By Dr. Luke Bucci & Jeff Feliciano


Most of the research on exercise recovery has focused on muscles alone, but you are more than your muscles – the rest of your body also needs to recover, even though most of what you feel is your muscles screaming. The post-exercise muscle recovery process highlighted in previous Ultragen blogs (like on glycogen repletion) focused on how to get your muscles fueled and exercise performance back to normal ASAP. Now it’s time to take care of the rest of you and make recovery truly complete.

In this blog post, we’ll learn how Ultragen uploads enough carbohydrates, protein, branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs), L-glutamine, vitamins, and minerals to aid recovery of muscles and non-muscles alike after blistering endurance exercise. The combination of all these nutrients not only replaces fuel or helps repair muscles, but it also pulls every other affected body system along while supporting the processes that send, amplify, and control the communications that govern optimal recovery.

Ultragen provides the means, the method, and the messaging – everything you need post-exercise except for rest.


Exercise is a holistic condition, and recovery is so much bigger than just shuttling protein to muscles. Your muscles are dependent on myriad systems (nervous, cardiovascular, gut, liver, immune) to keep them running and recovering. Your skin, bones, and joints are also in the wear-and-tear game, but largely forgotten unless they too are injured and/or hurting. Underlying the whole-body communication network are hormones, cytokines, metabolites, exosomes, and other signaling processes that tie together your whole body recovery from exercise.

While your muscles take center stage and demand all the attention with soreness and weakness after exercise, all of those other systems that your muscles rely on are quietly recovering, too. Because exercise recovery is a whole-body process, Ultragen supplies much more than simply water and carbs. That includes glucose at the proper amount, amino acids from quickly digestible milk protein (whey protein isolate and hydrolysates), additional L-glutamine for first-responder organs (gut & immune system), and comprehensive vitamin and mineral supply to maintain all tissues and their metabolic processes through which those tissues achieve recovery. Hydration and fuel top the immediate post-exercise grocery list, but specific tissues also benefit from particular nutrients and antioxidant/anti-inflammatory support. Ultragen supplies everything to everybody, and the storm of recovery signaling messages directs the nutritional traffic to where it is needed most. 


Many recovery processes are ramping up and down post-exercise, with more intensity as exercise stress becomes more intense and longer. Coordinating this effort to return muscles to their normal resting state affects every body system, whether you feel it or not. Post-exercise recovery depends on every part of your body – muscles, tissues, organs, systems – alerting the rest of the body to their intensity of need for hydration, electrolytes, metabolites, and basic nutrients through a system of hormones, metabolites, and signaling messages.

Almost anything can be an important signaling or triggering message, even toxic free radicals and oxidative species. Physical damage from tissues (pieces of cells, cellular innards, DNA & RNA fragments, enzymes, and structural proteins), and tiny, intentional pieces of cells (exosomes containing a list of what they want from other cells) flood your blood and localized intracellular spaces. Triggers elicit a highly orchestrated response of signaling molecules that we call acyl carnitines, adipokines, cytokines, eicosanoids (prostaglandins), heat shock proteins, hormones, metabolites, and inflammatory mediators. This host of signallers generates specific recovery processes at specific places and specific times.


For the purposes of this blog, it’s probably easier to know that your body has a well-developed and time-sensitive way to help exhausted muscles that we can call a Messaging System, spread out throughout every nook and cranny in your body, and then move on to what those messages are calling for. There are two signaling hormones worth dwelling on, though.

Corticosteroids (mostly cortisol) and anabolic steroids (mostly testosterone) are probably the second most-studied hormonal responses for endurance exercise recovery affected by nutrient intakes, behind only insulin. Blood levels of each and their ratios (total testosterone/cortisol [TC] or free testosterone/cortisol [fTC]) both are used as markers for recovery.

In general, cortisol is a major antiinflammatory hormone that signals cells to shut down sources of damage, like energy production, and reduce responsivity to pro-inflammatory signals. At the beginning of recovery, this message is vital to start recovery, setting the stage for the next hormonal wave – testosterone. But continued or excess cortisol can hold back a normal recovery, which happens when overtrained.

