Nutrition for Peak Recovery


One of the factors that significantly influences recovery–how steep the slope of the curve, and therefore how much of an overshoot (image a hose pointing into the air and then adjusting the pressure of the water)–is the fuel the body has available to it. If the right volume and combination of nutrients are available, the body will sling back with tremendous force. If not, both the benefit from training will be dampened, and lengthen the time it takes before training can be resumed will be lengthened.

To take full advantage of nutrition’s impact on the overshoot, fuel has to be on hand when the body starts to recover. And, using a little common sense, you can’t immediately get fuel to your muscles, organs, and brain by eating–unless you’re going to tote an IV bag around. Digestion just plain takes time.

The most influential period in recovery happens in the first hour post-training. At that point, your muscles need glycogen and amino acids, your liver needs hepatic sugar, and you must have a host of co-factors such as insulin. But take amino acids, for instance. Their source is protein and it takes about 3 hours to digest protein. If you wait until after training to provide these nutrients, your timing will be off by 200%. Certainly not peak performance!

So what can you do? Pay strict attention to pre-training fuel intake. Here are four basic guidelines that are critical for all athletes follow:

(1) Eat a well balanced, healthy meal about 3 hours prior to conditioning. This includes a full serving of low-glycemic index carbohydrates such as fruits, legumes, whole grains, and non-fat milk, along with a full serving of high quality, lean protein (servings are dictated by weight, level of fitness, metabolism, gender, and type of sport).

(2) Drink plenty of water throughout the day. For many sports, this requirement is upward of 100 ounces every 24 hours!

(3) Take in a liquid form of carbohydrate (5-10% carbohydrate by solution) immediately before training commences. The company Twin Lab makes a good product for this, called Hydra Fuel.

(4) Down an exercise recovery drink right after finishing your conditioning (or as soon as your stomach will tolerate one). The best recovery drinks are scientifically designed to provide the right balance and forms of carbohydrates and protein. Check out Twin Lab’s OptiFuel 2.

JOHN F. ELIOT, PH.D., is an award winning professor of management, psychology, and human performance. He holds faculty appointments at Rice University and the SMU Cox School of Business Leadership Center. He is a co-founder of the Milestone Group, a consulting firm providing training to business executives, professional athletes, physicians, and corporations. Dr. Eliot’s clients have included: SAP, XEROX, Disney, Adidas, the United States Olympic Committee, the National Champion Rice Owl’s baseball team, and the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Eliot’s cutting edge work has been featured on ABC, MSNBC, CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports, NPR, and highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, Entrepreneur, LA Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times. Dr. Eliot serves on numerous advisory boards including the National Center for Human Performance and the Center for Performing Arts Medicine. His latest book is Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance. For more information, visit Dr. Eliot’s site at

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

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