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  • R4 - A Simple Way To Ensure Appropriate Recovery From Exercise

    by Guest Blogger | Aug 17, 2016

    By: Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D

    From August 5 through August 22, the ACSM Sports Performance Blog is featuring a special content series in celebration of the achievements of elite athletes participating in international competition. Be sure to follow the blog as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (acsm1954) and share using #ScienceofSport.

    Training for sport and health requires hours of appropriate training. However, athletes at every level – including the elite athletes competing this month – usually do not optimize their recovery from training or competition. When discussing Recovery, R4 is a concept that I use with athletes at all levels, and it is also backed with good quality evidence from the scientific literature. R4 stands for Rehydrate, Refuel, Rest and Repair.

    • Rehydrate – After exercise, it is important to rehydrate with appropriate fluids. For light exercise (usually less than 60 minutes), it may be appropriate to rehydrate with water. For longer exercise, most athletes will need a beverage that has some carbohydrates and electrolytes to replenish what has been lost during exercise. The specifics are related to the type of sport or physical activity, the individual exercise intensity and duration of exercise. Link to ACSM position on hydration/rehydration.
    • Refuel - After exercise, the body needs appropriate fuels to replenish what was lost during exercise as well as enough nutrients to help the body recover from the stress imposed on the body by the physical activity. The need exists for a combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Although many types of foods may work to help refuel, it is important to ensure that enough protein is consumed in the post-workout meal to aid in the recovery. The most recent research suggests somewhere between 15-25 grams of high quality protein during the post activity shake or meal. The protein needs may be higher for older adults.  Link to Position Stand on Nutrition and Athletic Performance that was a joint position statement authored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Dietitians of Canada (DC), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).


    • Rest – After exercise, the body has experienced a stress that causes a multitude of physiological reactions. For the body to be able to fully recover, appropriate rest is required. Rest for athletes takes on many forms. Sleep is one of the most important aspects of effective recovery. The data on the benefits of quality sleep and appropriate duration of sleep continues to be highlighted in the scientific literature. Another important aspect of rest is relaxation while awake. Athletes are busy people. It is important to provide time throughout the day to rest and recharge. 
    • Repair – The repair process of recovery can take on many forms. Manual therapies like soft tissue work, massage, joint mobilization, myofascial release techniques among others are used extensively by athletes. Electronic/technology based recovery devices are increasing in use, including various types of electronic muscle stimulation, laser therapies and electronic-based compression. Also popular are various types of temperature based-techniques, including both heat and cold treatments. Heat is aimed at increasing blood flow to specific areas, whereas cold is aimed at reducing blood flow and short-term inflammation.

    Recovery is a multifaceted process, and utilizing a simple structured approach like the R4 will ensure that an athlete does not miss a major aspect of recovery.


    Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D  is a performance physiologist, researcher, author, speaker and coach. 

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