At first, testosterone is not increased in damaged areas, but kicks in later when the seminal inflammation is no longer needed. To scientists studying exercise recovery, the TC and/or fTC ratios show cortisol dominance the first day after exercise, which should shift to testosterone dominance when cells are rebuilding and adding to their structures (being anabolic). Researchers have been indoctrinated about the extreme effects of excessive amounts of each hormone and their side effects, which can be anti-recovery. Depending on severity of muscle damage and timing of when measurements are made, some inappropriate conclusions based on previous indoctrinations can lead to trying to squelch or boost cortisol and testosterone.

Here’s the takeaway: The progression of the TC/fTC ratios shifting to cortisol then to testosterone is what is important for recovery. Ultragen modulates cortisol to ensure that there’s enough to kickstart recovery but not so much that it slows the transition to testosterone and rebuilding.

Citations for Hormones, Metabolites & Signals for Recovery from Exercise: Alves 2022; Fedewa 2019; Foure 2017; Ikonen 2020; Lysenko 2018; Mitchell 2015; Negro 2008; 


The place to start is, of course, muscle recovery. We’ll be looking specifically at Ultragen’s protein sources in another blog, but here, let’s focus on BCAAs. We have always liked taking BCAAs during exercise in EFS and EFS-PRO for their metabolic signaling to increase fuel burning (anaplerosis). But the need for BCAAs doesn’t end after exercise. 

It is only logical that taking BCAAs for recovery makes sense, as backed up by consensus of research that BCAA supplementation reduces muscle damage biomarkers and muscle soreness during recovery (Doma 2021). For immediate post-exercise recovery, additional BCAAs from fast-digesting whey protein isolate and hydrolysate supply recovering muscles with the tools they need to rebuild, and the quantities in Ultragen match the successful amounts used in human studies.

Same as exercising, BCAAs in the recovery phase signal more flux through your glucose- and fat-burning cellular metabolism to fuel rebuilding muscles. In one study on intermittent, high-intensity cycling for 70 minutes, BCAAs given immediately after exercise led to decreased gene expression of a mTOR inhibitor (DDIT4) at an equivalent amount as in one serving of Ultragen, suggesting a pro-recovery effect of BCAAs (Lysenko 2018). This finding supports the increase in muscle protein synthesis at 1.5-3 hours after oral essential amino acids were given to resting men in repeated doses similar to normal use of EFS/EFS-PRO and Ultragen (Mitchell 2015).

Another human study of BCAA supplementation taken daily throughout the day for three days of long-distance hill running (12-40 km/day) showed less fatigue and lower biomarkers of muscle damage 24 hours after the last exercise (Matsumoto 2009). BCAA supplementation also reduced post-exercise muscle soreness and biomarkers of damage with eccentric and resistance training exercises, signifying a common mechanism of action for BCAAs and exercise recovery.

Another metabolic measure signals overtraining – low glutamine/glutamate ratio (Ikonen 2020). Glutamine supplementation immediately after exhausting exercise, whether from L-glutamine amino acid and/or protein, supports recovering muscles, of course, but it also saves several other body systems simultaneously, especially the nervous, gut, and immune systems.

Citations for Hormones, Metabolites & Signals for Recovery from Exercise: Alves 2022; Fedewa 2019; Foure 2017; Ikonen 2020; Lysenko 2018; Mitchell 2015; Negro 2008; 


Endurance exercise has shown large decreases in neuromuscular functions (including fatigue) for as long as two weeks before returning to normal, necessitating a long recovery period. In a phenomenon called central fatigue, your brain loses motor drive, meaning your muscles do not perform as you would like, and your spinal cord decreases nervous impulses to your working muscles. In short, your brain is tired and can’t push – or even properly control – your muscles as well as you would like.

