Supplement Guide for Post Workout Recovery
When it comes to staying fit and healthy, exercise is absolutely essential. Having a regular exercise and fitness routine is a key part of any health plan, and even more important is actually sticking to that plan. We spend a lot of time and energy exercising; whether our choice of activity is a weightlifting session at the gym, a run through the woods, or a swim in the lake. However, there is something that is equally as important as exercise itself, that we often don’t spend enough time thinking about or working towards.
That thing, my friends, is recovery. Recovery is the time following your exercise session wherein your body must rest, recuperate and heal. Depending on the type, intensity and duration of the exercise, this can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Post-workout recovery is not something that a lot of us pay much attention to, but it’s vitally important to our success.
During recovery, our body needs nutrients and rest. Obviously our diet provides nutrients, but often, we don’t get enough of what our bodies crave the most through our diets alone. That’s where good recovery supplements come in. Just like there are a ton of supplements designed to boost your athletic performance during exercise, there are a ton of supplements that are designed to boost your recovery after exercise. Today, we’re going to explore these products, and talk about the best supplements for recovering from a workout.
What Are Recovery Supplements?
Recovery supplements are a broad category of health products that are used to aid in post-workout recovery. There are many different products that fall into this category. The best post-workout supplements aim to give your body the tools it needs to fully and completely recover.
Some examples of good recovery supplements include whey protein, which provides the much-needed protein and amino acids which help to repair damaged muscle tissue and build muscle. Other effective recovery supplements, such as multivitamins and magnesium, aim to provide overall health support, which can help your body recover more efficiently. We’ll get into more detail about the best supplements for recovery in the guide below.
How Can Supplements Help You Recover?
Supplements can help your body rest and recuperate, which leads to better post-workout recovery. They can help to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery time, among many other benefits. Here are some of the broad benefits of top recovery supplements:
- Improves post-workout recovery
- Reduces muscle soreness
- Replaces lost nutrients
- Helps your body repair
- Assists in building muscle
- Helps improve sleep quality
- Reduces risk of injury
- Shortens recovery time
- Gets you back in the gym faster
- Supports overall health
One important thing to think about is that you are in control of your fitness and exercise routines. You decide to get up and hit the gym; you decide to push yourself for that last set. But when it comes to recovery, you simply have to take a rest and let your body do its thing. With that said, there are certain things you can do to help in the process – such as resting, eating well, and adding strong recovery supplements to your routine!
Why Should You Take Supplements for Recovery?
There are many reasons why we recommend that all types of athletes take top recovery supplements. They can help improve the results of your efforts, keep you healthy, and much more. Here are some key reasons why you should consider taking the best supplements for recovery:
Recovery is just as important as exercise – this may seem like a misleading statement, but it’s absolutely true: your body needs time to rest and recovery after you exercise. Budgeting for adequate recovery time is vitally important for all types of athletes. During periods of rest and recovery is when the the real magic happens. Muscle doesn’t grow while you’re working out: it grows while you rest, after your workouts. The best post-workout supplements help to optimize recovery time and improve your health.
Your body needs extra nutrients during recovery – exercise is quite strenuous on the body, particularly if we’re talking about weightlifting and other intense forms of activity. In order to recover properly, your body needs to replenish lost nutrients. Protein is absolutely essential, as it serves as the building blocks of new muscle and the repair of damaged muscle tissue. Various amino acids are also key, and can be consumed via protein powders, or via specialized amino acid supplements. And even normal vitamins and minerals are very important to healthy post-workout recovery.
Exercise can cause nutrient deficiencies – more accurately, sweating can cause loss of nutrients which can lead to deficiencies and other problems in the long run. Several important minerals, such as magnesium, can be lost through excessive sweating, and need to be replaced in order to maintain proper health. Some of the best supplements for recovering from a workout help replace these lost nutrients.
Your body can use all the help it can get – after exercise, your body will need time, nutrients and rest to recover. Proper recover can be achieved with a healthy diet and rest alone, but supplements can help speed up the process and improve muscle growth/recovery. In other words, you don’t need to take good recovery supplements, but there’s little reason not to – especially considering that most of the top supplements for recovery that we recommend don’t cause any significant side effects.
