We all spend hours on our bikes training in order to improve our performance. Whether you are training for your first ultra-marathon, a personal best in a specific race, or, dare we say it, a KOM on Strava, failure to pay attention to your post-exercise nutrition can negatively affect your adaptation to training. There is no point putting in all the effort into your training if you are not doing everything possible to maximise your recovery and adaptation. Post-exercise nutrition should be aimed at replacing your body’s fuel stores used during the training session or race as well as provide all the nutrients required to repair any muscle damage sustained during the session. In this article, we will provide you with some nutritional guidelines on how to improve your recovery. – By Adrian Penzhorn and Benoit Capostagno

DIY recovery copy



Carbohydrate is responsible for providing the majority of fuel during sustained moderate to intense exercise. Stored in skeletal muscle as glycogen, carbohydrate stores are usually replenished within 24 hours if sufficient carbohydrate is included in one’s diet. However, if you are training or competing on successive days, it may be necessary to replenish your glycogen stores faster, and post-exercise nutrition becomes increasingly important. Failure to replenish your muscle glycogen stores could result in early onset of fatigue, especially during multi-stage events. The amount of carbohydrate you consume post-exercise is the single most important determinant to how quickly your muscle glycogen stores are replenished. Recent research has shown that including protein in your recovery meal or snack can increase muscle glycogen storage rates.

Apart from the amount of carbohydrate you consume, the timing and frequency with which you consume carbohydrates can influence muscle glycogen synthesis rates. Regular consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods during the first few hours of recovery appears to increase muscle glycogen replenishment. In addition, delaying your post-exercise recovery meal can reduce your muscle glycogen synthesis by up to 45 %. Therefore, it is important to have your recovery meal or snack as soon as possible after your training session. Research suggests that a carbohydrate intake of 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight per hour (1.2 g.kg-1.hr-1) consumed in regular intervals of 15–30 minutes, maximises muscle glycogen synthesis. For limited recovery time such as multiple daily training sessions or stage races, look to repeat this carbohydrate intake every 2 hours.


The benefits of including protein or amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in your recovery meal or snack are twofold. Post-exercise consumption of protein is recommended, because it assists in stimulating protein synthesis and repair to damaged muscles. In addition, ingesting protein or amino acids with carbohydrates may result in an increase in muscle glycogen synthesis rates if the carbohydrate consumed is less than 1.0 g.kg-1.hr-1. The added protein results in an increase in insulin secretion, which in turn stimulates glucose uptake by the skeletal muscles and glycogen synthesis. Many of the recovery supplements available today, will contain both protein and carbohydrate in their mixtures. We recommend that you read the labels closely to check on the nutrient content.

Protein ingestion following exercise will assist in ensuring a positive muscle protein balance, which is required to allow adaptive responses to occur. Failure to maintain a positive muscle protein balance could negatively affect recovery and lead to further skeletal muscle breakdown. Carbohydrate consumption alone may assist in slowing or preventing muscle-protein breakdown following exercise, but it does not stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Including protein or amino acids (particularly leucine) in your recovery meal or snack will increase muscle protein-synthesis rates after exercise. Milk proteins, whey and casein, have been shown to be great sources of protein for promoting muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein is absorbed at a faster rate than casein and results in greater post-exercise protein synthesis. Your optimal dose of protein, independent of body size, is around 20 g immediately after exercise. Consuming higher quantities of protein than this will not improve your recovery. The most important amino acid for muscle anabolism and recovery is leucine, which when provided in sufficient quantities (± 5 g), can exert a similar effect to 25 g of total protein. Current recommendations are to include leucine rich protein sources as part of your recovery meal or snack. Protein sources that are high in leucine include animal products such as milk, cheese, egg whites, red meat and fish. Plant sources of protein are generally not the preferred option, but if you are a vegetarian, pea or soy protein (isolates) will be the best options.


Whole food sources of both carbohydrate and protein are the preferred methods of refuelling and recovery. However, glycogen replenishment is not necessarily affected by the type of carbohydrate consumed, provided enough carbohydrate is consumed. Commonly preferred methods of glycogen replenishment include more refined or readily absorbable forms of carbohydrate consumed immediately after exercise and healthier, less refined options after the initial recovery period of 30-45 minutes.

As an example, an 80kg rider will look to consume 20g of protein along with 95g of carbohydrate within the first hour after exercise.

Here are a few examples that will achieve this:

  • tuna ( ½ tin) sandwich with 400 ml red grape juice
  • DIY Recovery Drink (see recipe) with 1 cup fruit salad
  • 2 cups breakfast cereal, 1 cup of milk and 175 ml yoghurt
  • 8 Banana and almond crumpeggs (see recipe) with 100 ml orange juice

DIY Recovery Drink

DIY recovery

Convenient, nutrient dense and easy.

Ingredients for 550 ml:

  • 60 g vitamin D enriched skimmed milk powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 500 ml water

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or in a blender.

Banana and almond crumpeggs


A cross between crumpets and omelettes that is packed with energy and delicious.

Ingredients for 8:

  • 2 bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 100 ml egg whites
  • ¼ cup ground almonds
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 60 g blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Mix the bananas, egg whites, vanilla essence and ground almonds into a batter in a mixing bowl. Heat a pan over medium heat and grease with Spray and Cook. Pour your batter into the pan in 6-8cm rounds and let cook until bubbles appear (3-4 minutes). Flip and finish off for another minute or two. Serve hot covered with blueberries and honey.

These and other great recipes can be found at www.foodforsport.co.za

Benoit Caspostagno is a sports scientist based at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. He is currently completing his PhD, which focuses on monitoring training loads and fatigue. Ben coaches athletes from various endurance and explosive sports disciplines.


TREAD Magazine is sold throughout South Africa and can be found in: Spar, CNA, Exclusive Books, Discerning bike shops and on Zinio

*Originally published in TREAD Issue 27, 2014 – All rights reserved


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