Several nutritional needs are known to reduce motor drive and increase fatigue. Lack of hydration, electrolyte loss, low fuel intake and reserves, and variations in amino acid levels in blood (that feed your brain with critical precursors for neurotransmitters) are factors requiring a comprehensive nutritional resupply for recovery.

Rapid resupply of hydration, fuel (carbohydrates and protein) and electrolytes, including magnesium and calcium, help keep your nervous system operating as efficiently as possible, reducing feelings of fatigue. Getting your brain and nerves back into gear helps overall recovery from demanding exercise.

Citations for Brain Recovery from Exercise: Halliwill 2013; Knicker 2011; Meeusen 2014; Millet 2011, 2018; Scheer 2022; Temesi 2014; Weavil 2019


Your heart is a muscle that never stops, and is constantly recovering, so restoring it quickly after intense exercise is an overlooked part of exercise recovery. That’s especially true since the cardiovascular system it powers is the pathway for all the nutrients every other part of your body is clamoring for and the internal signaling with which they clamor. In the two hours after exercise, your brain and spinal cord direct elevated blood flow to exhausted muscles while they are more receptive to nutritional recovery. Your cardiovascular system has to keep up, even though it’s also been hammered by exercise.

Ultra-endurance exercise (over 100 km) typically shows highly elevated biomarkers of cardiac (heart) muscle stress such as high-sensitivity cardiac troponin, a protein that’s only released by heart muscles into the blood when those muscles become damaged. Usually, these markers normalize during normal recovery times, but for a few rare individuals, long-lasting cardiac-kidney damage persists.

Your cardiovascular system also includes the huge network of blood vessels that carry everything to muscles, including nutrients and signaling messages and communications among body systems. Crosstalk between stressed organs initiates rapid changes in blood flow to support areas stressed by exercise. Immediately after exercise, oxidative “damage” in muscles tells the rest of your body to lower blood pressure but send more blood to your muscles (vasodilation) to keep your muscles saturated and maximize nutrient delivery.

Your heart and blood vessels want antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support for their own recovery, but the need goes beyond just them. Blood vessels in exhausted muscles with oxidative stress activate a local histamine response that’s similar to an immediate allergic reaction to keep blood flow coming to muscles. A supply of antioxidants helps keep this process under tight control, limiting the inflammatory response and thereby helping muscles turn the corner from swollen and sore to fully recovered faster. And this histamine process is but one example of how normal antioxidant activity in the presence of free radicals (oxidative stress) can stimulate recovery.

Finally, hydration is important to keep blood supply going to exercised muscles, but hot conditions and sweat loss blunt the flow. Ideally, a steady stream of EFS or EFS-PRO will have helped you maintain hydration while exercising, but Ultragen provides post-exercise hydration and electrolytes so the cardiovascular system can respond properly to aid recovery.

Citations for Cardiovascular System Recovery from Exercise: Bonilla 2020; Burtscher 2022; Halliwill 2013; Knechtle 2018; Martinez-Navarro 2019; Peake 2019; Scheer 2022; Stadiotti 2021


By the end of a strenuous race or event, your gut has watched its blood flow and oxygen level reduced considerably (up to 80%); has been forced to process extra amounts of water, electrolytes, carbohydrates, protein, and fat from foods and drinks; has become leakier (more permeable); has been hit by extra free radicals; has become inflamed; and has hopefully not blown anything out of either end. Fortunately, cessation of exercise means your gut can get back to normal quickly, and it is in prime position to benefit quickly from post-exercise nutrition for recovery since it processes all of that nutrition. And gut recovery is critical for optimal full-body recovery – when your gut is functioning normally, your entire body receives nourishment.

Don’t look now, but after demanding exercise, your occludins are showing! One of the immediate needs of your gut post-exercise is to restore the leaks (plug permeability problems). This means repairing the tight junctions between each and every gut lining cell, of which occludin protein is a major component. You want your gut to maintain control over permeability to let in what your body needs and keep out what can harm you. More gut permeability leads to more gut problems, including not fully absorbing the water, electrolytes, and fuel you need during exercise and recovery.

