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Training Tips

Best Tips for Post-Ride Recovery

By: Jim Rutberg, TORRE  August 18, 2021

Recovery can be the most important part of a successful workout. Here is what to focus on to get the most out of what you put in.

Whether you have another workout tomorrow, you’re in the middle of a multi-day cycling adventure, or you are competing in a stage race, the recovery steps you take after today’s ride can dramatically affect your performance the next time you get on your bike. There are lot of products, foods, and activities that purport to enhance post-workout recovery, which has convinced many athletes that recovery is more complicated than it needs to be. To help you navigate the recovery landscape, let’s start with fundamental and readily available recovery tools and then add optional items that may augment or accelerate your recovery.

Thoughtfully Planned Training Schedule

First, your training schedule must incorporate rest to allow time for recovery from and adaptation to training stress. The balance of stress and recovery is critical to the success of any training plan and affects everything from the number and duration of intervals and rest periods in individual workouts to rest days between workout days and training blocks, and even seasonal fluctuations in workload.


Sleep is the most important factor for effective recovery from training stress. It is during sleep that your body releases tissue building hormones testosterone and estrogen, as well as more than half of your daily amount of growth hormone. Although it would seem logical that athletes who expend a lot of energy would sleep soundly as result of exhaustion, but often it’s just the opposite. Athletes – particularly high-level athletes – are more likely to report chronically shortened (<7 hours/night) or disturbed sleep than non-athletes. Although there may not be a one-size-fits-all sleep duration for optimal recovery, a 2021 consensus statement from the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommended 7-9 hours/night as a starting point (Vitale et al, 2019).

To improve sleep hygiene, or the habits that are conducive to greater sleep quantity and quality, set a consistent wake-up time (this is more important than a consistent bedtime), create a sleeping environment that is cool, dark, and quiet. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and avoid stimulants (i.e. caffeine) or alcohol. Adding daytime naps to your schedule can have a positive effect on recovery and on overnight sleep quality.

Post-Workout Nutrition

Nutrition is right up there with sleep in terms of importance for recovering from training stress. The highest priority is to consume adequate total energy to support your training and lifestyle activities. If you are undernourished the macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, fat) composition of your diet won’t matter; eating too little of the freshest, organic, most nutrient-dense foods still leaves your body incapable of recovering from and adapting to training. To get a ballpark estimate of Total Daily Energy Expenditure, try this online calculator. However, realize that TDEE calculations are only estimates.

Your immediate post-workout nutrition habits matter most when you have more than one training session or competition within 12-24 hours. A recovery drink or meal that is rich in both carbohydrate and protein is a good choice within 60 minutes after training or competition, particularly if the session was longer than 90 minutes and/or strenuous enough to deplete muscle glycogen stores. If you have more than 24 hours before your next ride or race, your day-to-day nutrition habits will be more important than the timing or composition of your immediate post-workout meal. In addition to consuming fat and eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains to replenish carbohydrate stores, aim to consume protein in 20- to 40-gram servings spread throughout the day (including pre-sleep), as opposed to concentrating protein intake into 1-2 feedings.

Hydration Status

Athletes can lose more than a liter of fluid per hour during exercise, particularly during high-intensity exercise in a hot and/or humid environment. Dehydration has a detrimental effect on acute performance, including reductions in power output and motivation to continue, and an increase in thermal strain. During the post-exercise period it is important to consume fluids to restore normal hydration status. Aim to replenish about 80% of any bodyweight lost during exercise within about 4-6 hours afterward. On an ongoing basis, it is best to evaluate hydration status on a three-day rolling window using the WUT (weight, urine, thirst) technique (Cheuvront and Sawka, 2005). Upon waking, observe the volume and color of your urine, your bodyweight after urinating, and your sensation of thirst. Day to day these parameters should remain somewhat consistent. A lower volume of darker colored urine, a more than 1% drop in bodyweight, or a marked increase in thirst can individually indicate slight dehydration; two or more indicate you may need to look at your whole-day hydration strategy (not just immediately pre-, during-, and post-exercise).

Passive vs. Active Recovery

What about a recovery spin versus laying on the couch? According to studies by Van Hooren and Peake (2018), and Richard and Koehle (2018), the effects of passive and active recovery on next-day performance are similar, as long as your active recovery activity is short and easy. Recovery rides should be kept to 30-60 minutes so they don’t challenge glycogen replenishment or hydration status. As a practical matter, recovery rides can be useful for protecting your workout time in your daily schedule. However, if a recovery ride doesn’t fit into your schedule, it is unlikely to negatively affect your next training session.

Percussion/Massage/Foam Rolling/Compression

Percussion (i.e. Hyperice Hypervolt), massage, foam rolling, and compression are grouped together here because they all apply direct pressure to the skin and muscle. Percussion devices, foam rollers, and pneumatic compression boots (i.e. Hyperice Normatec 2.0) have the advantage of convenience and the fact they don’t require a second person. Potential physiological benefits include increased blood flow, facilitated circulation of lymph, reduced delayed onset muscle soreness, and increased range of motion. The scientific literature is clearer on the psychological benefits of making people “feel better”, increasing mind-body connection and allowing time for relaxation.

Cold water immersion

Cold water immersion is a convenient and inexpensive practice, and it can reduce acute inflammation and muscle soreness. That makes it useful for recovery between same-day training sessions and competitions. However, inflammation is a necessary part of stimulating long-term adaptations to training stress, and a regular practice of cold water immersion can impede some of those adaptations. So, if you have to compete again soon, cold water immersion may help. If you are in the midst of a focused training block, it may not be the best recovery solution.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of products and methods purported to enhance post-workout recovery, nor is it the definitive list of the only products and methods that may be effective. It is, however, a list of the fundamental components of recovery. You can reap most of the benefits of recovery by optimizing sleep, nutrition, and hydration with a thoughtfully planned training schedule. If you have the opportunity to add modalities like percussion, massage, foam rolling, or compression, they may augment or accelerate your recovery.


Cheuvront, Samuel N, and Michael N Sawka. “Hydration Assessment of Athletes.” Gatorade Sports Science Institute,

Richard, Normand A, and Michael S Koehle. “Optimizing Recovery to Support Multi-Evening Cycling Competition Performance.” European Journal of Sport Science, vol. 19, no. 6, 2018, pp. 811–823., doi:10.1080/17461391.2018.1560506.

Van Hooren, Bas, and Jonathan M. Peake. “Do We Need a Cool-down after Exercise? A Narrative Review of the Psychophysiological Effects and the Effects on Performance, Injuries and the Long-Term Adaptive Response.” Sports Medicine, vol. 48, no. 7, 2018, pp. 1575–1595., doi:10.1007/s40279-018-0916-2.

Vitale, Kenneth C., et al. “Sleep Hygiene for Optimizing Recovery in Athletes: Review and Recommendations.” International Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 40, no. 08, 2019, pp. 535–543., doi:10.1055/a-0905-3103.