Recovery Nutrition for Young Athletes

3 R’s of recovery nutrition – Refuel, Repair and Rehydrate

As I mentioned in an earlier article, “Protein powders – To shake or not to shake”, I was fortunate to sit in on a nutrition session recently at the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS). The focus of the talk was on the 3 R’s of recovery nutrition – Refuel, Repair and Rehydrate for triathletes. Athletes in other sports can also follow these principles of recovery nutrition, just noting that timing for recovery is less critical for athletes not training or racing again within 24 hours.

Key VIS recommendations [1] included:
Athletes should refuel with 1-1.2g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight as soon as possible after training (within 1 hour).
Athletes should repair with 10-20g of protein as soon as possible (within 30 minutes) after training.
Athletes should rehydrate with 150% sweat loss over the 2-6 hours following exercise.
These recommendations are also highlighted in the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) recovery nutrition factsheet [2].


It is important for athletes to refuel carbohydrate stores, particularly for those in endurance or high intensity sports.
This is because carbohydrate is the major fuel source for exercise, and the major source of carbohydrate during exercise is the muscle glycogen stores.
The greater the muscle glycogen stores, the longer the exercise time to exhaustion.
If carbohydrate stores are not adequately replenished after training or racing, muscle glycogen stores can become depleted and this can lead to fatigue, poor concentration, sub-optimal performance and reduced immune function [1].

When and how much do athletes need?

The VIS recommends 1-1.2g carbohydrate per kg of body weight as soon as possible after training (within 1 hour).
Timing is particularly important if the time between training sessions is less than 8 hours. Note that timing may not be as critical for other athletes training only once a day.
Carbohydrates should be sourced from the moderate to high glycaemic index (GI).
See List 1 below for examples of snacks providing 50g of carbohydrate.

List 1 – Carbohydrate-rich recovery snacks (50g carbohydrate portions)

700-800ml sports drink
2 sports gels
500ml fruit juice or soft drink
300ml carbohydrate loader drink
2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping
2 cereal bars
1 cup thick vegetable soup + large bread roll
115g (1 large or 2 small) cake style muffins, fruit buns or scones
300g (large) baked potato with salsa filling
100g pancakes (2 stack) + 30g syrup
50g lollies (eg 4-5 snakes)
1 cup rice
1 ½ cups of jelly
3 rice cakes with honey
2 bananas
Source: VIS and AIS


It is important for athletes to repair breakdown in muscle protein from training with protein rich foods.

When and how much do athletes need?

The VIS recommends 10-20g good quality protein foods as soon as possible after training (within 1/2 hour), with continuous protein intake throughout the day.

List 2 – Foods providing approximately 20g of protein

Ham and cheese sandwich
Chobani yoghurt plus 30g almonds
500ml milk

List 3 – Foods providing approximately 10g of protein
Animal foods

40g of cooked lean beef/pork/lamb
40g skinless cooked chicken
50g of canned tuna/salmon or cooked fish
300 ml of milk/glass of Milo
200g tub of yoghurt
300ml flavoured milk
5 slices (30g) of cheese
2 eggs

Plant based foods

120g of tofu
4 slices of bread
200g of baked beans
60g of nuts
2 cups of pasta/3 cups of rice
3/4 cup cooked lentils/kidney beans
Source: AIS

List 4 – Nutritious carbohydrate-protein recovery snacks (contain 50g carbohydrate + at least 10g protein and micronutrients)

300g creamed rice
250-300ml milk shake or fruit smoothie
600ml low fat flavoured milk
1-2 sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
1 large bowl (2 cups) breakfast cereal with milk
1 large or 2 small cereal bars + 200g carton fruit-flavoured yoghurt
220g baked beans on 2 slices of toast
1 bread roll with cheese/meat filling + large banana
300g (bowl) fruit salad with 200g fruit-flavoured yoghurt
2 crumpets with thick spread peanut butter + 250ml glass of milk
300g (large) baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass of milk
Source: AIS

recovery nutrition


It is important for athletes to rehydrate after training to replenish loss from sweat.
Be aware that sweat can vary each session depending on temperature, humidity and exercise intensity.
Tips for hydration include:
Start your sessions well hydrated.
Sip fluid regularly during training.
Drink with every meal and snack.

When and how much do athletes need?

The VIS recommends for every 1kg lost, to drink an additional 1.5L over the following 2-6 hours.
Use scales before and after exercise to estimate sweat loss.

The AIS [2] notes also that fluid replacement alone will not guarantee rehydration after exercise.
There also needs to be replacement of electrolytes lost, particularly sodium either via food or fluid to provide the necessary hydration balance.
The optimal amount of sodium for rehydration balance is 50-80mmol per L which is usually more than that offered in sports drinks. Athletes are therefore advised to also consume everyday foods with sodium with their hydrating fluids post exercise.
Athletes can simultaneously meet their refueling, repair and contribute to their re-hydration goals by consuming fluids that also provide a source of carbohydrate and protein eg. flavoured milk. See “Protein powders – To shake or not to shake” for a healthy chocolate milk recipe perfect for recovery nutrition!

Hot choca

[1] “Refuel, Repair, Rehydrate…and PLAN ahead!” VIS Nutrition Department, Victorion Institute of Sport.
[2] “Recovery Nutrition” factsheet, Australian Institute of Sport Nutrition, 2009, Australian Sports Commission

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