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Nutrition to Support Recovery from Endurance Exercise: Optimal Carbohydrate and Protein Replacement

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Proper nutrition is vital to optimize recovery after endurance exercise. Dietary carbohydrate and protein provide the requisite substrates to enhance glycogen resynthesis and remodel skeletal muscle proteins, respectively, both of which would be important to rapidly restore muscle function and performance. With short recovery windows (<8 h), coingestion of these macronutrients immediately after exercise can synergistically enhance glycogen resynthesis and rapidly stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the latter of which is augmented by protein ingestion alone. Consuming frequent meals throughout the day containing adequate carbohydrate (according to training intensity) and protein (approximately 0.25 g·kg) will help fully restore muscle glycogen and sustain maximal daily rates of MPS over prolonged (8 to 24 h) recovery periods. Given the complementarity of these macronutrients, endurance athletes aiming to maximize postexercise recovery to maintain or enhance subsequent exercise performance should target a nutrition strategy that features optimal ingestion of both carbohydrate and protein.
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Nutrition to Support Recovery from Endurance
Exercise: Optimal Carbohydrate and
Protein Replacement
Daniel R. Moore, PhD
Abstract
Proper nutrition is vital to optimize recovery after endurance exercise.
Dietary carbohydrate and protein provide the requisite substrates to en-
hance glycogen resynthesis and remodel skeletal muscle proteins, re-
spectively, both of which would be important to rapidly restore muscle
function and performance. With short recovery windows (G8 h),
coingestion of these macronutrients immediately after exercise can
synergistically enhance glycogen resynthesis and rapidly stimulate
muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the latter of which is augmented by
protein ingestion alone. Consuming frequent meals throughout the day
containing adequate carbohydrate (according to training intensity) and
protein (approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
) will help fully restore muscle gly-
cogen and sustain maximal daily rates of MPS over prolonged (8 to 24 h)
recovery periods. Given the complementarity of these macronutrients,
endurance athletes aiming to maximize postexercise recovery to main-
tain or enhance subsequent exercise performance should target a nutri-
tion strategy that features optimal ingestion of both carbohydrate and
protein.
Introduction
Endurance exercise is classically associated with relatively
long-duration, constant-load exercise that is characterized
by large increases in oxygen consumption, although repeated
shorter-duration, higher-intensity exercise bouts also rely
heavily on aerobic energy systems for optimal performance
(6). These endurance-type exercises can be stressful events
for the human body and can be accompanied by depletion of
endogenous energy stores (e.g., muscle and liver glycogen)
andcanserveasastimulusfortheremodelingandrepairofa
variety of different body proteins (e.g., skeletal muscle, bone,
cardiovascular system, etc.). For example, exercise performed
at intensities greater than approximately
50% to 60% of peak aerobic fitness,
such as constant-load running or cycling,
or that which requires supramaximal
intensities (especially when repeated),
such as team sport exercises like soccer
or ice hockey, rely primarily on carbo-
hydrate as energy source (40,45). In ad-
dition, these exercise modalities represent
potent stimuli for metabolic (e.g., mito-
chondrial biogenesis, metabolic enzyme
upregulation) (9) and structural (e.g.,
contractile protein repair and synthesis)
skeletal muscle adaptations (16) that,
through the remodeling of muscle and
body proteins, can ultimately translate
into performance adaptations such as
increased aerobic/anaerobic power pro-
duction (9). In light of these acute
stresses, the athlete who optimally re-
covers from an acute bout of exercise is better positioned to
maintain or enhance their performance during a subsequent
bout and/or to adapt, over time, to the repeated stress of
multiple exercise bouts (i.e., training).
Proper nutrition is vital to optimize postexercise recovery.
Dietary carbohydrate and protein are important macronu-
trients for the endurance athlete, as they provide the requisite
substrates to enhance glycogen resynthesis and muscle re-
modeling. While other aspects of recovery such as fluid resto-
ration and/or maintenance of immune function are important
considerations for the endurance athlete and have been re-
ported to be influenced by these macronutrients as well, the
focus of the present review will be on the role carbohydrate
and protein have on the ability to enhance recovery primarily
within skeletal muscle. Highly active endurance athletes may
have recovery widows that range from relatively short (e.g.,
two-a-day training, tournament play) to longer (e.g., daily
training bouts) intersession recovery periods depending on
their training phase or competition schedule. Therefore, this
review will summarize the current literature on the specific
carbohydrate and protein ingestion strategies to support gly-
cogen resynthesis and skeletal muscle remodeling over shorter
NUTRITION AND ERGOGENIC AIDS
294 Volume 14 &Number 4 &July/August 2015 Carbohydrate and Protein for Endurance Athletes
Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto ,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address for correspondence: Daniel R. Moore, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology
and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Goldring Centre for High
Performance Sport, 100 Devonshire Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S
2C9; E-mail: dr.moore@utoronto.ca.
