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The Key to Nutrition in Sports Recovery

Nutrition can play an important role in optimising your recovery post training or event. A proper nutrition strategy is essential in helping to speed up the rate at which the body restores and recovers.


1) Immediately Post Training/Event


  • Rehydration

This should begin immediately post event. For those who use a fluid rehydration strategy, you will know that weighing yourself before and after training or events can provide you with your total fluid loss.

After a high endurance event you can begin rehydrating with 150% of the fluid lost over the following 4-6 hours. For example, if 1kg of fluid is lost, you can try rehydrating with 1.5L of fluid.

It’s also important to replenish your electrolytes (salts) after training sessions and events exceeding 1 hour and within which a high sweat was broken. Whilst sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade do a good job of delivering electrolytes (and fluid) during the marathon, don't rely on them solely afterwards.

Coconut water also an excellent and natural form of electrolyte replacement as it contains five key electrolytes sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus

Another good electrolyte replacer is ‘Dioralyte’, aim for a minimum of

1 sachet Dioralyte x 700ml of water


  • Protein Supplement/Shake

We want to replenish the muscle fibres as quickly as possible to improve muscle recovery. Look for whey protein or vegan protein blend with a good amino acid (protein building block) profile


  • Recovery Snack

The body is most effective at replacing carbohydrate and promoting muscle repair and growth within the first 60-90 minutes post exercise, however this will continue to occur for another 12-24 hours.

This is due to the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis being highest during the initial 1 hour post training or event. It has even been suggested that consuming carbohydrates within 1 hour post exercise can increase the rate of glycogen resynthesis by as much as 45%

Your Recovery Snack could Include:

- Greek yogurt, granola and a banana

- Lean meat/egg/low fat cheese sandwich, banana and sports drink

- Granola Bars, raisons & mixed berries


  • Recovery Meal - Within 1-2 Hours 

Your post workout meal should contain complex carbohydrates as well as a source of protein as these accelerate the recovery process


-Carbohydrates – Your level of carbohydrate ingestion post training/event can influence your rate muscle glycogen synthesis and repletion

You should aim for approximately 1.2g of carbohydrate x kg body weight/hour


- Protein – Muscle recovery and repair is dependent on a positive muscle protein balance

You should aim for approximately 0.4g/kg/hour


2) Post Event Nutrition - 1 week

The focus for the week post endurance event is to rebuild, restore and refuel the body and we can do this though consuming

  • High quality carbohydrates - such as rice, oats, pasta and potatoes
  • High quality protein (animal/plant based) – such as lean meat, eggs, oily fish cheese, nuts and seeds

As the body will be in a state of inflammation it’s also recommended to include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Other Natural Anti-inflammatory foods – such as turmeric (curcumin), ginger, cinnamon, garlic and red peppers (I love making an anti-inflammatory omelette with all of these ingredients)


3. Additional Tips for Enhancing Recovery

  • Caffeine – The combination of caffeine and carbohydrate is an effective method for enhancing muscle glycogen resynthesis. Consuming the following level of caffeine can increase the rate of glycogen synthesis by as much as a 66%

1g of caffeine x kg bodyweight x 4 hours

*Please note, that individuals with certain medical conditions or taking particular medications must take caution with consuming caffeine


  • Sodium Bicarbonate – It is highly important to alkalize the body after an intense training session or event as the body goes through a natural process called metabolic acidosis as a result of increased lactic acid production. The recommended dosage of sodium bicarbonate (this is ideally taken pre-exercise) is

0.2 x kg bodyweight + 1 Litre of Water (flavoured if required)

*It is recommended that if you take sodium bicarbonate prior to an event that you test it well in advance as it may cause stomach issues in small amount of individuals


  • Rest – Remember the vast majority of your recovery will happen whilst you sleep so ensuring a good night sleep particularly after a high intensity training or event is vital to your recovery. Also it’s important to give adequate time for the body to heal after endurance events. For instance for marathons or triathlons it is recommended to wait a minimum of 1 week before taking part in high level exercise as we need to consider the cumulative physical and mental fatigue these may cause over the following week.


I hope you found this helpful and please feel free to contact me here if you have any questions

Laurann O'Reilly - Nutritionist 

About the Author 

A farmer’s daughter from Tipperary, Laurann has always had an appreciation for food, nutrition and health promotion.

Laurann has an honours BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Nottingham and a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. She is also an Associate Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society London.

With a passion for nutrition and experience working in Ireland and the UK,  Laurann uses her knowledge and skills to help people achieve optimum health and assists in the prevention and treatment of nutritional related problems through means of nutritional consultation, personalised diet plans, health promotion and education.

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Laurann has an Honours BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Nottingham, a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin, is an Associate Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society London, a professional member of the Celiac Society Ireland, is registered with the Institute of Public Health Ireland and fully insured.

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