Faster recovery means more workouts – the best supplements for recovering from a workout will not only reduce muscle soreness and stimulate muscle growth, they will also speed up the recovery process greatly. When you’re able to recover more rapidly (and completely), you’re able to get back to the gym faster. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to allocate adequate time to recover, but even if you can squeeze in one extra workout a week with the help of the best post workout supplements, you’ll be able to reach your goals much quicker.
10 Supplements for a Quicker Post Workout Recovery
Now that you’ve learned why you should consider these products, it’s time to talk about the actual products themselves! We’ll go over each individual supplement, and the pros and cons of each. Below, find our list of the best supplements for recovery.
What are BCAAs?
Branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs as they are commonly referred to as, are a class of amino acid that are key for muscle repair and recovery. The class consists of three individual aminos: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three amino acids are vital to protein synthesis and muscle growth, and can help you achieve better results as well as avoid sore muscles. BCAAs are the widely considered to be the best recovery supplement out there.
How do BCAAs Help You Recover
BCAAs are amino acids, and all amino acids serve as the building blocks of proteins. And, if you remember back to your high school biology class, protein is essential for hundreds of functions with the body. From building new muscle to repairing wounds to growing hair, protein, and therefore amino acids, are essential. BCAAs are a class of amino acid that are specifically chosen because of their beneficial muscle-building attributes. Here are some of the benefits of BCAAs:
- Helps reduce muscle soreness
- Speeds up your recovery
- Helps your muscles recover
- Helps build more muscle
- Repairs damaged muscle tissue
- Promotes protein synthesis
- Can help extend your workouts
- Can help to improve athletic performance
- Improves the results you see from your exercise efforts
- An effective supplement for muscle soreness
- One of the best recovery supplements out there
BCAAs are primarily considered one of the best supplements for recovering from a workout because they help stimulate muscle growth by triggering muscle protein synthesis. But another key factor lies in their ability to reduce muscle soreness. We’ve all experienced those uncomfortable muscle aches and pains the day after a workout, and while this soreness is natural, it can be annoying, and it can keep you out of the gym longer. BCAAs help to reduce or even prevent soreness, while simultaneously improving muscle growth. BCAAs are also considered one of the best supplements for muscle soreness.
How to Take BCAAs
BCAA supplements come in powdered form typically, although some brands make capsules. The powders are generally your best bet as they absorb more rapidly, and make it easier to customize your dose. It’s best to take a serving of BCAAs either during or immediately after your workout. If taken shortly before or during exercise, this top supplement for recovery can also help to extend your endurance. If taken after your workout, it can obviously help you recover faster and build more muscle.
As for dosage, it’s best to simply follow the instructions/manufacturer recommendations. It’s also sometimes beneficial to take several smaller doses throughout the day, rather than one big dose.
BCAA Side Effects
Typically, people who use these supplements do not report any negative side effects. With that said, the two most commonly reported issues are loss of coordination and fatigue, but these effects are rare.
Go to: Top 10 BCAA Supplements
What is L-Glutamine?
L-Glutamine is an amino acid that serves several key roles in the body. It’s naturally present in our muscle tissues, and it plays an important part in how our muscles function, recover, and grow. The body actually naturally produces glutamine, and you can also get some from your diet. However, when under stress (i.e. when you exercise) the body can easily burn through its supply of glutamine, and it can take some time to restore this supply. L-Glutamine is a good supplement for recovery because it can replace these lost stores and kick-start recovery.
How L-Glutamine Helps You Recover
The benefits of L-Glutamine are many, but since we’re talking about effective recovery supplements, we’ll focus on glutamine’s benefits in that regard. Glutamine has been shown in studies to improve post-workout recovery. It can also prevent muscle wasting which protects your muscles from damage and degradation. Here are some key benefits of L-Glutamine:
- Improves recovery time
- Stimulates protein synthesis
- Prevents muscle breakdown
- Supports faster muscle growth
- May help to increase HGH production
- Can help improve athletic performance
- Gets you back to the gym faster
- Helps reduce body fat (metabolizes fat)
- One of the best post workout supplements
The benefits of L-Glutamine make it easy to see why it made our list of effective supplements for recovery. Add that to the fact that it’s an organic amino acid with relatively few side effects, and there isn’t much reason not to take L-Glutamine!