Zinc supplementation in heavy exercisers showed gut permeability was improved by zinc carnosinate. Also, deficiencies of vitamin D (common in athletes) and vitamin A (not so common) can lead to poorer gut permeability. All three are in Ultragen, which serves as a post-exercise supplement to the endurance-tuned quantities of each served up daily in MultiV.

Supplying water, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, glucose fuel, and some protein/amino acids feeds your gut first, but what really makes your GI tract happy is the amino acid L-glutamine. Your absorptive gut’s lining cells and the large immune cell components both rely heavily on glutamine as a fuel. Human studies of glutamine given daily and/or just before exercise have mostly shown faster improvements in gut permeability and reduction of gut damage after long-distance exercise. Again, there’s synergy across the First Endurance system, as using EFS or EFS-PRO as directed will provide glutamine before and during exercise, and the 6g dose of L-glutamine per serving in Ultragen adds to that amount in the critical post-exercise phase.

Citations for Gut Recovery from Exercise: Chantler 2022; Chen 2019; Davison 2016; DiGiulio 2022; Imseis 2017; L’Huillier 2019; Lian 2020; Perna 2019; Ribeiro 2021; Scheer 2022; van Wijck 2012; Wilson 2022; Windmueller 1978, 1980; Zuhl 2014


A previous blog (EXERCISE, DAMAGE, REPAIR, AND THE BENEFITS OF A RECOVERY AID) showed how all the “bad” aspects of exercise recovery from strenuous, long-duration exercise are really your body’s normal way of saying STOP and SLOW DOWN so we can rebuild you stronger. Part of making you stop and slow down for recovery is feeling bad, as in exhibiting signs of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI), which usually are just URTS (Upper Respiratory Tract Symptoms) that aren’t tied to an actual infection or illness.

Research – even by the most skeptical researchers – has shown the best remedies for URTS are the same nutrients that are most important to feed the immune system in non-exercise settings. The nutritional winners are: 1) carbohydrates (including beta glucans); 2) protein & amino acids; 3) minerals, especially iron, magnesium, zinc; 4) fat-soluble vitamins (including omega-3 fatty acids); and 5) polyphenols.

The big winner is all of the above at the same time. Consuming them together has shown better results for immune support than single nutrients. With the exception of omega-3s (found in HALO) and polyphenols (plentiful in Optygen, PreRace, and MultiV) and iron (MultiV) - which all have long times of assimilation, Ultragen packs all of these nutrients in combination, ensuring immediate post-exercise delivery of a supplemental suite that’s been clinically studied to alleviate the effects of URTS.

Citations for Immune Recovery from Exercise: Bonilla 2020; Bermon 2017; Chen 2019; Dokladny 2013; Gunzer 2012; Knechtle 2018; Lian 2020; Nieman 2017, 2019; Scheer 2022; Shao 2021; Schwellnus 2010


Rather than focusing on full-body recovery, research attention for strenuous exercise recovery has focused most of its attention on muscles alone, and even less research has specifically examined recovery from ultra-endurance exercise. But even the sliver of relevant human research – and simply understanding the body processes at play during recovery – goes to show that what’s good for stressed muscles is also good for every other part of you.

Everything is perfused by blood, which carries all the nutrients used for restoration of normality, and each tissue/organ gets to pluck what it likes out of the steady supply stream. That means competition for resources between muscles and the rest of you. Ultragen checks off the list for all your exercise recovery needs by checking off the lists of every part of you to ensure no parts are left wanting.