1537-890X/1404/294Y300
Current Sports Medicine Reports
Copyright *2015 by the American College of Sports Medicine
Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
(i.e., G8h)andlonger(i.e.,8to24h)recoveryperiods.
Moreover, focus will be placed on highlighting the synergies
between optimal carbohydrate and protein replacement to
provide practical nutrition guidelines for a comprehensive re-
covery strategy for the endurance athlete.
Carbohydrate
Endurance exercise that is sustained at a moderate to high
intensity and repeated supramaximal efforts primarily rely
on carbohydrate as a source of fuel (40,45). In the face of
enhanced glucose uptake by working muscles, blood glu-
cose levels are maintained to a large extent by the break-
down of liver glycogen stores. Despite this enhanced liver
glycogenolysis, muscle glycogen is the most immediate en-
ergy supply during these higher-intensity endurance-type
exercises due to the proximity of specific intramuscular
pools to the mitochondria, sarcoplasmic reticulum, and/or
or the contractile myofibrillar proteins, where instanta-
neous energy requirements are highest during muscle con-
traction (36). Bergstro
¨m et al. (4) were the first to discover
that fatigue during prolonged exercise was associated with
muscle glycogen depletion. Subsequent research has ex-
panded on this seminal study to elucidate the subcellular
localization of intramuscular glycogen and the subsequent
regional intracellular and/or fiber type-specific depletion of
these energy stores with muscle fatigue (31,36). In light of
the importance of this intramuscular energy store for exer-
cise performance and the early work showing it can be
influenced by diet (4,14), considerable attention has been
placed on elucidating the optimal dietary strategies to re-
store, maintain, and/or enhance muscle glycogen for the
goal of maximizing exercise performance.
It is well-known that athletes competing maximally during
high-intensity endurance exercise must ensure that their car-
bohydrate stores are optimized before and during exercise to
perform at their best (10). Managing precompetition carbo-
hydrate intake and strategies to supercompensate glycogen
stores (i.e., glycogen loading) prior to competition are im-
portant considerations for endurance athletes. In addition,
carbohydrate intake during exercise, either for a source of
fuel for events 990 min and/or for ‘‘mental’’ energy (e.g.,
carbohydrate mouth rinse), are useful dietary strategies to
successfully enhance endurance exercise performance (22).
While these aspects of carbohydrate ingestion would be im-
portant considerations for optimal endurance exercise per-
formance, they are not within the remit of the present review
focused on postexercise recovery, and therefore, interested
readers are referred to additional reviews and/or consensus
statements that cover these aspects of sports nutrition in
more detail (e.g., (10,22)).
Contemporary research suggests that training with low
carbohydrate availability could represent a strategy to en-
hance training-induced adaptations (e.g., mitochondrial bio-
genesis, enhanced fat oxidation) that may subsequently
improve endurance exercise performance (for review, see
(36)). These strategies may include fasted (e.g., prebreakfast)
or glycogen-depleted (e.g., two-a-day training with low in-
tersession carbohydrate intake) training and/or carbohydrate
restriction during recovery (2). Progressive sports practi-
tioners and athletes have begun experimenting with these
different forms of low carbohydrate availability training to
enhance aerobic adaptations during early base training stages
(42). As such, these athletes may deliberately restrict carbo-
hydrate intake during the postexercise recovery period to
minimize glycogen resynthesis. While this emerging area of
research is intriguing, the focus of the present review will be
to summarize the nutritional requirements for athletes
aiming to maximize glycogen resynthesis after exercise in
order to maintain performance or training quality in subse-
quent bouts of exercise. Moreover, although some supple-
ments (e.g., caffeine, creatine) have been reported to enhance
rates of glycogen resynthesis, the present review will limit the
discussion to the impact carbohydrate and protein have in
replenishing endogenous fuel stores.