How to Take L-Glutamine
As with most top recovery supplements, L-Glutamine should be consumed immediately following your workout. The sooner the better, really, but as long as you take your dose within 60 minutes or so, you should experience the full benefit.
Glutamine supplements are available both in capsule form and in powder form. There’s no real winner between the two, as they both offer the same benefits. Capsules are a bit more convenient, but powder makes it easier to customize your dose. Speaking of dose, a typical capsule will contain 500mg-1g of glutamine, while most often the powdered versions contain 2-5g. Glutamine is considered safe to take in amounts up to 40g/day, although an amount this high is completely unnecessary.
L-Glutamine Side Effects
Gastrointestinal side effects are possible, but rare. Interestingly, people who have sensitivity to MSG may want to avoid L-Glutamine, because the two are molecularly similar and some folks with MSG sensitivity react to L-Glutamine supplements.
3.) Whey Protein
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a form of nearly pure protein that is made from dairy products. Whey, which is at first a clear, milky liquid, is a byproduct produced by the cheesemaking process. Whey is then processed and dried into whey protein powder, which is typically 70-90%+ pure protein. Whey protein powder is actually one of the most popular supplements in general, and certainly an easy choice for any list of effective supplements for recovery.
How Whey Protein Helps You Recover
Protein itself is essential to proper recovery, because protein contributes to muscle repair and growth. Whey protein is a very high quality source of protein that boasts an excellent amino acid profile. So, while any type of protein will technically help you recover, whey is a superior form of protein and one of the best supplements for recovery. Here are some whey protein benefits:
- Excellent source of protein
- Affordable and easy way to increase protein intake
- Helps reduce muscle soreness
- Speeds up muscle recovery after workouts
- Provides vital amino acids
- Digests very quickly
- Easy to use on-the-go
- Helps repair muscle tissue
- Stimulates muscle growth
- One of the strong recovery supplements we recommend
As mentioned, all types of protein are beneficial for recovery. So why whey protein? Well, in addition to offering a great amino acid concentration, whey also digests very rapidly. Studies have shown that whey protein can hit your bloodstream within 15 minutes of consumption. This is an important benefit of whey because the faster you can get protein in your system, the faster you can start recovering. Immediately following your workout, your muscles will be screaming out for amino acids, carbs and other nutrients; and a good whey protein shake can provide much of that, very quickly!
How to Take Whey Protein
A typical serving of whey protein will contain 15-25+ grams of pure protein. Whey protein is best taken immediately following your workout. The most popular way is to make a protein shake. A lot of folks like to throw in other helpful ingredients and/or supplements into these shakes. There are all sorts of protein shake recipes you can follow to add variety.
Regardless of how you choose to take whey, you’ll want to consume it ASAP after your workout. Although it does digest quickly, that benefit won’t make a difference if you wait until hours after your workout to take it! Plan on making a shake as soon as you get home, or even make one on the go using a a BlenderBottle (Affiliate link)
Whey Protein Side Effects
Another reason that whey is a top supplement for recovery is that it does not cause many side effects. The most common issues are bloating and stomach discomfort – and most people don’t experience any side effects. Keep in mind that whey is dairy derived, so it’s best to avoid if you’re lactose intolerant.
Go to: Top 10 Whey Protein Powders
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic acid that is found in meats, and naturally found in the body. It’s one of the most popular fitness supplements on the market today, and also one of the most effective. It’s typically thought of as a pre-workout supplement, because it can help to boost athletic performance and improve endurance. However, there is some evidence to suggest that creatine may also be an effective recovery supplement.