References for Recovery Window – Beyond Muscles

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Bonilla DA, Perez-Idarraga A, Odriozola-Martinez A, Kreider RB. The 4R’s framework of nutritional strategies for post-exercise recovery: a review with emphasis on new generation of carbohydrates. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Dec25;18(1):103.
Burtscher M, Pesta D, Fuchs D, Ledochowski M, Gatterer H. Methodological considerations when evaluating the effectiveness of dietary/supplemental antioxidants in sport, Ch 13 in Antioxidants in Sports Nutrition, Lamprecht M, , Ed., CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2022, pp. 203-20.
Chantler S, Griffiths A, Matu J, Davison G, Holliday A, Jones B. A systematic review: role of dietary supplements o markers of exercise-associated gut damage and permeability. PLoS ONE. 2022 Apr13;17(4):e0266379.
Chen Y, Tsai YH, Tseng BJ, Tseng SH. Influence of growth hormone and glutamine on intestinal stem cells: a review. Nutrients. 2019 Aug17;11(8):1941.
Davison G, Marchbank T, March DS, Thatcher R, Playford RJ. Zinc carnosine works with bovine colostrum in truncating heavy exercise–induced increase in gut permeability in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Aug;104(2):526–36.
de Jesus Alves MD, Dos Santos Silva D, Pereira EVM, Pereira DD, de Sousa Fernandes MS, Santos DFC, Oliveira DPM, Vieria-Souza LM, Aidar FJ, de Souza RF. Changes in cytokines concentration following long-distance running: a systematic Review and meta-analysis. Front Physiol. 2022 Feb17;13:838069.
DiGiulio KM, Rybakovsky E, Abdavies R, Chamoun R, Flounders CA, Shepley-McTaggart A, Harty RN, Mullin JM. Micronutrient improvement of epithelial barrier function in various disease states: a case for adjuvant therapy. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Mar10;23(6):2995.
Dokladny K, Zuhl MN, Mandell M, Bhattacharya D, Schneider S, Deretic V, Moseley PL. Regulatory coordination between two major intracellular homeostatic systems: heat shock response and autophagy. J Biol Chem. 2013 May24;288(21):14959-72.
Doma K, Singh U, Boullosa D, Connor JD. The effect of branched-chain amino acid on muscle damage markers and performance following strenuous exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2021 Nov;46(11):1303-13.
Fedewa MV, Spencer SO, Williams TD, Becker ZE. Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on muscle soreness following exercise: a meta-analysis. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2019 Nov;89(5-6):348-356.
Foure A, Bendahan D. Is branched-chain amino acids supplementation an efficient nutritional strategy to alleviate skeletal muscle damage? A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017 Sep21;9(10):1047.
Gunzer W, Konrad M, Pail E. Exercise-induced immunosuppression in endurance athletes and nutritional intervention with carbohydrate, protein and fat – what is possible, what is not? Nutrients. 2012 Sep;4(9):1187-212.
Harty PS, Cottet ML, Malloy JK, Kerksick CM. Nutritional and supplementation strategies Sports Med Open. 2019 Jan7;5(1):1.
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Ikonen JN, Joro R, Uusitalo AL, Kyrolainen H, Kovanen V, Atalay M, Tanskanen-Tero MM. Effects of military training on plasma amino acid concentrations and their associations with overtraining. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2020 Jun;245(12):1029-38.
Imseis E, Liu Y, Rhoads JM. Glutamine. General facilitator of gut absorption and repair, Ch 11 in Glutamine. Biochemistry, Physiology, and Clinical Applications, Meynial-Denis D, Ed., CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2017, pp.149-63.
Knechtle B, Nikolaidis PT. Physiology and pathophysiology in ultra-marathon running. Front Physiol. 2018 Jun1;9:634.
Knicker AJ, Renshaw I, Oldham ARH, Cairns SP. Interactive processes link the multiple symptoms of fatigue in sport competition. Sports Med. 2011 Apr1;41(4):307-28.
L’Huillier C, Jarbeau M, Achamrah N, Belmonte L, 2019 Amamou A, Nobis S, Goichon A, Salameh E, Bahlouli W, do Rego JL, Dechelotte P, Coeffier M. Glutamine, but not branched-chain amino acids, restores intestinal barrier function during activity-based anorexia. Nutrients. 2019 Jun15;11(6):1348.
Lian P, Braber S, Garssen J, Wichers HJ, Folkerts G, Fink-Gremmels J, Varasteh S. Beyond heat stress: intestinal integrity disruption and mechanisms-based intervention strategies. Nutrients. 2020 Mar11;12(3):734.
Lysenko EA, Vepkhvadze TF, Lednev EM, Vinogradova OL, Popov DV. Branched-chain amino acids administration suppresses endurance-related activation of ubiquitin proteasome signaling in trained human skeletal muscle. J Physil Sci. 2018 Jan;68(1):43-53.
Martinez-Navarro I, Sanchez-Gomez JM, Collado-Boira EJ, Hernando B, Panizo N, Hernando C. Cardiac damage biomarkers and heart rate variability following a 118-km mountain race: relationship with performance and recovery. J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Nov19;18(4):615-22.
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Millet GY. Can neuromuscular fatigue explain running strategies and performance in ultra-marathons?” the flush model. Sports Med. 2011 Jun1;41(60:489-506.
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Mitchell WK, Phillips BE, Williams JP, Rankin D, Lund JN, Smith K, Atherton PJ. A dose- rather than delivery profile-dependent mechanism regulates the “muscle-full” effect in response to oral essential amino acid intake in young men. J Nutr. 2015 Feb;145(2):207-14.
Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Sep;48(3):347-51.
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Scheer V, Tiller NB, Doutreleau S, Khodaee M, Knechtle B, Pasternak A, Rojas-Valverde D. Potential long-term health problems associated with ultra-endurance running: a narrative review. Sports Med. 2022 Apr;52(4):725-40.
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Temesi J, Rupp T, Martin V, Arnal PJ, Feasson L, Verges S, Millet GY. Central fatigue assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation in ultratrail running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Jun;46(6):1166-75.
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Literature Quotes for Recovery Window Beyond Muscles

