orange juice + 500mL water + 1/4 Tsp (large pinch) salt (Bean, 2013)
  • Sports drink

Note: Alcohol after exercise can interfere with recovery: it can hinder glycogen storage, rehydration and muscle repair (IOC, 2016; Thomas et al., 2016). So may be think twice before going on a bender after a heavy training/exercise session!

Want more info about drinks and hydration – just click on the picture below! Check it out!

Click the image!

4. Relax

Often overlooked, but we need 7-9hrs sleep per day (The Sleep Council). We also need to manage our stress levels, as this can influence how well we sleep, affect our mood, our confidence, our health and risk of disease (NHS, 2018).


Some ideas: read a book, listen to music, talk to friends and family, practice pilates or yoga, meditate or go for a walk in a park or out in the countryside for some greenery and wildlife.

A few good websites: The Sleep Council, Moodjuice and Headspace

Want some int. on nutrition for sleep, so you can sleep better and recover better, and then be able to get more from your training sessions? You need to read this then!

This is just general information, but if you want more detailed information and tailored advice, please get in touch.

N.B. It is crucial to get your food and fluid intake right if you want to control your IBS symptoms, and if you want train harder, go faster and recover quicker from training sessions and competitions. Dietary requirements are highly individualised and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Working with a Registered Clinical & Sports Dietitian to develop a bespoke plan based on your unique requirements will help to ensure the most appropriate strategy and best results are achieved.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new treatment or health care regimen, or before making any changes to your existing treatment, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Bean. (2013). The complete guide to sports nutrition. 7th Ed. Bloomsbury.
Burke & Deakin. (2013). Clinical sports nutrition. McGraw Hill Education.
Dairy Council. (2017). Nutritional composition of dairy products. Available from: www.milk.co.uk/
IOC. (2016). Nutrition for athletes.
NHS. (2018). Stress less. Available from www.nhs.uk/oneyou/be-healthier/stress-less/
Nieman & Mitmesser. (2017). Potential impact of nutrition on immune system recovery from heavy exertion: A metabolomics perspective. Nutrients, 9(5), 513.
The Sleep Council. (2018). How much sleep do we need? Available from: ​​sleepcouncil.org.uk/how-much-sleep-do-we-need/
Thomas et al. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(3), 543-568.

All opinions are my own.

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