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Recovery - A Crucial Component for Athleteic Success


A Crucial Component for Athletic Success

Athletes tend to focus on training and neglect the recovery, specifically the critical step of refueling as soon as possible after each workout.  Does this describe your routine?  If so, that's really unfortunate because it's absolutely on of the most important thins that you can do to improve your race day results.  In fact, properly refueling your body immediately after your training session is as important as anything you did in the actual workout.  When you give your body what it needs as soon as possible after exercise, it will responds wonderfully in the following ways:

  • Your body will be able to store more and more of a premium, ready-to-use fuel known as muscle glycogen.
  • You will strengthen, not weaken, your immune system.
  • You will "kick start" the muscle tissue rebuilding process.

The bottom line is that you can realy give yourself a major advantage come race day if you'll take the time to put some quality fuel into your body as soon as possible after al your workouts.

If you're at all serious about performing better in your racing AND staying healthier, here's a saying you need to live by: "Once you've finished training, you're still not finished training!"  Here's what I mean: You must attend as much to recovery as you do to active exercise if you expect to reap the benefits of hard training.  In other words, how well you recover today will be a huge factor in how well you perform tomorrow.  Exercise, done properly, creates enough stress to your muscles and cardiovascular system to instigate a rebuilding and strengthening program, but without causing big time damage.  Your body responds by adapting to the stress you placed upon it.  Too much exercise at once leads to overtraining syndrome.  If you train within limits, but fail to supply your body with adequate fuel and nutrients, you get pretty much the same thing: overuse symptoms such as weakening, increased susceptibility to infections, and fatigue.

Carbohydrate replenishment - the sooner the better!

When you begin a workout or race, the first fuel your body uses is a stored carbohydrate known as glycogen.  About 80% is in your muscle tissue, and the remainder in your liver.  You've only got so much of this premium fuel, but its importance can't be overstated.  In fact, several studies have shown that the pre-exercise muscle glycogen level is the most important energy determinant for exercise performance.  Also, to have a good race or workout, you need to start with a full load of muscle-stored glycogen.  In other words, athletes who have more of this readily available fuel in their bodies have a definite advantage.  The good news is that you can substantially increase your storage capacity.

So, how can you maximize your glycogen storage?  You need a combination of training and replenishing.  Training increases both muscle glycogen storage capacity and how efficiently your body uses it.  Carbohydrate replenishment as soon as possible after exercise, when the body is most receptive to carbs uptake, maximizes both glycogen synthesis and storage.

Here's how you body does it: Along with insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels of ingested carbs, an enzyme known as glycogen synthase converts carbs from food into glycogen and stores it in muscle cells.  This also drives the muscle repair and rebuilding process.  However, glycogen synthase activity is brief, peaking in the 0-30 minutes after exercise, then declining substantially for the next 90 minutes.  To store as much glycogen as possible, you need to take advantage of this enzyme when it's most active.  It's absolutely vital for maximizing the recovery process, and, to paraphrase the late Ed Burke (A well know nutritional scientist), "the sooner you do it, the better.

Complex carbs versus simple sugars

The one time where your body isn't going to put up much of a fight in regards to complex carbs versus simple sugars is right after a hard, glycogen-depleting workout.  At this time your body is in such dire need of replenishment that it'll accept just about anything.  That said, complex carbohydrates offer a distinct advantage over simple sugars.  Here's why: Both simple sugars and complex carbohydrates (such as the maltodextrin we use in Recoverite) are high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate sources, which allow them to raise blood sugar levels and spike insulin rapidly, both desirable functions post-exercise.  However, complex carbohydrates, which again, have equally high glycemic indices and raise blood insulin spikes similarly, allow for a greater volume of calories to be absorbed compared to simple sugars.  In other words, when you consume complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars after exercise, your body is able to absorb more calories for conversion to glycogen, and without the increased potential for stomach distress that commonly occurs with too-high volume or concentration of simple sugar fuels.

Additionally, most of us already over consume simple sugars as it is.    There is no doubt that excess sugar consumption is implicated in a number of negative health consequences; therefore, if there aren't any recovery-specific benefits to be derived from consumption of simple sugar post-workout, why do it?

The Importance of quick replenishment of carbohydrates

The less-fit athlete or the one who has not been putting some carbs back into his or her body shortly after exercise sessions has very limited muscle glycogen available, perhaps as little as 10-15 minutes worth.

The fit athlete or the one who has been consistently refueling his or her body with carbohydrates immediately after exercise can build up a nice 60-90 minute reservoir of this premium, ready-to-use fuel.

Which would you rather have when the gun goes off - 15 minutes of on-board fuel or 90 minutes?  The answer should be pretty obvious.

RULE # 1: As soon as possible after you finish your workout, before you get into the shower or before you kick back on the couch, consume approximately 30-60 grams of high quality complex carbohydrates.

Protein - Essential component for recovery

Carbohydrate intake promotes many aspects of post-exercise recovery, but it can't do the job along; you need protein as well.  Protein in your post-workout fuel provides these benefits:

Raw materials to rebuild stressed muscles - Whey protein is the premier protein source of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAA - leucine, isoleucine, valine) used formuscle tissue repair.

