By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator

Welcome back for part two of our series on high performance recovery. As you will remember from part one on sleep, we have the Recovery Pyramid (shown below). 

Sleep is at the base of the pyramid, because it is during sleep that the majority of the rejuvenation and repair takes place to help us recover between competitions and training sessions.  

Here are some key takeaways from part one on sleep:

  • Athletes should aim for 8-10 hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Build good sleep hygiene/habits:
    • No caffeine five-six hours before bed.
    • No screen time one hour before bed.
    • Have your room cool, dark, and quiet.
    • A 20-30 minute nap in the middle of the day can help you catch up on any missed sleep time and can help energize you for the rest of the day.



Prior to the 2023 Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island, Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba (CSCM) Intern, Amy Hui, did two nutrition presentations for our Canada Games athletes to help them prepare for their experience. You can watch the first presentation on Meal Timing for Performance and Recovery here. The information in this post is based off of Amy’s presentation.


Your Optimal Level of Performance

As you can imagine, athletes need to put high-quality nutrients into their bodies to help them perform at their best. 

I like to use the analogy of a sports car and the type of gas you put in it. If the gas is of a low quality, that car will still perform at a relatively high level because of the high-end parts it has. But, if that car has premium fuel put in, think of the level of performance now.

The same holds true for your body. 

If you train hard, get lots of good quality sleep and rest, and eat nutrient-dense foods, you will perform at a higher level than if you did not do those things.

High-quality fuel (nutrients) will help provide top notch performances. Low quality fuel will provide less than optimal levels of performance. It is as simple as that.


Nutrition and Hydration for Recovery

Now, let’s talk about what to eat, when to eat it, and how proper hydration can aid in recovery and, in turn, improve overall athletic performance.

When it comes to nutrition for optimal recovery, we like to think of the four Rs of high performance recovery:

  • Refuel 
  • Repair
  • Rehydrate
  • Rest

The most important macronutrient when it comes to replenishing energy stores are carbohydrates. When we exercise, train, or compete, our bodies require energy. The most commonly used fuel is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen.  

As an athlete trains, their body uses stored glycogen to produce the energy needed to perform intense activities. 

We won’t go into the science behind that, just understand that carbohydrates get stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen after you eat them, and that glycogen gets used to give you the energy you need to do intense things.

This is why carbohydrates are so important for athletes to consume before and after training (and sometimes during training if the activity takes a long time to complete. I.e.. longer than 60-90 minutes).  

It is important to eat or drink carbohydrate-rich sources (grains, fruits, and vegetables) in the hours leading up to training and in the hours after training.

Two to four hours before training or competition: Prior to training or competition, athletes should try to consume slower-digesting carbohydrates, like grains and starchy vegetables (rice, quinoa, potatoes, pasta, oats, etc.) two to four hours before training.

Less than two hours before training or competition: As you get closer and closer to training time (one to two hours before), athletes need to consume faster-digesting carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, and dairy so the body is able to get blood going to the muscles and brain versus to the stomach for digestion.

Your body only has so much blood in it, and it will prioritize where that blood goes based on the importance of the bodily function. Digestion is more important than muscle on the body’s priority list, so nutrient timing prior to competition is critical.

After training or competition: After training or competition, refueling is also important. As you train, your body uses energy to run, jump, push, pull, and stay focused. Athlete’s need to replenish those used-up energy stores in order to properly recover for the next competition or training session.  

For the first four to six hours after competition, it is critical to take in a higher amount of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver.  

It is recommended to consume 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per hour after intense training or competition.  

For example if you weigh 75kg, you should consume 75g of carbohydrates per hour for four hours.

Some common post training foods are:

  •  pasta (1 cup = 45g)
  • potatoes (1 medium = 35g)
  • chocolate milk (1 cup = 30g).  

As you can see, one cup of pasta and one cup of chocolate milk would get you right in that range in the first hour, which really is not all that much.

Mix up your carbohydrates over those first four hours to make sure you are also taking in important micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well. 



The most important nutrient for repairing muscle after intense exercise is protein.

Proteins are broken down into amino acids through digestion. Those amino acids are the building blocks of muscles and other tissues, like bones, tendons, and other connective tissue and help repair those tissues that are damaged through exercise. 

The process the body goes through to repair those damaged tissues is called protein synthesis, which is a metabolic process that binds amino acids to the proteins in those tissues (muscle, tendon, bone, etc.) to help repair them, and make them stronger for the next training session or competition. 

It is important to eat between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. If you are in a more strength and power based sport the number would be on the higher side of that range or even higher than 2g/kg.

Protein timing after training, although important, it is more important to hit the above range throughout the day.  In those first 4-6 hours after intense exercise make sure to take in protein to go along with the higher amount of carbohydrates to optimize your recovery.



During intense activity, our bodies increase the heart rate and breathing rate as intensity increases. As a result, the body tries to cool itself down through sweating. 

As we sweat and lose water and other nutrients, our bodies need to replace that lost water and minerals (electrolytes) in order to maintain our performance levels.  

As you probably know, the human body is made up of 60+% water. It is in water that all chemical reactions in the body take place and therefore, hydration is critical to optimal body function.

Before and during training and competition: It is important to hydrate during training/competition to help maintain performance. As a general rule, follow the Galpin Equation developed by Dr. Andy Galpin from Cal State Fullerton University:

Bodyweight in pounds divided by 30 = the amount of ounces to digest every 15 minutes. In metric terms, it would be body weight in kilograms X 2.15 = amount of ml to digest every 15 minutes.

After training and competition: Elite athletes will often weigh themselves prior to training and then again afterwards to see how much weight lost during that training session. This weight loss is water loss through sweat.

Weight loss in kilograms X 1.5 = fluid intake in litres over the next two to six hours.  

For example, if you lose 1kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight you would try to consume 1.5 litres of water over the next two to six hours.  

This is a simplified example, as there are also electrolytes lost through sweating that also need to be replaced in the form of sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. 

But, as a general rule, consume 1.5X the amount of water lost in kg in water post exercise.



As discussed in part one of this series on recovery, rest, and more specifically, sleep, is critical to optimal recovery



Nutrition is an essential part of the recovery process. Failure to properly fuel your body before, during, and after training and/or competition can result in incomplete recovery, which can lead to excess fatigue, burn out, and even injury over time.

Next time, we will talk about how to set up your training program to recover effectively and perform at your best when it matters the most. 

Remember, staying healthy is the most important thing when it comes to performance!

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