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Physiological and psychological demands during training and competition generate fatigue and reduce an athlete’s sport-specific performance capacity. The magnitude of this decrement depends on several characteristics of the exercise stimulus (eg, type, duration, and intensity), as well as on individual characteristics (eg, fitness, profile, and fatigue resistance). As such, the time required to fully recover is proportional to the level of fatigue, and the consequences of exercise-induced fatigue are manifold. Whatever the purpose of the ensuing exercise session (ie, training or competition), it is crucial to understand the importance of optimizing the period between exercise bouts in order to speed up the regenerative processes and facilitate recovery or set the next stimulus at the optimal time point. This implies having a fairly precise understanding of the fatigue mechanisms that contribute to the performance decrement. Failing to respect an athlete’s recovery needs may lead to an excessive accumulation of fatigue and potentially “nonfunctional overreaching” or to maladaptive training. Although research in this area recently increased, considerations regarding the specific time frames for different physiological mechanisms in relation to exercise-induced fatigue are still missing. Furthermore, recommendations on the timing and dosing of recovery based on these time frames are limited. Therefore, the aim of this article is to describe time courses of recovery in relation to the exercise type and on different physiological levels. This summary supports coaches, athletes, and scientists in their decision-making process by considering the relationship of exercise type, physiology, and recovery.
Skorski and Meyer are with the Inst of Sports and Preventive Medicine, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany. Mujika is with the Dept of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Nursing, University of the Basque Country, Leioa, Spain, and the Exercise Science Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Medicine, Finis Terrae University, Santiago, Chile. Bosquet is with the Faculty of Sport Sciences, MOVE Laboratory (EA 3813), University of Poitiers, Poitiers, France. Coutts is with the Sport and Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Moore Park, NSW, Australia. Meeusen is with the Human Physiology Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.