Enhanced glycogen storage - Numerous research studies have shown that carbs + protein, versus carbs alone, is a superior way to maximize post-exercise muscle glycogen synthesis.

Immune system maintenance - We strongly recommend whey protein, with its high levels of glutathione production-specific amino acid.

Whey is the superior protein source for recovery

Of all the protein sources available, whey protein is considered the ideal protein for recover, primarily due to its high Biological Value (BV) rating.  The BV is an accurate indicator of biological activity of protein, a scale used to determine the percentage of a given nutrient the body utilizes.  In other words, BV refers to how well and how quickly your body can actually use the protein you consume.

Of all protein sources, whey has the highest BV, with whey protein isolate (the purest form of whey protein) having an outstanding rating of 154, and whey protein concentrate having 104 rating.  Egg protein is also an outstanding high-BV protein source, with whole eggs achieving a rating of 100 and egg hites an 88 rating.  Soy protein ranks far below whey protein in BV ratings with a 49 rating, making it a less desirable choice for recovery.  Note: Although it might not seem logical for a protein to have a score higher than 100, at the time the BV system was introduced, eggs had the highest known Bn and thus were given a value of 100.  Whey proteins came to researchers attention later, and they rang up even higher scores.  The 154 BV of whey protein isolate and the 104 BV of whey concentrate are in comparison with the original BV benchmark, egg protein (albumin).

Other standards that evaluate protein quality/effect also show whey to be a superb protein source.  One of the methods, the Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER), while it admittedly has limited applications to humans (PER measures the weight gain of experimental growing rates when being fed the test protein), still shows that whey protein ranks the highest, with a rating of 3.6 (soy protein as a rating of 2.1).

Another protein measurement is the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).  Nutritionists who disqualify the Per method for classifying protein quality (because it only references the amino acid requirements for lab rates), often will use the PDCAAS method for evaluation human protein requirements.  According to this method, which utilizes an amino acid requirement profile derived from human subjects, an ideal protein is one that meets all of the essential amino acid requirements of humans.  An ideal protein receives a rating of 1.0.  Three protein sources - whey, soy and egg - all have a 1.0 PDCAAS ranking.

Glutathione: your key to optimal immune system support and recovery

Glutathione is a tripeptide consisting of the amino acids glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine.  It is one of the three endogenous (naturally occurring in the body) antioxidants, the other two being catalase and superoxide dismutase.  Many researchers rate glutathione as the number one antioxidant.  Ward Dean, MD, a leading nutritional scientist, in his brilliant article Glutathione: Life-Extending "Master Antioxidant" ( addresses the importance of glutathione, stating that "Glutathione is present in nearly all living cells, and without it they can't survive...glutathione has major effects on health at the molecular, cellular and organ levels."

One of the steps we can do to improve our recovery is to enhance/optimize body levels of this important antioxidant, and one of the best ways to do that is by consuming whey protein.  Whey protein contains excellent levels of all three of the amino acids that comprise glutathione, as well as high levels of the sulfur-containing amino acid methionine.  The two sulfur-containing amino acids (cysteine being the other) are particularly important for proper immune system function and the body's production of glutathione.  In addition, the amino acid glutamine has also been shown to help raise glutathione levels (note: Both Hammer Nutrition whey protein products - Hammer Whey and Recoverite - contain high amounts of glutamine).  Other nutrients boost body levels of glutathione, and I'll discuss those later in the article.

Bottom line: Adequate glutathione in the body will enhance your recovery and support optimal health.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) - The essentials for muscle tissue repair

Of the nearly two-dozen different amino acids required by humans, nine are classified as "essential" because they can't be synthesized by the body and must be derived from external food sources.  Among these nine essential amino acids are the branched chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine.  The term "branched chain" refers to the molecular structure of these amino acids.  Up to 75% of the body's muscle tissue is composed of these three amino acids, and they are directly involved in the tissue repair process.  BCAAs are present in all protein-containing foods, with whey protein being the best source.

After all the comparisons are made, soy protein is certainly an excellent protein source for a variety of health benefits.  However, when it comes to enhancing recovery between workouts - maximizing glycogen synthesis, supporting immune system function, and rebuilding lean muscle tissue - you simply won't find a better protein source then whey protein isolate.

RULE # 2 - After your workouts, consume 10-30 grams of protein, preferably whey isolate, along with your complex carbohydrates.

