Optimize Your Training Routine With the Best Supplements for Recovery
Whether we are frequent sports practitioners or sedentary people hitting the gym from time to time, we’ve all experienced the after-effects of physical activities, the muscle soreness, the burning and dehydration.
Therefore, adopting proactive measures like using the best supplements for recovery should be an essential part of our fitness routine. It is extremely important to support our body not only during workout, but also post-workout when it is depleted, torn and needs to refuel.
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The right “fuel” can provide the exact nutrients our bodies need after strenuous activities and can help us push ourselves to obtain even more notable results.
Nonetheless, when talking about supplements, the “one size fits all” rule does not apply since there is a variety of products intended for different people and purposes. Fortunately, we’ve done some research for you and summed up some of our findings so that you can have a better understanding of the whole situation.
What challenges does the body face in the recovery phase?
Regardless of the type of workout you do, any physical activity changes blood circulation, heart functions and hormonal balance. Additionally, your body is countering inflammation, restoring the nutrients and energy required for cellular activity and for a proper functioning of the nervous system.
All of these internal modifications may lead to muscle soreness, fatigue, joint discomfort, fatigue and even temporary dehydration – and they are only emphasised when it comes to sedentary people.
According to PhD Joel Seedman, a workout beginner’s nervous system ‘hasn’t become efficient in recruiting various muscles. Your body doesn’t quite know how to fire everything properly and you don’t have as much motor control.’ In other words, if you’re just starting out your training, the recovery process may take a little longer – but your nervous system will adapt pretty quickly if you keep a steady schedule. (1)
Staying hydrated and having a diet rich in nutrients are key to overcoming these common and normal post-workout challenges.
Main types of physical recovery
Generally speaking, there are two types of post-workout recovery:
Also known as active recovery, this stage happens right in the first hours following intense exercise. It includes the cool-down phase of low-intensity exercise and the couple of days after the workout session.
During short-term recovery, soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments that were stretched and/or broken down are repairing themselves using nutrients such as protein.
This type of recovery is more commonly encountered in professional athletes. Most year-round training programs include days or even weeks of recovery that are a crucial part for reaching maximum performance. Sometimes coaches and athletes may also change or interrupt a long-term training program particularly for better recovery. (2)
What happens in your body during post-workout recovery?
The process of recovery is generally the same for everyone. Here are the most significant things that happen during this process: (3)
- Muscle fiber repair
During physical activity, your muscle tissue is pushed to its limits and muscle fibers break apart. Not only do these fibers recover post-workout, but they also end up being stronger than before.
- Protein synthesis
Protein-rich diets and products aren’t so popular for no reason! This is the most important macronutrient your muscles need to function properly. Protein is made of amino acids your muscle tissue is storing and using during the recovery. This process is called protein synthesis and, as the National Institute of Health found, it is accelerated by up to 50% within the first hours after training!
Why do you need a recovery supplement?
According to specialists, there is a 45-60 minutes post-workout window which seems to be the best period to amp up your nutrition game and reinstate your supply of specific nutrients and ingredients that you consume during every fitness activity.
This is where the recovery supplements come in. Supplements should not only come as an aid to a balanced diet, but, they nevertheless can provide their own benefits to your nutritional plan and overall well-being. (4)
The main reasons for choosing recovery supplements are:
- Stimulating protein synthesis
- Preventing inflammation
- Recreating a proper nutrient balance
- Improving the immune system
- Increasing ATP production in muscle cells (more energy)
- Promoting lean muscle repair and gains
- Creating a healthy hormonal balance
Most common ingredients of recovery supplements
Protein is a must-have when it comes to a fast and efficient post-workout recovery.
It is easily digested and has a high concentration of amino acids which are essential to stimulating the protein synthesis process, repairing damaged tissues and protecting the muscles from breaking down after a strenuous training session. It is satiating and boosts the metabolism by restoring the glycogen energy storage and reducing the cortisol levels which usually increase during workout.
To promote a better recovery, it is recommended to consume up to 30 grams of protein immediately after workout.
BCAA’s, or branched amino acids, are one of the most important recovery supplements in helping to build and repair muscles, considering that our bodies do not naturally produce them. They consist of three amino-acids: L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine, with Leucine being consumed at the highest rate of all BCAAs (5).
Studies have shown that BCAAs have a significant role in reducing muscle soreness all the while accelerating the growth and repair process and preventing catabolism, which is what happens when the body is forced to use its own muscle tissue to keep up the energy level. They play a major part in the digestion and absorption of protein, improving performance by restoring the energy substrates (6).
Glutamine is an amino acid which makes up around 60% of our body’s entire production of amino acids. The body cannot produce it very fast so it can take hours to restore the glutamine supply in our muscles after an intense workout; therefore, supplementing with glutamine is key to refueling and building our muscles.
It is responsible for taking nitrogen atoms to affected areas of our body, which in turn work to repair tissues and damaged muscles and reduce inflammation. It also provides a helping hand in the gastrointestinal tract and immune system functioning.
Glutamine is commonly consumed in divided doses throughout the day, with recommended 5-10 grams after workout (7).
Creatine is another amino acid found in the body’s muscles and in the brain. It is usually used to boost ATP production (adenosine triphosphate – one of the three metabolic energy systems) in the muscle cells, allowing the muscles to perform better for a longer period of time.
By bringing back the energy to your muscles after a workout, creatine does not only help you to recover faster but also to be able to get back to training faster and build lean muscle mass. It prevents muscle breakdown and is known as the most proven and inexpensive ergogenic aid for athletes (8).
