Updated: Mar 3, 2020
There is a very real difference in helping a power athlete recover compared to an endurance athlete recover. The power athlete may be recovering from heavy lifts while the endurance athlete may be recovering from an several hour long run or bike. Each of these athletes uses a different primary energy system and therefore has different requirements for proper recovery. Here is what you need to keep in mind:
If you are training for one hour or less, you need to rehydrate with water. About 16 oz per hour of exercise, or 8 oz per half hour of exercise.
If you are training and sweating for one hour or more, you need to rehydrate with water and electrolytes. This can be as simple as 16 oz of water and a splash of fruit juice (personally I like cranberry or tart cherry juice) and a sprinkle of salt, per hour of sweating.
Your post training food (meal or snack) should be mostly protein with some carbs. Protein for muscle support and carbohydrates to replenish energy stores. About 2/3 protein and 1/3 carbs. This might be a protein shake and some fruit, a meal of tofu, rice, and veggies, or some PB crackers.
Both hydration and food have to be a habit. You cannot eat well once and expect great results. Just like you can’t train once and be prepared to race.
The nutrition of the athlete is a great factor. To achieve the greatest recovery, nutrition compliments the way the training regiment is set up. Pairing sufficient nutrition with recovery time and strategies into the training program will be the most successful. This is designed to aid in preventing injury and over training symptoms. Nutrition programs are designed individually for each athlete because the program for one will not work the same for another. Typically these high level athletes are looking to maintain their weight or body composition during training times to sustain energy levels. The high training output demands properly fuel to maintain their current training program and achieve competition goals. I have seen as training increases and diet does not adapt with that training change, too much body weight or muscle can be lost.
If athletes do not program recovery into their workouts, problems, such as injury and decrease performance output, will arise. Stretching, cooling down, re-hydrating, and eating correctly post training session is the key to success here. If problems persist, I look at this on an individual basis. Its possible something else is going on in the athletes life that is preventing them from recovering properly or causing a distraction to them.
Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health, Bergeron MF, Devore C, Rice SG; American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement — climatic heat stress and exercising children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):e741-e747.