Carbohydrate for Short-Term Recovery (G8h)
Carbohydrate intake is crucial to enhance muscle and
liver glycogen stores after high-intensity, carbohydrate-
based exercise. The rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis is
generally greatest during the initial È1 h after exercise and
is facilitated by the contraction-induced recruitment of
GLUT-4 transporters to the muscle membrane and an en-
hanced activity of the rate-controlling enzyme glycogen
synthase (21). For example, providing carbohydrate inges-
tion immediately after exercise resulted in an approximately
45% greater rate of glycogen resynthesis over the following
2 h as compared with delaying the ingestion by 2 h, which
ultimately translated into a greater net glycogen synthesis
over a 4-h postexercise recovery period (20). However, im-
mediate postexercise carbohydrate ingestion does not con-
fer any advantage toward net glycogen synthesis over longer
periods of recovery as immediate and delayed (i.e., 2 h) in-
gestion of carbohydrate result in equivalent muscle glyco-
gen concentrations 8 h after recovery (32). Therefore,
athletes who must maximize glycogen resynthesis for a
subsequent exercise bout less than 8 h should target a nu-
tritional strategy that initiates carbohydrate intake as
quickly as possible after exercise.
The rate of carbohydrate ingestion is also an important
determinant of how rapidly muscle glycogen is resynthesized.
Although few studies have directly assessed the relative dose-
response of carbohydrate ingestion on glycogen resynthesis, a
comprehensive review by Jentjens and Jeukendrup (21)
compared the rate of glycogen resynthesis relative to the
carbohydrate intake across multiple studies. These authors
(21) concluded that the maximal rate of glycogen resynthesis
(approximately 0.3 gImin
j1
) during the early acute recovery
period (i.e., up to 8 h after exercise) appeared to occur with a
relative carbohydrate intake of 1.0 to 1.2 gIkg
j1
Ih
j1
(Fig. 1).
There was some evidence that protocols employing a feeding
pattern of small carbohydrate boluses every 15 to 60 min
elicited greater rates of glycogen synthesis than those with
intervals at approximately 2 h (e.g., (20,46)). However, it
was concluded that the limited research directly comparing
feeding patterns on maximal rates of glycogen resynthesis
precluded the recommendation toward an optimal ingestion
pattern, provided that target carbohydrate intake levels are
reached (21).
Dietary protein has no appreciable role in gluconeogenesis
(18) and therefore when ingested alone would not serve as a
substrate for glycogen resynthesis during recovery from high-
intensity endurance-type exercise. However, as summarized
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by Betts and Williams (5), the addition of protein to a car-
bohydrate beverage can increase rates of glycogen resynthesis
when carbohydrate intake is below optimal levels (i.e., G1
gIkg
j1
Ih
j1
) (Fig. 1). This enhanced glycogen resynthesis has
generally been attributed to the insulinogenic effect of pro-
tein and certain amino acids (e.g., leucine and phenylala-
nine), which helps drive glucose into the muscle when
carbohydrate intake rates are submaximal (46). Although
athletes can practically augment rates of muscle glycogen by
consuming a protein/carbohydrate blend, the effect of this
nutritional approach on subsequent exercise performance,
especially with submaximal rates of glycogen resynthesis
through suboptimal rates of carbohydrate delivery, is equiv-
ocal (27). Nevertheless, given the additional benefits of con-
suming protein immediately after exercise to support the
repair and remodeling of skeletal muscle (see below), en-
durance athletes should consider including this macronutri-
ent in their recovery nutrition.
Carbohydrate for Long-Term Recovery (8 to 24 h)
The nutritional strategies outlined previously (e.g., car-
bohydrate timing and pattern) that are employed to maxi-
mize muscle glycogen resynthesis during short-term (i.e.,
G8 h) recovery are generally not as important when longer
periods of recovery are possible between successive exercise
bouts. For example, the timing of carbohydrate intake rel-
ative to exercise (i.e., immediate vs delayed by 2 h) has little
bearing on the rate of glycogen resynthesis over 8 and 24 h
of postexercise recovery (32). Moreover, consuming a
carbohydrate-rich diet (i.e., approximately 12 gIkg
j1
Id
j1
)
as two large meals as compared with seven smaller meals
results in similar net muscle glycogen synthesis over 24 h
(14). Given that muscle glycogen gradually declines over
3 d of successive high-volume exercise (i.e., approximately
16-km runs) despite consuming a moderately high-
carbohydrate diet (estimated from average energy intake,
percent carbohydrate, and average body weight at approx-
imately 5 to 7 gIkg
j1
Id
j1
) (13), it is generally accepted that
consuming adequate daily carbohydrate (independent of its
pattern and/or timing) is the most important nutritional
strategy to maximize muscle glycogen resynthesis with pro-
longed (i.e., 98 h) postexercise recovery (10,21). Therefore,
athletes aiming to maximize glycogen resynthesis and en-
dogenous carbohydrate stores are recommended to consume
carbohydrate relative to their body weight (and not as a
percentage of total energy) and training load (10), which in
the case of the previous study with suboptimal glycogen re-
pletion over 3 d of high-volume training (13) may have been
as high as 10 gIkg
j1
Id
j1
. Additional guidelines are briefly
summarized in the Table but can be consulted in their en-
tirety in the International Olympic Committee Consensus
Conference on Nutrition for Sport review (10).
