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Nutrition for Recovery


Fatigue is an important consideration for athletes, and anyone who engages in regular physical activity is susceptible to fatigue, particularly if you have stepped it up a notch with training (as many people do coming into the summer months). Whilst protein has gained a reputation for its role in recovery and repair there are other factors that must be considered:

  • Anyone presenting with prolonged and/or unexplained fatigue should always check in with their GP and blood tests such as Iron and vitamin D can be useful. You should always bring relevant blood tests to your Dietitian appointment as they can often be imperative to making a diagnosis and finding a solution.
  • You should always increase your training in increments, as your body needs adequate time to adapt to a new training load.
  • Often people who increase their training load in an effort to decrease weight will also restrict their diet, are you getting enough micronutrients (i.e. Vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc and iron) to assist with your new training load?
  • Are you using stimulants in your training routine? Stimulants often contain excessive amounts of caffeine which can contribute to fatigue through disrupting sleeping patterns.
  • Are your Iron stores adequate? A common condition to occur within athletes, particularly female athletes, is iron deficiency. This is likely a result of increased needs and/or inadequate energy intake (with puts intake of all other nutrients at risk). It’s also important to note that blood tests aren’t always a good indication of Iron stores, thus may mask iron deficiency.
  • Are you hydrating adequately? You should always aim to lose no more than 2% body weight in fluid loss, and aim to replenish losses within the 4 – 6 hours after exercise.
  • Are you eating adequate carbohydrates? Excessive exercise without sufficient fuel can cause the body to become hypoglycaemic.
    Our bodies only store a certain amount of glucose (glycogen) which will become depleted if stores are not replenished. This can contribute to experiencing post exercise. 
  • Are you taking time out for rest and recovery and getting enough sleep? I know this one sounds obvious, but it’s quite easy to forget and obviously has implications in your energy levels.

Considerations in recovery nutrition: should I have a shake or take a whole food approach?

Commercially bought post-workout shakes may include protein and carbohydrates or just protein. Whilst protein shakes are often touted as an imperative ingredient to any athlete’s or fitness fanatic’s routine, this is not necessarily true. However, they can be convenient in certain situations, such as when you won’t be getting a protein serve in immediately after a work-out or simply like the taste and they motivate you in your exercise efforts.

Whether your goals are weight loss, muscle building, refuelling for an event and/or optimising recovery it is well known that what you eat around, before and after your workout has important implications in meeting your goals. Whilst your nutrition should be individual to your specific goals, preferences and lifestyle, there are some important considerations to think about when it comes to your post workout/event nutrition.

Protein is not the only consideration: Whilst protein is absolutely an important consideration in assisting your muscles to repair and recover, you also need fuel to facilitate this process (and for your next event/workout). To replenish glycogen stores it is recommended that 1.0 – 1.5 g/kg BM of carbohydrates be consumed post exercise. In addition, recent evidence has found that the consumption of carbohydrate post workout (with or without protein) can have a beneficial effect on immunity.

Whole foods may meet your requirements better: Whole foods provide more than just protein and/or carbohydrates, for example you may be able to consume essential vitamins and minerals IN ADDITION TO meeting your protein and/or carbohydrate requirements.

If you are having lunch/breakfast after your workout (within 1-2 hours) then you probably don’t need to take a shake: If you are going to be consuming a protein rich meal i.e. eggs, chicken, yoghurt etc. after a workout, then having a shake won’t be necessary, you’ll just increasing your energy intake.



Pros and Cons to using a post workout shake



Convenient, quick and easy



May not provide all the essential nutrients

Do not need refrigeration

May not be necessary

Can tie you over until consuming real food (i.e. > 1 hour)

Other protein sources may be better to help you feel full if weight loss is a goal

Easy to get down

Can displace the consumption of real foods  and may make you over consume energy and/or protein


Rebekah Alcock
Accredited Practicing Dietitian
Recover Sports Medicine 


If you wish to make an appointment with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian at Recover Sports Medicine, please give us a call on 1300 858 774 or email contact@recoversportsmed.com.au

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