This diagram by Yakovlev in 1967 explains the training process beautifully. If you consider the vertical axis to be your ‘energy level’ and the horizontal axis to be ‘time’, Phase I shows the fatigue induced by a training session. Phase II demonstrates the body recovering and Phase III indicates an over-energized state, where the body has actually over-recovered (stronger than it was before the training session). Phase IV shows a regression of form as the over-energizing wears off.
Each phase is of importance, but it’s Phase III that we’re obviously interested in – the getting stronger bit. How does this happen? Clearly and simply, this is how all-biological systems respond to a stimulus. We are not machines, and we don’t perform the same amount of consistent work, day in day out and get parts changed when they wear out or break. We are adaptive organisms, which means that when we’re put through hardship, we become weaker for a short time (Phase I).
The shock of the stimulus causes our bodies to throw every resource they have at the situation (including important components of our diet) to facilitate repair and re-energising (Phase II). It’s little wonder then that we get Super compensation (Phase III) when you consider how over resourced we become.
Fueling and recovery…
As much as we'd like to separate the concepts of Fueling and Recovery and discuss them independently, it’s impossible, because they are unquestionably linked. Once again, it is our intention to clarify the two concepts in the following section before making any specific nutritional recommendations
It goes without saying that a well recovered athlete is going to be in a better physiological state prior to an important training session than someone who is tired and under-fueled. The diagram above demonstrates how a well-prepared athlete is able to generate a bigger training stimulus and therefore gain greater fitness benefit from a training session. Also, consider how an effective fuelling strategy during exercise could prolong and intensify the workout.
This next diagram shows how much quicker an athlete will recover if they use an effective re-fuelling strategy post exercise. If you combine the key concepts in both of these diagrams, it becomes clear that a performance-fuelled athlete will be able to both train harder and recover quicker. It really is as simple as that!
Where does the recovery process start? Logically, if you’re going to look for a point in an athletes training cycle where the recovery process starts, it has to be immediately post exercise. To that end, research has proven6 that 1 gram of high Glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate per Kg of bodyweight should be consumed within 15 minutes of finishing exercise. This is a time when enzyme activity is elevated and carbohydrate has a greater chance of being stored. Further research suggests4.6 that if this carbohydrate is mixed in a ratio of 3:1 with Whey Protein, carbohydrate storage is further facilitated. Either way, high GI carbohydrate intake immediately after exercise is paramount. Some research9 has found that these practices also boost the immune system and make you less susceptible to infection immediately after exercise. As 3 grams of water are required to store 1 gram of carbohydrate, an energy or recovery drink is the recommended vehicle for getting carbohydrate into your body.
A mountain of research18.104.22.168 has found a very high carbohydrate diet to be linked to quicker ore comprehensive recovery, which in turn leads to more rapid physiological adaptation and improvement in performance. We suggest that anything from 55-75% of an endurance athlete's diet should be carbohydrate. Most modern opinions are closer to the 70% mark. For an athlete training heavily and burning many calories, this is a large amount of carbohydrate, which is very difficult to consume if eating regular food alone. This is where carbohydrate supplementation can help. During particularly high load training, as well as taking a recovery drink immediately after exercise, it is good practice to consume 1 gram of carbohydrate per Kg of body weight at 2, 4 and 6 hours post exercise also. Remember that to achieve an intake of 70% of your daily calories from carbohydrate, you need to keep your fat intake very low. Protein intake should be moderate, representing 12 to 15% of your daily calories. Vegetarians will need to work harder at this than meat eaters, but it’s likely you’ll achieve this by default.
Special thanks to Torq products. Both Torq energy and Torq recovery products contain some highly potent natural micronutrients, which help facilitate the recovery process. Torq products are used by elite mountain bike racers, road cyclists, triathletes and other endurance athletes the world over. BicycleAge is proud to partner with Torq to supply you the best in sports nutrition.
4. Burke, E.R PhD (2002). Serious Cycling. Human Kinetics. Pages 167-169 (Ribose), 171-172 (L-Glutamine), 173-174 (HMB)*
6. Williams, M.H PhD (1998). The Ergogenics Edge. Human Kinetics
7. Wilmore, J.H and Costill, D.L. (1999). Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Human Kinetics
9. Jeukendrup, A.E, PhD (2002). High-Performance Cycling. Human Kinetics