How Creatine Helps You Recover
In the athletic community, creatine is well known for its benefits and safety of use. It’s used by millions of people because it can help you lift more weight, exercise for longer, and grow more muscle. Here are some creatine benefits of note:
- Helps muscles create more energy
- Boosts endurance
- Helps grow muscle faster
- Aids in ATP production
- Supports muscle health
- Improves athletic performance
- Speeds up the growth of new muscle
- Improves protein synthesis
- Improves nutrient transport to muscles
There’s no doubt that creatine is one of the most effective supplements for adding muscle mass, but it’s not typically thought of as a strong supplement for recovery. Creatine won’t necessarily help you reduce muscle soreness or recover quicker, but it does help in a number of ways, by boosting protein synthesis, nutrient transport, etc. and supporting muscular health. There have been a handful of studies examining creatine as a recovery aid, which have produced conflicting results. One study mentioned that it’s more effective as a recovery supplement when used by endurance athletes, such as runners. With that said, if you’re working out regularly you should likely be taking creatine anyways.
How to Take Creatine
Creatine should be taken every day, even on days you don’t workout. Typically, the dose recommended by manufacturers is 5g per day. Creatine comes in powder form, and must be mixed into water or milk.
Timing is not particularly important, although plenty of people would argue otherwise. The reality is that studies looking at the efficacy of taking creatine before working out vs. taking it after working out have returned varied results, leading many to believe that the timing of your creatine does is not important.
Creatine Side Effects
Creatine is a supplement that is taken by millions of people every day, and serious side effects are rare. There are, however, some minor drawbacks that are fairly common. Primarily, creatine is known to cause bloating and temporary weight gain. This can be attributed to creatine’s tendency to increase water absorption in the muscles, and is nothing to worry about.
Go to: Top 10 Creatine Supplements
5.) Carbohydrate Supplements
What are Carbohydrate Supplements?
Carbohydrate supplements are powdered health products containing easily digestible carbohydrates. Common ingredients include dextrin, waxy maize, and maltodextrin. These products are designed to deliver a rapid, easy to digest dose of carbohydrates, which are key to muscle recovery. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you may have began to associate carbohydrates with unhealthy foods. But, when it comes to proper post-workout recovery, carbohydrates are key.
How Carbohydrate Supplements Help You Recover
We recommend these products as effective recovery supplements because they provide a quick and easy dose of high-quality carbohydrates. They can help replenish glycogen stores and speed up recovery time. Here are some key benefits of carbohydrate supplements:
- Replenishes glycogen stores
- Refuels your body
- Improves post-workout recovery
- Improves muscle hydration
- Easy source of high quality carbs
- Quick and easy to use post-workout
- An effective recovery supplement
Your body naturally stores carbohydrates to be used throughout the day as energy. However, there is a limit to how much your body can store – think of it like a gas tank. Your tank may be full as you begin working out, but strenuous exercise is a huge drain on energy reserves. Afterwards, you need to replenish those lost nutrients as soon as possible, and carb supplements are an easy way to do just that.
How to Take Carbohydrate Supplements
Carb supps are some of the best post-workout supplements, and are therefore best to take immediately following your workout. As for dosage, simply follow the instructions on the product you’re using.
Also, keep in mind that these supplements are not designed to be meal replacements. They are useful because they make it easy to get a boost of nutrition following a workout, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with not eating a full meal, as well. You should aim to eat a complete, balanced meal within a few hours after your workout.
Carbohydrate Supplement Side Effects
When used as directed, carb supplements do not typically cause any significant side effects. With that said, some people report bloating/cramping, which is temporary but can be uncomfortable.
What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is another supplement that you can use to boost your recovery after working out. It’s often called an amino acid, but technically it’s a vitamin-like substance that is created from amino acids. Regardless, L-carnitine can be found naturally in meats, as well as in cells within the human body. It’s often talked about primarily as a weight loss supplement, but it’s also quite effective as a post workout recovery aid.
How L-Carnitine Helps You Recover
L-Carnitine provides a number of important benefits to athletes. For one, it helps to improve blood flow to the muscles during and after exercise. This improves athletic endurance during exercise, and keeps nutrients flowing to your muscles which can help reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery time. Here are some other L-carnitine benefits:
- Reduces muscle soreness
- Improves blood flow to muscles
- Improves nutrient flow to muscles
- Speeds up recovery time
- Beneficial for fat burning
- Extends physical endurance
- May help to improve athletic performance
- Reduces muscle tissue damage during exercise
L-Carnitine supplements are primarily marketed as an athletic booster/fat burner, but they are also good supplements for recovering from a workout. The benefits of this supplement have been well studied, and it’s regarded as a safe and effective product for athletes to take.