Protein
Amino acids represent a relatively minor energy substrate
during normal exercise (approximately 2% to 5% of total
adenosine triphosphate production), but their absolute ox-
idation can be increased several-fold with the increased
energy demands of endurance-type exercise; this oxidation
represents a net loss of amino acids from the free pool
within muscle. In addition, endurance exercise is a major
stimulus to remodel skeletal muscle, which results in the
breaking down of old and/or damaged muscle proteins
(muscle protein breakdown (MPB)) and the (re)building of
new ones (muscle protein synthesis (MPS)) in their place.
This enhanced protein ‘‘turnover’’ functions to remodel the
major muscle protein fractions such as the energy-
producing mitochondria and the force-generating myofi-
brillar proteins (16,48) and is primarily regulated by
changes in MPS (8). Ultimately, this increased oxidation of
amino acids and extensive remodeling of body and muscle
proteins translate into a greater daily protein requirement
(i.e., 1.2 to 1.7 gIkg
j1
Id
j1
) for individuals engaged in
chronic endurance exercise (i.e., training) than the general
population (44). Provided that energy intake meets the in-
creased energy demands of this active population, endurance
athletes generally meet their minimum protein requirements
(44). However, contemporary research is revealing that it is
not just ‘‘how much’’ protein an active individual consumes
during the day but more importantly ‘‘when’’ and in ‘‘what
pattern’’ they consume it in that is important to maximize
MPS during recovery from exercise and, potentially, training-
induced muscle remodeling (as discussed in the following
section). While much of the research to date has centered on
protein after resistance exercise, these nutritional tenets of
maximizing MPS are arguably transferable to endurance-
exercise modalities as well (28).
Short-Term Recovery (G8h)
The most important nutritional factor for enhancing
postexercise MPS is the ingestion of dietary protein (24)
(Fig. 2), which provides the requisite amino acid building
blocks for repairing, remodeling, and/or building new
muscle. For example, carbohydrate ingestion alone has no
effect on MPS (24) and does not augment the dietary amino
Figure 1: Schematic representation of the independent and
combined effects of the rate of carbohydrate and/or protein inges-
tion on the relative rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis over short-
term (i.e., G8 h) recovery after endurance exercise. Carbohydrate is
adapted from (5), with maximal glycogen resynthesis occurring at
1.0 to 1.2 gIkg
j1
Ih
j1
. Carbohydrate/protein represents an esti-
mated 3:1 ratio of each macronutrient and is estimated to enhance
glycogen synthesis rates when suboptimal carbohydrate is
ingested, as per (5). Protein is predicted to have no effect on gly-
cogen resynthesis given that dietary protein is not a major source of
gluconeogenic substrates (18). CHO, carbohydrate; PRO, protein.
296 Volume 14 &Number 4 &July/August 2015 Carbohydrate and Protein for Enduran ce Athletes
Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
acid-induced stimulation of MPS after exercise (23,41).
While carbohydrate (and primarily the associated insulin
response) can suppress MPB after exercise, this effect is
observed with as little as a 30-g bolus of the macronutrient
and has a relatively minor role (as compared with amino
acid-induced stimulation of MPS) in determining the net
muscle protein balance (i.e., the algebraic difference be-
tween MPS and MPB) during recovery from exercise (19).
Therefore, endurance athletes who prioritize carbohydrate
intake for enhanced rates of glycogen resynthesis will un-
doubtedly elicit an insulin response that is sufficient to
maximally attenuated MPB.
Previous studies have demonstrated that a single 20-g
bolus of high quality protein (i.e., egg or whey) is sufficient
to maximize MPS after resistance exercise with greater
protein amounts, resulting in increased amino acid oxida-
tion (i.e., the utilization of dietary amino acids as a source of
fuel) (30,49). While no similar dose-response studies exist
after endurance exercise, it has been shown that 16 g of milk
protein (25) and 20 g of whey protein (7) augment
postexercise rates of MPS after aerobic-based exercise.