“To improve comprehension regarding the nutritional strategies that impact post-exercise recovery, a mnemonic entitled the 4R’s (Rehydrate, Refuel, Repair, and Rest) is introduced.”
Bonilla 2020, p.3
“Slightly less carbohydrate plus protein (e.g., 1 g carbohydrate⋅kg-1 and 0.5 g protein⋅kg-1) within 30 minutes after exercise or carbohydrates along with caffeine may be used to aid rapid glycogen resynthesis.”
Bonilla 2020, p.5
The majority of studies using bovine colostrum and glutamine demonstrated a reduction in selected markers of gut cell damage and permeability compared to placebo conditions.”
Chantler 2022, Abstract
“Overall, BCAA reduced the level of muscle damage biomarkers and muscle soreness following muscle-damaging exercise.”
Doma 2021, Abstract
 “According to these findings, it is possible to consider the BCAA as a useful supplement for muscle recovery and immune regulation for sports events.”
Negro 2008, Abstract
“...high exercise workloads and the associated physiological and metabolic stress is linked to transient immune impairment, inflammation, oxidative stress, muscle damage, and an elevated URTI risk. Until recently, these effects were measured using a few targeted outcomes…”
Nieman 2019, p.343
“Intense exercise often leads to fatigue, increased body temperature, dehydration, depletion of muscle glycogen and soft tissue damage. In turn, these events disrupt the nervous and peripheral nervous systems, cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, renal, endocrine and immune systems. The general goals for postexercise recovery are to restore homeostasis, replace fuels and fluids, repair the body’s tissues, and rest.”
Peake 2019, p.17
“The hypotheses that an ultratrail decreases VATMS and that corticospinal fatigue occurs with a concomitant increase in MEP amplitude and unchanged CSP duration were confirmed.”
Temesi 2014, p.1174
[NOTE: These abbreviations mean that after a 110-km ultratrail on Mont Blanc, immediately after the event, large deficits of nervous system function were found, affecting both the brain itself (supraspinal) and spinal cord/muscle nerves (peripheral deficits.)]
“Glutamine supplementation showed no adverse events even in high dosage, making the latter a promising alternative to enhance the arginine-NO production in the splanchnic vascular bed during abdominal distress associated with splanchnic hypoperfusion.”
van Wijck 2012, p.G163
May 30, 2023 — Luke Bucci

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