How to Take L-Carnitine
Carnitine is one supplement that needs to be taken with food in order for it to be absorbed properly. Take your dose with or shortly after a meal, and preferably a meal containing a good amount of carbohydrates and protein.
You can take carnitine on a daily basis, and doses of 1-4g are typical, depending on the product. These supplements are available in pill/capsule and powder forms.
L-Carnitine Side Effects
The typical user of L-Carnitine will not notice any negative side effects, however some people have reported diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues.
What is Leucine?
Leucine is an amino acid. In fact, it’s one of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are our #1 recommendation for the top supplements for muscle soreness. Leucine is just one of the three BCAAs, but it packs a serious punch when it comes to post-workout recovery. It’s primarily used because it can help to activate protein synthesis. While all the BCAAs can stimulate protein synthesis, leucine is the most powerful by far.
How Leucine Helps You Recover
As we discussed in the BCAAs section, leucine is known for its ability to increase muscle protein synthesis. Essentially, when you exercise your muscles develop small microtears. This signals the body to increase blood flow to the damaged muscle tissue, which in turn brings the necessary components of protein synthesis to those damaged areas. This process is key to how muscles recover and grow, and leucine is one component of the process – a very important one at that. Here are the main leucine benefits:
- Stimulates muscle protein synthesis
- Activates mTOR, a key component of protein synthesis
- Protein synthesis is the process required for muscles to grow and heal
- Reduces muscle soreness
- Speeds up recovery time
- Can help you lose weight
- The most powerful of the three BCAAs
- An effective supplement for muscle soreness
Most of the leucine benefits can be attributed to its role in protein synthesis. This amino has been the subject of many studies, and most have concluded that it is the most powerful of the three BCAAs. While you could simply take BCAA supplements, you may find that pure leucine may give better results (although it’s typically more expensive).
How to Take Leucine
Typical doses of this supplement are in the 2-5g range. You can take it at any time of the day, but generally it’s most effective when taken during or immediately following your workout. It can be taken with or without food. You can find leucine supplements in both capsule and powder forms.
Leucine Side Effects
Leucine side effects, if experienced at all, are typically mild. There is some evidence to suggest that supplemental leucine can contribute to B-vitamin deficiencies, which can cause some problems.
What are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are blends of many important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They are commonly taken by people from all walks of life, and are generally considered to be the most popular supplement out there. You may not think of multivitamins as a strong recovery supplement, and you’d be correct. Multivitamins are not going to transform or significantly improve your post-workout recovery like some of our top recommendations, but they can do a lot to improve your overall health, which in turn can help your body recover after exercise.
How Multivitamins Help You Recover
Multivitamins should be thought of primarily as a nutritional support for your overall health. While they are an effective supplement for recovery in a way, their primary function is to supplement our diets and ensure that we get adequate nutrition on a daily basis. Here are some key multivitamin benefits:
- Strengthens overall health
- Supports muscle recovery
- Supports bone strength and health
- Improves nutrient intake
- Can help improve sleep quality
- Prevents nutrient deficiencies
- Improves post-workout recovery
- Supports the immune system
- Helps keep you healthy!
Think of multivitamins as a sort of nutritional insurance. They can help fill the gaps in your diet, ensuring that you get adequate nutrition on a daily basis. Nutrient deficiencies are more common than you’d think, and can cause a whole host of health problems, as well as seriously impeding your ability to exercise efficiently and recover fully. Multivitamins help to prevent the most common deficiencies, while supporting your overall health.
How to Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins are typically a once-a-day thing. Follow the dosing instructions on the product you’re using, and take a dose once per day, every day. Multivitamins will absorb better with food, so take them with a meal or shortly after.
Also, keep in mind that while multivitamins are beneficial to overall health, they cannot fix a poor diet. You still need to make an effort to eat a healthy, balanced diet in order to maintain optimal health, and to be able to recover efficiently!
