In some sports, competition is conducted as a series of events or stages. In sports such as swimming or track and field, athletes can be scheduled to compete in a number of brief races or in a series involving heats, semifinals, and finals, often performing more than once each day. In tennis and team sport tournaments, or cycle stage races, competitors may be required to undertake one or more lengthy events each day, with the competition extending for up to 1 to 3 weeks. Even where athletes compete in a weekly fixture, optimal recovery is desired to allow the athlete to train between matches or races. In training, the coach can plan the macro- and microcycles of workouts so that with appropriate recovery strategies there is a gradual enhancement of specific fitness and performance. In the competition scenario, however, there may be less control over the work-to-recovery ratio. Indeed, it may not be possible to completely recover between events. A simpler but more realistic goal for postevent recovery is to ensure that the athlete is ready to face the next opponent, or the next round or stage in a competition, as well prepared as possible.
Recovery encompasses a complex range of nutrition-related issues including restoration of muscle and liver glycogen stores, replacement of fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, and regeneration, repair, and adaptation processes following the catabolic stress and damage caused by exercise (see goal 6). In competition, particularly, recovery will only occur with a nutrition plan that addresses the athlete’s postexercise intake of fluid and food. This is particularly important for the traveling athlete, who may have limited access to familiar food.