Therefore, it is likely that a similar ingested dose should be
targeted for endurance athletes aiming to enhance MPS af-
ter exercise. From a more personalized approach, the ab-
solute 20-g dose utilized in previous studies (30,49) would
be equivalent to approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
(based on av-
erage study body weights) of high-quality protein (see the
following section for additional discussion and Fig. 2),
which is a similar relative protein dose that has recently
been reported to maximize MPS at rest in young adults (29).
The timing of the protein ingestion also may be an impor-
tant factor to initiate the recovery process after a bout of
endurance exercise. Consuming a source of protein immedi-
ately after endurance exercise is critical to enhance MPS, as
delaying this ingestion by as little as 3 h has been shown to
markedly attenuate the anabolic effects of the dietary amino
Figure 2: Schematic representation of the independent and
combined effects of a single meal ingestion of carbohydrate and/or
protein on MPS after endurance exercise. Carbohydrate would be
predicted to generally have no effect on MPS after exercise (23,41).
Protein would induce a dose-dependent stimulation of MPS up to a
plateau of 20 g or 0.25 to 0.3 gIkg
j1
(29,30). Carbohydrate/protein
represents a 3:1 ratio of each macronutrient and would be esti-
mated to induce a linear dose-response up to 0.7 gIkg
j1
(or the
equivalent of approximately 0.23 g proteinIkg
j1
). CHO, carbohy-
drate; PRO, protein.
Table.
General carbohydrate and protein guidelines for glycogen resynthesis and muscle protein remodeling for endurance athletes.
Recovery Period
Glycogen Resynthesis Muscle Protein Remodeling
a
CHO
b
Protein
c
CHO Protein
G8 h Immediate postexercise
ingestion
When CHO
G1.2 gIkg
j1
Ih
j1
Approximately
30 g per meal
(suppress MPB)
Immediate postexercise ingestion
1.2 gIkg
j1
Ih
j1
20 g per meal (approximately
0.25 to 0.3 gIkg
j1
)
High glycemic index Meal every 3 to 4 h
Multiple CHO sources Leucine enriched
Rapid digestion
8 to 24 h Moderate training,
5to7gIkg
j1
Id
j1
N/A N/A 20 g per meal (approximately
0.25 to 0.3 gIkg
j1
)
High training,
6to10gIkg
j1
Id
j1
Meal every 3 to 4 h
Very high training,
10 to 12 gIkg
j1
Id
j1
Pre-bedtime ingestion
1.2 to 1.7 gIkg
j1
Id
j1
a
Muscle protein remodeling: protein intake stimulates the prime-regulated variable of MPS, whereas carbohydrate has a mild suppressive effect
on MPB.
b
Carbohydrate intake over 8- to 24-h recovery adapted from Burke et al. (10) and represents daily targets: moderate training, approximately
1hId
j1
; high training, 1 to 3 hId
j1
; very high training, 4 to 5 hId
j1
. Carbohydrate guidelines are generally related to exercises that rely primarily on
carbohydrate as a fuel, such as repeated high-intensity interval exercise and/or constant workload at Q65% maximal aerobic capacity.
c
Protein coingestion may be as low as approximately 20 g (10).
CHO, carbohydrate; N/A, not a major consideration.
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acids (24). This enhanced MPS would be consistent with a
greater remodeling and/or repair of skeletal muscle and
subsequently maximizing this process as quickly as possible
after a bout of exercise would intuitively facilitate a more
rapid recovery for the endurance athlete. A recent systematic
review suggests that postexercise protein intake has little ef-
fect on exercise performance in a subsequent single bout up
to 24 h after the first (27), which may suggest that the acute
enhancement of MPS does not directly enhance acute re-
covery. However, additional research is required to elucidate
the potential benefits of postexercise protein ingestion on
adaptations to endurance-training (i.e., recovery from mul-
tiple exercise bouts), as a subsequent systematic review from
the same group suggested that protein supplementation,
which would presumably stimulate MPS during recovery,
may enhance aerobic/anaerobic power adaptations in ath-
letes (34). Nevertheless, in the absence of any ostensible
ergolytic effects, the postexercise ingestion of dietary protein
to augment rates of MPS (7,24,25), should be viewed as an
important nutritional strategy for the endurance athlete to
support muscle remodeling and recovery.
