Recovery Through Nutrition: How to Be a Better Athlete

A note from Athlinks President & Founder, Troy Busot:

I want to welcome back an old friend of Athlinks, aminoVITAL. I was introduced to this company and product almost a decade ago. In the years since, they took at break from the endurance world, but I’m thrilled to see them jumping back in with both feet!

One of my favorite workouts is 6×800, 3 min on, 3 min recovery on a treadmill. Without fail, the last rep had me grabbing for the rails. The first time I took to treadmill with aminoVITAL in my bottle I felt like a different person. Five, six … waiting for the pain to take over my legs … seven, eight. I managed another two half mile intervals.

I love this stuff. And they’re back. And they’ve got an amazing recovery giveaway worth over $1,000 including:

– aminoVITAL Rapid Recovery
– Fitbit Versa
– Beats by Dre Powerbeat Pro headphones
– Hypervolt Massage Gun + Relax Roll
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Runners, cyclists and multisport athletes all like to push their bodies to the limit. How well you recover from a workout determines how much quality training you can do, and quality training is needed to reach peak performance in a competition. The secret to those training days where you have bottomless power, your breathing is easy and pushing hard feels so effortless – the type of days that are needed to hit race day in peak form – is nailing your recovery. The one recovery practice that is key to training, performance and recovery is nutrition. While there are many accessory recovery techniques that can be used to complement your diet, if you are not getting in the right nutrition, the accessory recovery techniques will have less and, in some cases, minimal advantage.

Make sure to enter the aminoVITAL Recovery Giveaway for your chance to win everything you need to recover properly after training! (a $1,000 value).
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Post-Exercise Recovery Nutrition

For athletes training two to three times per week, following a normal daily nutrition plan with no special additions is sufficient for optimal recovery before the next training session. However, for competitive and elite athletes who are training once per day or more often, refueling for the next workout as quickly as possible is crucial. Refueling accurately and consistently after workouts will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and bolster the immune system. Athletes who optimize post-exercise nutrition will perform better in their next training session and accumulate more high quality sessions than athletes skipping post-exercise recovery fueling.

There are two post-exercise recovery-fueling windows. The first is within 30 minutes of a hard or long training session. The second is in the two to three hours post-exercise. Short easy training sessions do not require special recovery nutrition; athletes are best sticking to their daily nutrition plan with a normal whole foods meal after easy training sessions.

30 Minute Post-Exercise

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein (amino acids) are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition. Immediately upon finishing a workout, start replacing fluid and electrolyte losses with a sodium containing drink or water plus sodium containing food. You can estimate fluid losses by weighing yourself before and after training and drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every one-pound lost1.

The anabolic window is 30 to 60 minutes post-workout2. Therefore, it is recommended to consume protein within the first 30-minutes post-exercise and within 15 minutes of an intense workout. This window of opportunity is so brief that some dietitians suggest it may be more effective to consume protein before or during your workout. To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein. For a 150lb person this is about 54g of carbohydrates and about 14g of protein. Or, more simply put, some pretzels and hummus. Carbohydrates, in combination with protein, increase the production of insulin, a hormone that is necessary for optimal uptake of the amino acids from protein3.

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein can be replaced with a commercial recovery drink, such as aminoVITAL® Rapid Recovery or with real food plus water. Including antioxidants such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C and L-Glutamine can shorten recovery duration and are good additions to a recovery drink or snack. I find it helpful to mix up my aminoVITAL® Rapid Recovery before I start the workout so that I have it ready and at hand for when I finish so that I do not miss the anabolic window. If I have a longer and/or more intense workout planned, I will also use Rapid Recovery before, as well as during, the workout. Studies have shown that an individual feels thirsty at 5% dehydration, however at 2% dehydration there already is a decline in physical and mental performance. I have found that using Rapid Recovery during my workouts helps to ensure that I am maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance. Not only does it help prevent muscle cramping it also allows me to have more energy during and after a workout.

Two to Three Hours Post-Exercise

To further continue your recovery nutrition effectively, consume a meal of whole foods two to three hours post-exercise. This meal should contain a combination of carbohydrate, approximately 20g of protein and some fat. A 20g feeding of protein is ideal to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Most days during the week I do multiple workouts (e.g., one in the AM and one in the PM). These days I need to more carefully plan post-workout meals to ensure I am able to get the carbs and amino acids (protein) needed, but not feel weighed down and heavy for the second workout. This is where an electrolyte/amino acid supplement like Rapid Recovery helps me in place of a full meal. I will have a smaller meal and use the recovery drink. This approach also helps to ensure hydration and electrolyte balance that will support a quality second workout.

Protein Supplement vs Amino Acid Supplement

While conventional protein supplements can provide the amino acids you need to rebuild your muscles, they are much less efficient than amino acid supplements. That’s largely because whole proteins must be broken down via digestion before the compounds they contain can be absorbed and used; supplements containing free-form amino acids, on the other hand, are absorbed into the bloodstream almost immediately, so they take effect up to three times faster than whole protein supplements.

When selecting an amino acid supplement, the compounds you want to look for are the three branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The first of these, leucine, is responsible for triggering muscle synthesis – an important step in the post-workout recovery process. Isoleucine helps to promote energy use during exercise, and it reduces the time it takes to recover after each workout; valine supports these processes while helping to protect muscle tissue from excessive damage while active.


  • Everyone should aim to rehydrate after a workout and depending on the intensity or temperature, look for added electrolytes like those found in aminoVITAL®.
  • For those training 2-3x a week, a balanced diet with whole foods is the best approach to improving as an athlete.
  • Athletes looking to train back to back days or even multiple times a day, there are two windows you should aim to hit after workouts:
    • The 30-60-minute window: Start rehydrating and taking in carbohydrates and amino acids. This period is critical to replacing glycogen and jump-starting recovery
    • The 2-3-hour window: Get in a solid meal, preferably whole foods that can supply about 20g of protein and some fats

About the Author

My name is Renee Harrington and I am 37 years old. My primary sport is duathlon (run-bike-run multisport). I also compete in 5K and 10K road races, cycling time trials, and cyclocross. I am currently training for Duathlon Nationals in Tuscaloosa and Duathlon World Championship race in The Netherlands. My greatest athletic accomplishment is placing 4th female overall 35-39 at 2019 Duathlon World Championship race in Pontevedra, Spain. I am also a 2-time Boston Marathon Qualifier.

I currently have a M.S. in Exercise Science and Health Promotion. And, I am working toward my Ph.D. in Nutrition Science, while teaching as a health and exercise instructor at North Carolina State University. I am also a YogaFit certified yoga instructor.


  1. Sawka, Michael N., et al. “Exercise and Fluid Replacement.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, vol. 39, no. 2, 2007, pp. 377–390., doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597.
  2. Levenhagen, Deanna K., et al. “Postexercise Nutrient Intake Timing in Humans Is Critical to Recovery of Leg Glucose and Protein Homeostasis.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 280, no. 6, Jan. 2001, doi:10.1152/ajpendo.2001.280.6.e982.
  3. Aragon, Alan, and Brad Schoenfeld. “Nutrient Timing Revisited.” Functional Foods, 29 Jan. 2013, pp. 65–89., doi:10.1201/b16307-5.

Athlinks Staff
Posts by the Athlinks Staff are authored by our in-house group of athletes and subject matter experts in the fields of performance sports, nutrition, race organization, and training.

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  1. Ms, Harrington, Thank you for this article.
    And, best to you in the Duathlon events.
    Question: What are your thoughts on low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery food?


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