When muscles perform high intensity exercise, such as quick climbing, distance/height jumping – movements that require power (power is using alot of strength in very short spaces of time) consume muscle glycogen for fuel. Oxygen is used in slower, aerobic exercises (such as jogging). Muscle glycogen is created primarily using carbohydrates, and stored in the muscles for immediate bursts of energy.
Immediately after training, the consumption of carbohydrates speeds up the refuelling of muscle glycogen stores.
Taken from an Australian Institute of Sport handbook on sports nutrition:
“Current research suggests that optimal refuelling occurs when 1-1.5g of carbohydrate per kilogram body mass is consumed every hour in the early stages of recovery, contributing to a total carbohydrate intake of 6-10g per kilogram body mass over 24 hours.”
Carbohydrates can be found in: rice, bread, pasta, fruit and vegetables. lollies and sweet drinks.
These numbers are for those who fully deplete muscle glycogen stores (often it feels like your muscles are simply overworked and cannot do any more). If you use less muscle glycogen, consume less carbs.
This short term increase in carbohydrate consumption increases the muscle recovery rate, allowing you to participate in other physical activites sooner, and at higher intensity.
When you exercise using high resitance (such as weights, or in our case, our own body weights coupled with momentum), our muscles are put under heavier than normal loads. This necessitates adaptation, small tears in the tissue occur to facilitate the addition of new cells. Protein is the main fuel used for muscle cell recovery and repair. Well timed protein consumption can increase strength gains during the recovery period.
From the AIS:
“… substantial enhancement of post-exercise protein synthesis can be achieved by consuming 3-6g of essential amino acids. This can be obtained from 10-20g of high quality protein.”
Protein can be found in such things as eggs, nuts, meats and legumes.
Re-hydration is especially important for the recovering athlete. Post exercise, consume cool water or flavoured drinks (preferably non-caffeinated). Lack of adequate rehydration can severely delay the body’s recovery. When fluid losses are especially high, such as on hot days or where considerable sustained exercise has occured (such as running), sodium (aka salt) intake is recommended to replace electrolytes lost in sweat. Get this sodium from sports drinks or salty foods.
Alcohol post-exercise is discouraged, slowing down muscle recovery, dehydrating, and delaying repair of soft-tissue injuries (such as bruises).
Reference and further reading. http://www.ausport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/143386/CurrentConcepts.pdf