Dietary proteins are not all created equal and can differ in
both their amino acid composition and digestion rate (i.e.,
how quickly their constituent amino acids appear within the
circulation). For example, despite all being similarly high-
quality proteins according to the protein digestibility
corrected amino acid score (1.0), whey protein generally
elicits a more robust stimulation of MPS than both soy and
micellar casein at rest and after resistance exercise (43). The
greater anabolic effect of whey protein is generally attrib-
uted to its naturally high leucine content (an essential amino
acid that is an important initiator of MPS (17) and its rapid
digestion (47), which has led to the suggestion that a
postexercise protein source should carry these attributes to
maximize MPS (35). However, vegetable-based proteins
(43), protein blends (37), and whole foods (12) also can be
sufficiently high-quality protein sources that induce a
postexercise amino acid profile that would likely support
enhanced rates of MPS after exercise. It may be worth
noting that a potentially slightly greater protein intake may
be required to achieve a similar postexercise MPS response
given the relatively lower leucine content of these protein
sources (37). Therefore, in light of the previously deter-
mined ingested protein dose-response with high-quality egg
or whey protein, athletes who prefer alternative protein
sources may wish to consider a slightly greater (e.g., ap-
proximately 25%) intake to enhance their anabolic effects.
Long-Term Recovery (8 to 24 h)
A single bout of high-intensity endurance exercise has
been reported to increase the remodeling of skeletal muscle
for up to 24 h, as evidenced by the stimulation of force-
generating myofibrillar and mitochondrial protein synthesis
during this prolonged recovery period (16). As such, maxi-
mizing MPS during this period with proper nutrition could
be viewed as a key strategy to support optimal recovery and
skeletal muscle remodeling for the endurance athlete. It has
recently been demonstrated that the daytime pattern, and
not just the absolute amount, of protein intake can influence
the elevation of MPS after an acute bout of resistance exer-
cise. For example, the repeated ingestion of 20 g of protein
every 3 h (i.e., 80 g in total) was shown to support greater
rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis over 12 h after resis-
tance exercise as an identical amount ingested as either eight
feedings of 10 g every 1.5 h or two feedings of 40 g every 6 h
(1). Therefore, given that dietary protein acutely augments
postexercise rates of MPS after a bout of endurance exercise
(7,24), athletes aiming to optimize their recovery with this
training modality would likely also benefit from the inges-
tion of 20 g (or approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
, see previous
section) protein every 3 to 4 h to sustain maximal rates of
MPS. This meal feeding frequency (i.e., four to six meals per
day) would be consistent with current practice in elite ath-
letes (11) and also could represent a strategy to help achieve
their relatively high target daily carbohydrate intake levels
(see previous section and Table).
Aside from optimal feeding strategies during daytime
waking hours, it has been demonstrated that the postexercise
increase in MPS with dietary protein ingestion does not ex-
tend into the overnight recovery period (3). This is likely due
to a lack of circulating plasma amino acids, which generally
return to fasted levels within approximately 3 to 4 h after
protein-containing meal consumption (12), to support max-
imal rates of MPS. However, it has recently been demon-
strated that pre-bedtime protein ingestion represents a
practical means to sustain circulating amino acids and sup-
port MPS during an 8-h sleep period after a bout of resistance
exercise (38) and to enhance training-induced increases in
muscle mass and strength (39). Therefore, as proper sleep is
vital to support overall health and optimal recovery in ath-
letes, pre-bedtime protein ingestion represents an additional
feeding opportunity during the recovery from endurance ex-
ercise to support enhanced rates of skeletal muscle remodeling.
Practical Recommendations
As outlined previously, endurance athletes have unique
nutritional requirements for both carbohydrate and protein
during recovery to facilitate the restoration of endogenous
fuel stores (i.e., glycogen) and to support the repair and re-
modeling of skeletal muscle, respectively. Generally, distinct
recommendations are made for either glycogen resynthesis
(e.g., (10)) or muscle remodeling independently (e.g., (35)).
However there are arguably complementary features of car-
bohydrate and protein replacement strategies that can be
leveraged toward a more holistic nutritional strategy for ef-
fective postexercise recovery (Fig. 1). The purpose of the
following section will be to provide a brief guide for some
practical strategies to enhance overall muscle recovery after
endurance exercise.
