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Personal Best Nutrition
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Sep 25th, 2007, 12:21pm

Before moving on to the last "R" of the R4 system of exercise recovery, we should emphasize why exercise recovery is so important to your continued health and progression as an athlete. Training is simply a way to place stress on your body. Your body responds to this stress by growing stronger and capable of performing more work. Through a series of physiologic adaptations - most of which occur during the recovery phase that follows training - your body adjusts to the demands placed upon it. In order to reap the full benefits of your hard work, you must maximize the potential for recovery.

Rebuild Muscle Protein - In Article 16 and Article 17, we discussed the first three "R's" of the R4 system: restore fluids and electrolytes, replenish glycogen, and reduce muscle and immune system stress. Now we'll talk about the last "R": rebuild muscle protein.

It was once believed that muscle soreness the day after hard exercise was the result of lactic acid accumulation. Now we know that most soreness is caused by physical damage to the muscle tissue itself. This muscle damage results from oxidative stress, mechanical wear and tear caused by the exercise, and the utilization of muscle protein as fuel during long events.

The breakdown of muscle tissue, and its subsequent rebuilding, is part of the stress-adapting process and is key to effective training. The majority of muscle rebuilding occurs during the post-exercise recovery period. During this time, protein production centers (ribosomes) inside cells repair mechanical damage to the muscles.

Recent evidence points to insulin as a strong stimulus of the muscle rebuilding process. Insulin increases amino acid transport into the muscle and prevents the breakdown of protein. Insulin also enhances glycogen replenishment. An increased insulin response is therefore a desirable effect in a post-exercise recovery drink.

The muscle rebuilding process is also dependent on a ready supply of high-quality protein, glutamine and branched chain amino acids. Protein not only stimulates the replenishment of glycogen stores by activating insulin, but also provides the essential building blocks for muscle repair. Glutamine, in addition to being an important immune system nutrient, increases growth hormone production which in turn boosts protein synthesis. And BCAA's (branched chain amino acids) have been shown to be effective muscle rebuilding agents in endurance athletes.

How do you go about ensuring optimal muscle rebuilding during recovery? By ingesting a post-exercise recovery drink that contains high-quality protein, glutamine, and BCAA's. The drink should contain carbohydrates and protein in a 4:1 ratio, as well as arginine, to provide an insulin "spike" and thus enhance nutrient uptake by muscle cells.

However, it is important to remember the other three "R's" when choosing - or mixing your own - recovery drink. Ideally, you would drink a formula that addresses all the issues put forth in the R4 recovery system. Endurox R4 is such a product; it is the first recovery drink mix that covers all the R4 bases, and a favorite recovery drink here at PBN. You can also make your own recovery drink by mixing carbohydrate and protein powders in a 4:1 ratio. The difficulty in trying to duplicate Endurox R4 or Ultragen on your own is in adding the antioxidants, glutamine and BCAA's.

An excellent book on the subject of exercise recovery is Optimal Muscle Recovery by Ed Burke. It discusses the R4 system in depth, and details other strategies you can use to enhance recovery.

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