An aspect of training that often goes under the radar but is crucial for every runner: the importance of recovery. Many people don’t realize that the actual physiological benefits of exercise happen in the hours and days after our exercise sessions, when our bodies repair from our efforts and adapt to the training stimulus. Our ability to recover optimally is dependent on a number of different factors.

The four R’s to focus on during the recovery window are rehydrate, refuel, repair and rest.


Exercise can lead to dehydration through fluid and electrolyte loss. Even a small loss of water in your body can result in a significant performance decrease. This is variable depending on a number of factors such as temperature, humidity, individual sweat rates and exercise intensity. Replacing these lost fluids and electrolytes quickly after exercise is very important in avoiding prolonged dehydration and hindering your recovery. Estimate sweat loss by weighing yourself before and after an exercise session and aim to consume 1.5L of fluids for every 1kg of weight lost during an exercise session.


Carbohydrate (stored in muscle as glycogen) is the principle energy source used in higher intensity exercises such as running. Depletion of muscle glycogen can lead to fatigue and may impair performance. Ensuring that you replenish your glycogen post training will help aid in your recovery and ensure that your body is ready for your next session. To maximize recovery of glycogen stores and the capacity to perform in subsequent endurance exercise, athletes should consider ingesting at least 1.2 g carbohydrate per kilogram body mass per hour for the first few hours of recovery (Bonilla et al 2020). Simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sugars, fruits, fruit juices and honey are quickly digested and absorbed, making them an ideal option to replenish muscle carbohydrate stores immediately after exercise.


Each time you exercise, your muscle is damaged to some extent depending on the intensity and duration of that exercise session. This is a vital part of adapting to your training session as it allows the muscle to remodel into a leaner, faster, stronger and/or fitter muscle fiber. Protein is the primary macronutrient involved in supporting muscle growth and maintenance post exercise. Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise (Aragon & Schoenfeld 2013).


There is no doubt that sleep is an absolutely vital physiological function and one of the most important factors in post-exercise recovery. It has been emphasized that naps, sleep extension and sleep-hygiene practices seem to be advantageous to performance by optimizing recovery (Vitale et al 2019). Well earned rest is when your body adapts to your training efforts.

Please check out the rest of the UBC Sports Medicine Nutrition series here (link)


  1. Bonilla, D. A., Pérez-Idárraga, A., Odriozola-Martínez, A., & Kreider, R. B. (2020). The 4R’s Framework of Nutritional Strategies for Post-Exercise Recovery: A Review with Emphasis on New Generation of Carbohydrates. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(1), 103.
  2. Gonzalez, J. T., & Wallis, G. A. (2021). Carb-conscious: the role of carbohydrate intake in recovery from exercise. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 24(4), 364–371.
  3. Aragon, A. A., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 5.
  4. Vitale, K. C., Owens, R., Hopkins, S. R., & Malhotra, A. (2019). Sleep hygiene for optimizing recovery in athletes: review and recommendations. International journal of sports medicine, 40(08), 535-543.

Congratulations, you finished your run! Whether it was your first run or your tenth run, we are proud of you. If you are interested in learning more about running, make sure to check out Kintec – they have great footwear, resources, and training clinics to get you ready for next year!

Photograph: © Vancouver Sun Run / Lyle Stafford



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