Athletes who have limited time between exercise bouts
(e.g., G8 h) and who are aiming to perform at their highest
level in each bout of exercise should consume protein and
CHO immediately after the first bout of exercise to initiate
the recovery process (20,24). The restoration of muscle gly-
cogen would be the relatively more important variable to
maintain exercise performance or training quality in the
subsequent exercise bout, although supporting skeletal mus-
cle remodeling (i.e., MPS) during this early recovery window
should be an important aspect of a multifaceted nutritional
recovery strategy, especially in the context of a longer-term
training program (33,34). As such, athletes should target
approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
of high-quality protein (e.g.,
298 Volume 14 &Number 4 &July/August 2015 Carbohydrate and Protein for Enduran ce Athletes
Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
leucine-enriched, rapidly digested sources such as whey) to
stimulate MPS combined with at least 0.75 gIkg
j1
of car-
bohydrate, the latter of which will enhance glycogen
resynthesis and would far exceed the minimum dose that is
sufficient to suppress MPB (19). Athletes who can consume
greater carbohydrate will ensure glycogen synthetic rates are
maximized; however, if this high intake is not practical or
feasible, then protein coingestion will augment glycogen
synthesis below maximal carbohydrate ingestion rates of 1.0
to 1.2 gIkg
j1
Ih
j1
. It may be most practical to consume sports
nutrition products (e.g., recovery drinks, bars, gels, etc.) dur-
ing this first postexercise meal, as they are generally conve-
nient sources of multiple simple carbohydrates (e.g., glucose,
fructose, sucrose), which would provide ready substrates to
replenish both liver (e.g., fructose) (15) and muscle (e.g., glu-
cose) (21) glycogen. Additionally, nutrition in beverage form
would not only help with postexercise fluid replacement but
also enhance the rate of amino acid appearance (12), which
would help facilitate greater rates of MPS (47). Outside this
immediate postexercise recovery window, athletes should aim
to consume carbohydrate-rich foods at a similar rate as above
at least every 2 h (as practically possible) with the coingestion
of approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
of dietary protein; this target
protein intake may need to be increased slightly to maximize
MPSiflowerqualityproteins(e.g., plant based and/or blends
thereof) are ingested (37,43). While currently lacking direct
empirical evidence to support its efficacy over short-term re-
covery, adhering to these guidelines to maximize glycogen
resynthesis and support MPS (in addition to other aspects of
recovery such as rehydration) would ultimately position an
athlete in the best possible condition to maintain and/or en-
hance their exercise capacity and performance within an ab-
breviated recovery window.
Athletes who have the luxury of a longer intersession re-
covery window (i.e.,8to24h)maynotneedtobeasag-
gressive with their muscle glycogen recovery strategy, as
timing and pattern of carbohydrate intake have little impact
on the restoration of this endogenous energy store beyond
the early (i.e., 8 h) recovery period (14,32). Nevertheless,
consuming a source of carbohydrate immediately after exer-
cise could be considered a universal tenet regardless of the
available window of recovery, as this would help initiate
muscle glycogen resynthesis early in recovery. Moreover, this
early recovery nutrition, which as discussed could be practi-
cally supported by convenient sports nutrition products (al-
though this is not a requirement with a longer recovery
window), should contain approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
of pro-
tein to support skeletal muscle repair and/or remodeling
through enhanced rates of MPS. After this initial feeding, ath-
letes should consume adequate carbohydrate intake through
natural, carbohydrate-rich food sources to support their ha-
bitual training loads (Table). Frequent meal feedings (i.e.,
5 to 6 meals over a 12- to 15-h wake period) would be similar
to that of many elite athletes (11) and represent a practical,
convenient means to meet their high daily carbohydrate and
elicit an insulin response that would sufficiently attenuate
any exercise-induced increase in MPB (19). More impor-
tantly, each of these meals should contain adequate protein
(approximately 0.25 gIkg
j1
depending on protein quality, see
previous section) including a pre-bedtime snack to sustain
maximal rates of daily MPS (1,38) and to obtain their in-
creased daily protein requirements (i.e.,1.2to1.7gIkg
j1
Id
j1
).
Additionally, it could be argued that this meal frequency and
protein intake pattern that is aimed at maximizing MPS (and
presumably muscle repair) may be most critical after particu-
larly intense training bouts (e.g., supramaximal training, long
duration, and/or with large muscle-lengthening component,
such as downhill running), as muscle damage reduces endur-
ance exercise performance (26) and has been reported to in-
terfere with the ability to replenish glycogen stores during
long-duration recovery (50). Therefore, athletes who practice
these nutritional strategies over a more prolonged recovery
period would ultimately maximize their chances of main-
taining exercise performance in subsequent exercise bouts. In
the context of a high-intensity training program that stimu-
lates significant aerobic adaptations (9) that are ultimately
underpinned by changes in MPS (28), nutrition to support
optimal recovery to sustain a high work output during
repeated exercise bouts may ultimately enhance training-
induced adaptations. This optimized training nutrition rep-
resents a potentially fruitful area of future study for the
endurance athlete.
