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What Makes a Good Recovery Drink, Part 1: Glycogen Repletion

What Makes a Good Recovery Drink, Part 1: Glycogen Repletion

You spend weeks, months, even years, preparing yourself for an endurance event. And during the event, you give everything you have trying to outperform your competition. Why, then, at the end of the event would you cut corners on the recovery phase?

Recovery from endurance exercise is every bit as important as what you do before and during the event. Immediately when you finish exercising, your body initiates a complex series of metabolic events in order to prepare itself for the next battle. And, just as with your preparation before the event, proper nutritional support plays a crucial role in this process.

There are many goals to consider with your post-event nutrition plan, such as repleting glycogen stores, optimizing muscle protein synthesis, and mitigating muscle damage. Today’s article will focus on the first of those concerns: ensuring that your body’s glycogen stores are being replenished in the most efficient way possible.

Your body breaks down glycogen throughout endurance performance, and this represents a significant source of fatigue in the immediate post-exercise period (1, 9). This is especially a concern for athletes competing in multi-day events, or those training or competing more than once in a 24 hour period. Enhancing glycogen recovery must be a fundamental part of any post-exercise nutritional strategy.

The timing of this replenishment is critical. Immediately post-exercise, your body’s glycogen synthesis machinery is ramped up to a high level, but the rate of this process immediately begins to drop dramatically. Studies have indicated that the rate of glycogen synthesis declines exponentially during the hours following exercise (16). Delaying the intake of carbohydrates more than two hours will lower the glycogen repletion rate by up to 45% (4). There is no time to spare when it comes to glycogen recovery.

The majority of substrate for glycogen re-synthesis comes from orally ingested carbohydrate (15). But there’s more to it than just taking carbs in general. The types and blends of carbs are also important. Research has shown that liver glycogen repletion can be enhanced more than two-fold when fructose is added to maltodextrin (2). This addition of fructose does not come at the expense of replenishing muscle glycogen stores (3), an often cited concern with mixing fructose and glucose. By combining maltodextrin and fructose, as found in Ultra 26™ Endurance and Recovery Drink, glycogen stores in both the liver and muscle can be optimally repleted.

In addition to replenishing your body’s glycogen stores, carbohydrates also play a critical role in your brain’s recovery from exercise. Research has shown that the brain has an increased need for carbohydrates following strenuous exercise (5). Getting motivated for your next bout of endurance performance requires a sharp mind also, not just a sharp body.

How about protein? Protein, when added to carbohydrates, can also contribute to glycogen re-synthesis. Like carbohydrates, protein is a potent stimulus for insulin secretion (10). Insulin, in turn, strongly stimulates glycogen synthesis (11). There is evidence, based on this, that adding protein to carbohydrates will enhance glycogen synthesis in the recovery period, due to its effects on insulin (8). Evidence has also shown that protein also can increase muscle synthesis in the recovery period following endurance exercise (12). Protein can benefit the endurance athlete in multiple ways following exercise or competition.

Caffeine has also shown to be a significant benefit in the recovery period. When added to carbohydrates immediately following exercise, caffeine has been shown to increase glycogen synthesis, and improve subsequent performance, beyond what carbs do alone (13, 17). If you want to optimize glycogen recovery, caffeine should absolutely be a part of your post-event nutritional plan.

Consider your recovery to be as essential a part of your regimen as what you do before and during exercise. Use Ultra 26™ products and ensure that your body has what it needs to recover and prepare for the next battle!

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