Previously, we discovered that rugby players have a heightened caloric demand after game day (GD). More precisely, it was shown that a players resting metabolic rate increase by ~10% from GD-1 to GD+3 (~231kcal).
The players increase in RMR was a result of elevated muscle damage that’d been caused by contact. i.e. the breakdown of muscle tissue requires more energy to support the recovery process.
Knowing this raises a question: How’s best to fuel recovery?
Hudson et al (2021) further investigated this by monitoring changes in saliva, urine and blood from GD-2 to GD+4 (7 days) in 7 elite rugby players.
As mentioned, the collisions experienced on GD cause muscle damage; of which the recovery processes is driven by an inflammatory response.
Therefore, the post-game inflammatory response is very important in the regeneration, adaptation and remodelling of the muscle tissue.
When a player is fasted (they took samples before breakfast), the muscle and connective tissue will further break itself down to provide ‘available’ amino acids. These amino acids are converted to glucose and are used to fuel the immune cells to cope with the inflammatory demand.
i.e. since carbohydrate wasn’t consumed through the diet, the muscle/connective tissue is breaking itself down to fill in the gaps.
Therefore, there’s a potential that the degraded amino acids to meet glucose demands will compromise the integrity of the muscle and connective tissue. Not good!
Ultimately, low carbohydrate availability impairs recovery following a game.
Interestingly, the players had a reduced ability to break down and utilise fatty acids in the recovery period – This perhaps further emphasises that carbohydrate needs were high.
With this greater level of understanding, it can be said that muscle recovery is dependent on how many carbohydrates you have in the diet. If carbohydrate intake is higher on GD+1, it’ll (1) offset muscle mass loss (2) support muscle regeneration, (3) support connective tissue integrity.
Plus, the added carbohydrate on GD+1 will support glycogen replenishment. Win-win.
By all means, a higher protein intake is still imperative for recovery, but don’t forget about the carbs.
‘Fuel for the damage induced’