Diet for post-exercise recovery
How to improve muscle recovery and prevent sport injuries through dieting

By: Gabriela Llerena

After a workout or competition, the athlete enters a recovery phase to regain lost fuel and repair muscle damage. An adequate diet promotes the recovery of muscle glycogen, the regeneration of muscle proteins, reduces fatigue, and helps to preserve the health of the immune system. By eating properly, the athlete will be in optimal condition for their next training session or competition (1).

During physical exercise, a certain level of free radicals and therefore inflammation is produced. A certain degree of inflammation is normal and is necessary for various processes in the body including recovery from injuries and adaptations to exercise (for example, increasing muscle mass). The problem lies when the level of inflammation is excessive and chronic, caused by a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, an excess of fat mass, a diet dense in energy and low in nutrients, a delay in post-exercise recovery, or overtraining. Chronic inflammation can produce a state known as oxidative stress, an imbalance between the number of free radicals and other reactive oxygen species (ROS) and both endogenous (produced by the body) and exogenous (those that we get from the diet). Oxidative stress can increase the risk of suffering injuries and chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, among others (1, 2 and 3).

For optimal post-exercise recovery and reduction of excessive inflammation, a diet in which nutrient-dense foods predominate and provide sufficient energy. Studies suggest paying special attention to the following nutrients (1):

An optimal protein intake is a fundamental aspect for post-exercise recovery since it is necessary for the stimulation of the synthesis of amino acids that make up the contractile proteins and of the mitochondrial proteins that participate in the production of energy. It is suggested that the distribution of protein intake be distributed throughout the day in doses of approximately 0.25-0.4g / kg in 4 to 5 meals (1). Although the consumption of foods such as fish, lean meats, and legumes is recommended, a practical way to consume protein is through supplements. AWÁ Nutrition High Performance is an excellent option to be consumed post-workout.


One of the fundamental pillars for post-exercise recovery is the replacement of muscle glycogen. During the following 2 hours, the muscle has greater glucose uptake to replace glycogen. It is recommended that athletes consume about 1.0-1.2g / kg of carbohydrates. Post-exercise, the consumption of foods with a moderate to high glycemic index such as brown rice, potatoes, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, watermelon, banana, etc. is recommended. (1). 

Carbohydrates are essential for the supply of sufficient energy to help maintain the health of the athlete's immune system, for the repair of muscle tissue, and for the prevention of overtraining (1 and 3).


After intense efforts, it is recommended that liquids contain sodium (20-50mmol / Lt) and carbohydrates (6-12%). In this way, electrolytes are replenished, fluid retention is promoted, and sufficient fluids are encouraged to be ingested. It is recommended to consume between 1 to 1.5lt / kg lost during exercise (1).


Some studies suggest that omega 3 aids muscle remodeling as it is easily incorporated into muscle cell membranes. In addition, it has an antioxidant and immunomodulatory effect. It may also help reduce the sensation of muscle pain after exercising. However, it is suggested that consumption be preferably from food sources, especially cold-water fish such as albacore, sardines, trout, tuna and salmon. Supplementation is recommended only when inflammation is excessive, since, due to its anti-inflammatory effect, it could stop muscle adaptations to exercise (1 and 3).


Antioxidants help reduce excessive inflammation that increases the risk of injuries, fractures, and reduced muscle mass. However, it is recommended not to consume supplements as they can stop the signals that help muscle remodeling and adaptation (1 and 3).

To ensure an adequate intake of antioxidants, one should ensure a diet rich in:

- Fruits, especially berries

- Vegetables of strong colors (especially those of dark green color)

- Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, lupins, beans, etc.)

- Whole grains (corn, oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats like olive oil or avocado

- Chocolate with a content of at least 70% cocoa

- Natural seasonings such as ginger, oregano, turmeric, etc.

In addition, to combat the excessive production of ROS it is recommended to reduce the consumption of foods such as:

- Margarines and products that contain partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list

- Bakery and pastry products made with margarine

- Starches (potatoes, rice, sweet potato, green, ripe) and meats that are fried or cooked on the grill or     grill

- Sunflower oil

- Sugar and products with added sugar

- Cereals (corn, wheat, etc.) stored for a long time

- Food prepared without adequate hygienic conditions


After studies in animal models, it is suggested that vitamin D is essential for the repair of muscle tissue, possibly due to the activation of satellite cells (2). Exposure to the sun without sunscreen is recommended (time depends on skin type and UV radiation index) or taking a supplement. It is also present in foods such as cold-water fish, fortified dairy products, mushrooms exposed to the sun and egg yolk.

To ensure an appropriate intake of all nutrients, it is important to have a varied, balanced, and sufficient diet. To know your requirements and before making any dietary modification, you should consult with a nutritionist.

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28702900/
2. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-revista-andaluza-medicina-del-deporte-284-articulo-estres-oxidativo-inducido-por-el-13134195
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672013/

About the author

My name is Gabriela Llerena. I was born in Quito, Ecuador. I am 28 years old. I have a degree in Human Nutrition from the USFQ, and I am getting a Master in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Sports from the European University of the Atlantic and an ISAK 1 Anthropometric Technician. I have multiple certifications in clinical, sports, vegetarian nutrition, feeding for fertility, and analysis of body composition.
I love the clinical and sports areas of nutrition and have been very fortunate to be able to work in both areas. In addition to working in my private practice, I am currently a nutritionist for a Serie A soccer team and also occasionally work as a hospital nutritionist.

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Why did I increase my vegetable protein intake?
AWÁ Nutrition Vegetable Protein: the perfect supplement for my trainings.