Post Exercise Recovery Techniques

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Image credits: Mauricio Campino

Facts about Exercise

There are different forms of exercise such as high-intensity-short duration, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate- to low-intensity exercises. 

The intensity and duration of exercise is important in determining what energy source (carbohydrate, protein, fat) will be used as a fuel by the contracting muscles during exercise. 

 Metabolic Pathways for Energy Production for Exercise:

  1. Aerobic metabolism: Dependent on oxygen
  2. Anaerobic metabolism: Independent of oxygen

A person who is exercising may utilize one or more energy pathways that is aerobic or anaerobic metabolic pathways. The anaerobic pathway provide fuel for short-duration, high-intensity exercise such as sprints, competitive races etc.

Whereas, aerobic pathway provides energy for moderate intensity exercise such as swimming, cycling, gymnastics for a longer time. 

 When the duration of exercise increases, fats are the principal source of energy. On the other hand, carbohydrate is the energy source for high-intensity exercise.

For better athletic performance proper training is required but recovery after intense exercise is the key to get stronger and faster.

Post exercise remedies to recover from aches, pains and tissue repair is the most important part of an exercise regime.

A number of studies provide evidence that recovery techniques like stretching, cryotherapy, pills, metabolism and hydration have different beneficial effects on post exercise recovery.

Post Exercise Recovery Techniques


In 2011, a research review done by Australian scientists on 12 studies reported that: muscle stretching do not have a  significant role in reduction of delayed onset of muscle soreness in healthy adults. In 2016, another research review concluded that stretching improves flexibility in the long term but does not help alleviate risk of injury after exercise.


Cryotherapy methods such as post-exercise body cooling in cold water baths reduces inflammation and speeds recovery from soft-tissue injury. A 2011 meta-analysis study found that this could reduce perceptions of muscle soreness.

According to sports scientists due to a conditioning effect as per Pavlovian theory, an expectation of benefits triggers the release of natural painkilling neurotransmitters such as endorphins and dopamine involved in sensations of pleasure and pain. 

Anti-oxidant Supplements

Oxygen consumption increases 10-15 fold during an exercise and  produce free radicals as part of the metabolic processes that causes muscle fatigue, muscle damage and inflammation. Free radicals can be neutralized by anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin A, C and E.

Whether exercise increases the need of additional anti-oxidants in the diet is unclear. As per a cochrane review of 50 studies, no beneficial effect of anti-oxidant supplements was seen on muscle pain post exercise either in a pill or food form.


Intake of carbohydrate post exercise is beneficial when planning for a second heavy session that day. Earlier, carbohydrate in food turned rapidly into fuel for immediate use and turned into glycogen to be stored in muscle and liver. Also protein is required to build muscle and repair tissues.

A 2013 meta-analysis reported that evidence suggesting benefits from immediate post-exercise protein consumption was based on a comparison with training after fasting.

Athletes who train early in the morning without eating or drinking develops risk of lower glycogen stores that can impair performance especially exercise that involves endurance training.

Hence, intake of protein after exercise increase glycogen re-synthesis rate and promote anabolic hormonal profile.

During a post-exercise “window of anabolic opportunity” or metabolic window of 30-45 minutes, a period during which nutrition shift body from catabolic to anabolic state.

Therefore, intake of 25-30 g of protein immediately after exercise helps in muscle growth if you did not have meals for more than 4 hours before an exercise. 


Proper hydration supplies blood to the skin for body temperature regulation. because during exercise heat is produced which must be eliminated from the body. Any fluid deficit may potentially affect exercise bout.

Note: One should not restrict fluids before, during and after the event. Do not consume alcohol and caffeinated beverages before, during or after exercise due to their diuretic effect that may prevent fluid replenishment. 

Nutrient Needs of Athletes

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A diet should provide the right amount of energy, protein, adequate water, essential vitamins and minerals. A variety of food is needed every day. The intensity of an individual sports or training cause some athletes to have higher calorie and fluid requirements.

Incorporate variety of foods that contain appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals to meet increased calorie needs during exercise.

Some Easy to Prepare Post Exercise Meals:

Post training consume carbohydrate and protein rich snacks or drinks within 20 minutes to recover quickly.


Ragi Chocolate Milkshake

After a tiring workout you can enjoy tasty Ragi chocolate milkshake, which is one of the healthiest option to go for after workout.

Add 2 tablespoon of ragi flour with 1 tablespoon of chocolate powder in a pan and add 3/4 cup water and whisk well to avoid lumps. Cook until it becomes thick and shiny. In a blender add 2 cup of low fat milk and cooked ragi mixture. Drink chilled milkshake topped with chocolate pieces and 1 teaspoon of grounded flaxseeds.

Oatmeal with Nuts, Blueberries, Banana and Yogurt

Oats is referred to as one of the most healthiest post workout options. It is gluten free, wholesome and excellent source of soluble fibre. Nuts are loaded with minerals and omega 3 fatty acids. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acid promotes healing. Banana will help thicken up your smoothie, along with providing another source of electrolytes, that is potassium.

Eat this: Take 1 cup low-fat unsweetened yogurt and add steel-cut oats, slices of banana and nuts and frozen fruits.

Healthy Fruit Pops

It is a healthy post workout snack that only takes few minutes to prepare. Sometimes, after exercise it is difficult to consume carbohydrate-rich foods. It is convenient to consume fruit pops made from fresh blueberries or strawberries, banana, orange slices and apple juice with no added sugar. Blueberries delivers a source of energy rich in antioxidant vitamin C and antioxidants prevent exercise induced muscle tissue damage.

Eat this: Cut all the fruits in thin slices or small pieces and put in a popsicle mold. Then add apple juice on it and freeze it for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Note: These are some of my recipes for general fitness program. You can choose recipes and ingredients as per your specific training.

Successful athletic performance is a combination of favorable genes, proper training and better approach to nutrition.


  2. Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process Book by L. Kathleen Mahan, Janice L Raymond, Sylvia 

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