This week, we explore the ‘4R’ framework to enhance post-exercise recovery in the hours and days following hard training and competition.
Your recovery strategies increase in importance as the proximity to the next session decreases and the physiological stress increases.

For timely recovery to occur there’s a strong relationship between nutrition and the restoration of physical capacity.

Of which, the 4R framework outlined by Bonilla et al (2020) can be used to guide your post-exercise habits to support recovery – here’s the cliff notes:

– Rehydration: Athletes can lose between 0.3-2.4L of fluid every hour. This is mainly dependent on climate, exercise intensity, modality and garments worn. This fluid loss will equate to body mass loss. Therefore, rehydration aims are to return bodymass to baseline before starting the next session. This can be achieved by drinking 150% of fluid loss in the hours following competition/training.

– Refuel: During moderate-high intensity exercise, both liver and muscle glycogen will deplete. This level of depletion increases as the duration or intensity increases. Therefore your primary focus should be on total daily carbohydrate intake to support overall energy requirements. Second to this, your ability to fuel a session will decrease the level of depletion and reduce the recovery burden. Therefore fuelling=recovery=fuelling. If depletion levels are high and the proximity to the next session is close, it’s recommended to consume 1.2g/kg carbs every hour for 3-4 hours as part of your global carbohydrate and calorie requirements.

– Repair: Unlike rehydration and refuelling, repairing of muscle tissue takes longer and is considered a chronic recovery strategy, as opposed to acute/rapid strategy. i.e. placing greater emphasis on protein will not further promote muscle repair and remodelling over a short time frame. Therefore, recommendations are to eat ~0.4-0.5g/kg of high quality protein with every meal, and 4-5 meals per day. Creatine supplementation (0.1g/kg/day) may also support muscle repair and adaptation.

– Rest: In addition to good sleep hygiene habits prior to bed, certain nutrition interventions such as high-glycaemic index carbohydrates, antioxidant rich fruits (tart cherries) and protein can support sleep characteristics and muscle recovery.

Ultimately, the 4R framework should offer some guidance and a checklist regarding your recovery strategies. In terms of strategies, allow personal preferences to dictate how these principles are implemented to restore performance so you can perform at your very best, as quickly as possible.

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