Conclusions
The resynthesis of muscle glycogen and the repair and/or
remodeling of muscle protein are highly influenced by the nu-
tritional environment and are of paramount importance for
optimal postexercise recovery after endurance exercise. As
such, a multidimensional nutritional strategy targeting the
combined ingestion of dietary carbohydrates and protein
(rather than either one alone) will be most effective in achiev-
ing these recovery goals. Ultimately, the athlete who optimizes
postexercise nutrition after an acute bout of exercise will be
best positioned to maintain or enhance performance during a
subsequent bout and/or to adapt, over time, to the repeated
stress of multiple exercise bouts (i.e., training).
The author declares no conflict of interest and does not have any fi-
nancial disclosures.
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300 Volume 14 &Number 4 &July/August 2015 Carbohydrate and Protein for Enduran ce Athletes
Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Sports Medicine. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
... Healthy diet habits are also vital to restore energy. According to Moore (2015), carbohydrates and protein are essential macronutrients to provide substrates to enhance glycogen resynthesis and repair the skeletal muscle (Moore 2015). ...
... Healthy diet habits are also vital to restore energy. According to Moore (2015), carbohydrates and protein are essential macronutrients to provide substrates to enhance glycogen resynthesis and repair the skeletal muscle (Moore 2015). ...
... Healthy diet provide the substrates to enhance glycogen resynthesis, remodel skeletal muscle (Moore 2015) and increase functional capacity (Alghannam et al. 2018). ...
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Objective: This systematic review aims to analyse physical fatigue and the main causes. Background: Fatigue results from physical and psychological overload, mainly due to daily stress and lack of time to recover energy. Method: The review was performed according to the Prisma Statement. It was accessed Scopus, Web of Science, Science Direct, Pubmed. 26 keywords were screened using Boolean operators. The first articles' selection was made by abstract analysis. Articles that considered interventions in healthy human beings were included. Results: Studies have concluded that a great cause of fatigue is sleep deprivation, and it was observed that shift workers have commonly felt excessive tiredness. The assumption is that shift work disrupts circadian rhythm and impairs sleep quality. Conclusion: Bad sleeping quality can increase the possibility of physical fatigue. The risk can be minimised with well-planned strategies. Application: The review article raises awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and precautions in carrying out activities.
... These inconsistencies could be related to environmental and race conditions [5], as well as nutrition and intrinsic factors, such as fitness level and training background [2,3,9]. Therefore, several studies and reviews have indicated the importance of nutrition, especially carbohydrates and fluids intake, on race performance, body composition and muscle damage related blood indices, either during the tapering period [eg the period (less than 15 days) prior to the competition which is characterized by a reduction of training workload and maintenance or increase of training intensity, in order to allow the optimal/peak athlete's performance in a certain sports event] or during the race [10][11][12][13][14]. However, the majority of the studies in this field focus mainly on carbohydrate intake and its effect on endurance performance, in young runners. ...
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... Several time points after the race (0-72 hours post) could provide a better overview of the race induced changes in body composition and blood markers and the impact of nutrition on them. In addition, 3) the present study could not directly estimate whether race duration can Protein intake in master runners 13 lead to body composition and blood markers changes or vice versa. Finally, the reduction of LBM may be also a result of fluid loss. ...
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... The daily protein intake goals should be met with a meal plan that provides a regular distribution of moderate amounts of high-quality protein throughout the day and after strenuous training sessions. These recommendations cover most training regimens and allow for flexible adjustments with periodic training and experience (33). Regarding the total protein intake of the participants, consumption of animal protein (78%) was almost four times higher than that of plant-based proteins such as legumes. ...
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... Carbohydrates are the primary energetic substrate for physical exercise and determine athletes' performance during moderate to high endurance sports [7][8][9]. Although muscle glycogen stores do not completely recover after a few hours of an exercise session, it is important that athletes follow nutritional recommendations to maximize their glycogen synthesis rate, focusing on the early phase of recovery (0-4 h) because of the slightly higher synthesis rates during this period [10]. ...
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