Antioxidants - Your immune system's ammunition

Our bodies need antioxidants to protect us from the damaging free radicals.  Free radicals (of which there are several types) are unstable atoms or molecules, usually of oxygen, containing at least one unpaired electron.  Left unchecked, free radicals seek out and literally steal electrons from whole atoms  or molecules, creating a destructive chain reaction.  Excess free radicals, in the words of one nutritional scientist, "are capable of damaging virtually any biomolecule, including proteins, sugars, fatty acids and nucleic acids."  Dr. Bill Misner writes, "Oxygen has the capacity to be both friend and foe.  When energy fuels are metabolized in the presence of O2, 5% of them create molecules that contain an odd number of electrons.  If free radicals are not neutralized by on-site antioxidant body stores immediately, tissue damage occurs to absolutely every cell membrane touched by these imbalanced molecular wrecking machines.  Some theorize  soreness and stiffness result because free radicals and waste metabolites build up during either prolonged or intense exercise.  The more volume oxygen that passes into our physiology for energy fuel metabolism, the more increased free-radical-fatigue symptoms may  be experienced."

Those words should sound alarm bells loud and clear, because as an athlete you consume huge amounts of oxygen and metabolise far greater amounts of calories than a sedentary person.  This means you're generating free radicals on the order of 12-20 times more than the non-athletes!  Additionally, during period of highest training volume and racing stress, free radical production increases even more.  While the benefits of exercise far outweigh the potential negatives caused by free radicals, excess free radical production and accumulation, if not properly resolved, may very well be the endurance athlete's worst foe.  The human body can oxidize and decay, like rusting steel, from excess free radical production.  Not only can this negate everything you've worked so hard to achieve in your training, but it can also result in severe consequences to your overall health.  Clearly, the necessity of neutralizing excess free radicals simply cannot be overstated, which is why supplementation with a variety of antioxidants is recommended.

Antioxidants in Recoverite - Cysteine*, Methionine*, Glutamic Acid*, Carnosine

Antioxidants in Premium Insurance Caps - Beta Carotene, Vitamin C*, Vitamin E, Zinc, Selenium*, Manganese

Antioxidants in Race Caps Supreme - Coenzyme Q10, Idebenone, Vitamin E, Trimethyglycine

Antioxidants in Mito-R Caps - Vitamin C (as ascorbyl palmitate)*, Vitamin E, Acetryl l-carnitine, R-alpha Lipoic Acid*, DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol), PABA (Para Amino Benzoic Acid)

Antioxidants in Super AO - Enteric Coated Super Oxide Dismutase, Grape Seed Extract*, L-Glutathione*, Ginkgo biloba, Gotu kola, Vinpocetine

*glutathione precursors and/or glutathione boosting nutrients

RULE # 3 - Consume antioxidant-rich foods and take antioxidant supplements throughout the day, targeting primary intake post-workout.

Post-Workout/Race Fueling & Antioxidant Supplement Program

Days with workouts less than 90 minutes:

Premium Insurance Caps: 4 capsules (of the 7 in the packet).  Take the other three with food at another time during the day.

Race Caps Supreme: 1 capsule

Mito-R Caps: 2 capsules

Super AO: 1 capsule

Recoverite: 1 serving (2 scoops)

Days with workouts in excess of 90 minutes:

Premium Insurance Caps:

  • Athletes weighing less than 70kg or under the age of 20: 4 capsules (of the 7 in the packet).  Take the other three with food at another time during the day.
  • Athletes weighing more than 70kg: 7 capsules (1 full packet).  Split another full packet into two doses taken at other times of the day with food.

Race Caps Supreme

  • Athletes weighing less than 70kg or under the age of 20: 1 capsule.
  • Athletes weighing more than 70kg: 1-2 capsules

Mito-R Caps: 2 capsules

Super AO: 2 capsules

Xobaline: 1 tablet dissolved under the tongue.  This will help replenish vitamin B12 and folic acid, both factors in the re-synthesis of RNA, the basis for cellular reproduction.  Recent research suggests that improving RNA status within the body results in gains in lean muscle mss, increased mitochondrial resynthesis, and other benefits.  When this occurs, you may expect increased energy capacity, improved metabolism, and enhanced recovery after exercise.  In addition,  the folic acid/vitamin B12 combination is vital for healthy red blood cell production and cardiovascular health, via the reduction of elevated homocysteine levels.

Recoverite: 1-3 servings (2-6 scoops) as determined by you, based on your weight and intensity/duration of your training session.


With regular use of Recoverite you will be providing your body with ideal amounts and ratios of complex carbohydrates, protein, glutamine, and carnosine, all vitally important in the components of recovery (glycogen synthesis, immune system function, muscle tissue repair).  Daily intakes of Premium Insurance Caps, Race Caps Supreme, Mito-R Caps, and Super AO, provide your body with a wide variety of antioxidants, neutralizing a variety of water and fat-soluble free radicals, to help maintain a strong immune system.

Steve Born is the Senior Technical Advisor for Hammer Nutrition with over a decade of involvement in the health food industry.  He has worked with hundreds of athletes - ranging from the recreational athlete to world-class professional athlete - regarding their supplement/fueling program.  Steve is a three-time RAAM finisher, the 1994 Furnace Creek 508 Champion, 199 runner-up, the only cyclist in history to complete a Double Furnace Creek 509, and is the holder of two Ultra Marathon Cycling records.  In February 2004 Steve was inducted into the Ultra Marathon Cycling Hall of Fame.

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This article was published on Wednesday 07 March, 2007.