Multivitamin Side Effects
Multivitamin side effects are rare, but it’s always possible that you may react poorly to one of the many nutrients included in these products. To avoid stomach discomfort, take your multi with a meal.
Go to: Top 10 Multivitamins for Men
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta-alanine is an amino acid (technically, a modified version of the amino acid Alanine) that is useful for athletes. It’s primarily used to boost physical performance while working out. In the body, beta-alanine is converted into carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer and extends endurance. There is some evidence to suggest that this supplement may also be useful for recovering from a workout.
How Beta-Alanine Helps You Recover
As stated, beta-alanine is primarily used during workouts to improve performance. With that said, it’s also a good supplement for muscle soreness because it slows lactic acid buildup, which keeps post-workout muscle soreness to a minimum. Here are some of the main beta-alanine benefits:
- Boosts physical performance
- Increases endurance
- Prevents lactic acid buildup
- Reduces muscle soreness post-workout
- Keeps pH levels balanced
- Converts to carnosine in the body
- Supports a healthy recovery
There is little evidence to suggest that beta-alanine supplementation can actually speed up recovery times, but it can definitely make recovery easier for you by reducing muscle soreness. We rank beta-alanine as one of the best supplements for sore muscles. It’s also something that you may want to consider taking to boost your actual exercise performance, and the reduced muscle soreness would just be a nice side bonus in that situation.
How to Take Beta-Alanine
You’ll want to take around 3 grams of beta-alanine per day, and some experts recommend splitting that dose into 2-3 doses. It’s best to take immediately before a workout, as it can help improve your endurance and performance.
Beta-Alanine Side Effects
The most common side effect of beta-alanine is a tingling feeling under the skin. This is caused by the stimulation of nerves under the skin. It’s nothing to worry about, and usually only happens at first when your body is not used to the supplement.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many processes within the body. It’s found in some foods, but many people are deficient in magnesium because it can be difficult to get enough from our diets alone. Magnesium is also commonly included in multivitamins and other supplements, but often in relatively low amounts. Magnesium pills can be good recovery supplements because they help improve sleep quality and post-workout recovery, and help support many important processes in the body.
How Magnesium Helps You Recover
Magnesium is essential to the proper functioning of the human body. It helps keep bones strong, maintains healthy blood pressure and supports heart health – among many other things. It’s also a key component of healthy sleep, which is very important for post-workout recovery. Here are some of the benefits of magnesium:
- Improves sleep quality
- Healthy sleep is essential to post-workout recovery
- Works synergistically with other vitamins and nutrients
- Prevents magnesium deficiency
- Prevents migraines
- May help to maintain healthy testosterone levels
- Improves post-workout recovery time
- May help to boost athletic performance
- Supports overall health
In addition to magnesium’s all-around health benefits, there is some evidence to suggest that magnesium may help to boost testosterone levels. Higher testosterone can be very beneficial for exercise itself, as well as recovery after your workouts.
How to Take Magnesium
The recommended daily amount of magnesium is in the 300-400mg range. Most supplements contain 100-200mg per capsule, so it’s easy enough to customize your dose. It can be taken with or without food, but it’s best not to take it on a completely empty stomach.
Timing is not too important, but for most people the best time to take magnesium is at night, an hour or two before bed. Magnesium has a calming, relaxing effect on a lot of people, and can help make it easier to get to sleep. With that said, it shouldn’t make you drowsy if you take it during the day.
Magnesium Side Effects
Magnesium side effects are rare, but the most commonly reported effect is diarrhea. Some people experience loose stools when they take a full 300-400mg dose of magnesium at once. If this happens to you, split the dose into two and take it at two separate times, or simply take a smaller dose.
Go to: Top 10 Magnesium Supplements
So there you have it; our list of the top 10 recovery supplements on the market! Each of these products offers something unique, and often times you can experience the most benefit by using multiple supplements in combination.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And now that you’re an expert on the best supplements for recovering from a workout, you may be curious about other types of supplements and health products. Feel free to explore the rest of our site, where we review in detail just about every different type of supplement that there is! Thanks for reading, and good luck in your fitness journey.