Recovery Following Sports


Hydration following sport is vital to the recovery process.  The body can lose significant amounts of fluid through sweating during physical exertion, even in cooler weather.  It is important that these fluids are replenished to avoid dehydration.  For 4-6 hours following sport you should gradually restore the bodies lost fluid.  Most of us have come across the many types of sports drinks that are available out there but are they necessarily a better option?  For most people water is the most suitable drink to have following sports.  Some sports drinks are marketed to have additional ingredients like electrolytes that can be helpful in restoring balance within the body.  While this is true it is only the more high-end endurance athletes such as marathon runners who would significantly benefit from these types of drinks.  Water is equally effective for most athletes and is a much cheaper option.  Caffeinated energy drinks and alcohol are definitely not recommended when recovering from sports.  They further add to fluid loss and dehydration due to their diuretic effects.  How much fluid an individual requires can vary but the best guideline is to check the colour of your urine making sure it remains a pale yellow. If it appears to be darker in colour then you should drink more fluids.


Following sports, most of the athlete’s energy stores will be spent and it is important to have the right nutrition in order to replenish the lost energy.  Correct nutrition is also required for building muscle and any of the running repairs the body must undergo following sports.  After activity, eating good quality carbohydrates will help to replenish your energy stores.  Foods like grains, rice and pasta are all good options for carbohydrates.  Protein is where you will find most of the building blocks the body needs to grow and repair.  Meat, fish, chicken and legumes such as beans and chick peas are all good sources of protein.  These foods should be consumed soon after sport for the most effective absorption by the body.  The first hour following exercise is when the body is best at receiving nutrition however the process continues for 24 hours so better late than never if you miss the immediate chance to eat some recovery foods.


Stretching has long been an integral part of sports and exercise.  Most people at least perform a few stretches before they start their sports and some people even do a few more when they finish but is stretching actually helpful for recovery following sports? The answer is yes, stretching is helpful but the timing of when you stretch really matters. In fact, research tells us that stretching before sports is not very helpful and may actually weaken the muscles making them less effective and possibly prone to injury.  Stretching after the completion of exercise or sports is when it can be beneficial.  Stretching after activity will help to restore the normal movement and extensibility of the muscle while also opening it up to allow for improved circulation.  Individual stretches should be held for 30 seconds at a comfortable intensity to be effective.  It is important never to bounce or push into pain while stretching as this could result in an injury.

Active Cool Down 

Taking the time to actively cool down following sports can be helpful in the recovery process. By gradually tapering off the intensity of exercise it can help the cardiovascular and respiratory systems return to their resting states more comfortably.  It can also help to flush out the spent blood and byproducts such as lactic acid that collect within the muscles following exercise.  Taking 5 minutes to lightly jog or walk after sports can be all you need for an effective cool down then follow up with some appropriate stretches.

Ice Baths and Submersion 

Ice baths are becoming increasingly popular following sport to improve athlete’s recovery.  While they are becoming more widely used the evidence remains undecided as to the actual benefits ice baths may have.   Some athletes report that ice baths can help to reduce their pain and muscle soreness following sports.  It is also suggested that they can help limit inflammation following sport.  However, when compared to having a cold bath minus the ice, there does not appear to be any significant benefit to ice baths in the recovery following sports.  In fact, by reducing blood flow to the areas where it is required ice baths may actually slow down the muscle building and repair processes that occur following sport.  The recommended approach for submersion treatment following sport is to use cold water (approx. 15 degrees C°) for ten to fifteen minutes. It is also recommended to warm up with a warm shower within the following hour as muscles will stiffen up when cold.

Completing regular exercise is a fantastic way to reduce many different health conditions. By following our advice on good recovery, you can exercise more often and achieve more benefit.

As always if you have any questions about the information we’ve provided, feel free to call us on 9377 2522.