Beta-alanine is a di-peptide composed of l-histidine and carnosine, which prevents the onset of fatigue and enhances physical performance. It basically exerts effects by moderating and stabilizing the pH of the body, thus reducing possible damages to muscles and tissues.
It prevents muscle contraction and is active in stopping you from feeling “the burn”, namely the lactic acid produced by muscles during workout.
Multivitamins and minerals
The best supplements for recovery cannot lack multivitamins. A good quality multiple vitamin and mineral formula can fill in your nutrition gap and replenish the building block nutrients that you lose during training sessions.
Vitamin C, for example, is an essential ingredient for your post-workout routine because it provides the antioxidants required for your immune system while vitamin D improves bone strength pre and post workout.
Magnesium is also known for its role in optimizing recovery. It helps you improve muscle function, stabilize electrolyte balance and reduce tiredness (9).
How to choose the right recovery supplement
With so many products on the market, it’s no wonder many people end up with a product that’s both unhealthy and useless in terms of aiding the recovery process. But how can you choose the best option anyway?
Naturally, the intensity of your workout sessions plays a big role in choosing the right supplement. A person who performs light exercise, for instance, doesn’t need as much protein or creatine as a professional athlete on a tougher training program. If you are a beginner, you’ll probably be just fine with a regular dose of ingredients.
Exercise programs designed to build muscle, such as weight lifting, may require a supplement rich in protein to maximize muscle fiber recovery. Meanwhile, those who practice endurance sports such as cycling or running can benefit from extra creatine. Everyone who works out should get a proper dose of vitamins and minerals.
The ingredients list usually tells you everything you need to know – as long as you read it properly. As a rule of thumb, a good recovery supplement is mainly based on one of the ingredients mentioned above; additionally, there should be other components such as vitamins and minerals that enhance the benefits of the product.
Also, make sure to watch out for unhealthy ingredients that could ruin your diet and slow down the recovery process! The most harmful substances usually used are heavy metals and sugar alcohols. It’s also recommended to avoid artificial sweeteners like acesulfame potassium or aspartame; though they may taste good, they ultimately reduce the quality of the product.
Finally, while most ingredients are generally approved, the FDA doesn’t check the quality of any supplement on the market. Therefore, it’s up to you to pick the right formula for your needs
Take home conclusions
When we exercise and consequently, the more we exercise, we put our bodies through a lot of strain and push them to become better and stronger. This continuous cycle implies short-term recovery, as well as long-term recovery for more complex training programs. Both types of recovery can cause symptoms such as muscle soreness, fatigue, joint or ligament discomfort and occasional dehydration.
Staying hydrated and maintaining a regular diet are key for a healthy, natural recovery process. However, recovery supplements are a great solution to a more efficient muscle recovery. From BCAAs to creatine or protein, these substances enhance the usual benefits provided by post-workout recovery such as improved immunity, preventing inflammation and creating a balanced amount of nutrients.
As for choosing the right supplement for your needs, it all comes down to the ingredients used for the final formula. As long as you stay away from toxic substances like heavy metals and make sure the product contains at least some of the healthy options listed above, you should have no problem in finding the perfect item.
Below, you can find a list of five of our favorite supplements for recovery that meet the criteria and fit most people’s needs regardless of the training level.
Best supplements for recovery
This is another high-quality BCAA and creatine mix with a fully disclosed ingredients’ list aimed at recovery and growth of muscle mass, even without the inclusion of simple carbohydrates. 5 grams of creatine monohydrate are a useful way to maintain creatine saturation and enjoy the physical power it conveys. The formula mixes well into an adequately dosed product which includes 2g of L-Carnitine-L-Tartrate to facilitate fat burning for energy and a 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs.
- Instantized Leucine and Isoleucine for quicker absorption
- Faster recovery against DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness
- Manufactured in a USA-based facility using high-quality ingredients
- Some customers claim the taste is a bit bitter
Produced by a trustworthy brand focused on safe and tested ingredients, Recharge includes nothing but natural and clinically studied substances to optimize recovery and improve muscle strength. The pure Creatine monohydrate is one of the fastest absorbing forms of Creatine and extremely efficient in post workout recovery by helping damaged muscles tissues to heal faster. Combined with the 28 grams of Calcium and 2.1 grams of L-carnitine and L-tartrate, which restore energy supply and absorption of nutrients, this supplement successfully achieves what recovery products aim for.
- Includes corosolic acid which enhances blood glucose control
- Friendly formula to both vegetarians and vegans
- Manufactured in USA by a reliable company
- Some customers complained about the poor mixing ability
10 grams of BCAAs and EAAs is the highest amount of amino acids for products on our list, therefore this supplement has a powerful contribution to enhancing performance by repairing and building tissues such as muscles and reducing soreness. Also, due to the high BCAAs content, it enables a faster anabolic and anti-catabolic effect and manages to eliminate fatigue, by decreasing serotonin levels.
- 1000 mg electrolyte content to maintain the alkaline pH and hydration level
- Formula based on healthier ingredients than other options
- No sugar or calories so it fits most diets
- The variety of available flavors isn’t that wide
Packed with a cocktail of the most common ingredients used for recovery and repair after strenuous physical activities among which BCAAs, beta-alanine, creatine and betaine, this supplement promises to deliver real results with no adverse side effects. The BCAAs are well known for their importance in protein synthesis and muscle growth, so the 6 grams included in the formula aim to do just that while the carbohydrates from all sources contribute to the overall beneficial muscle function.
- No abbreviated formulas or proprietary blends
- Efficient blend of proven recovery ingredients such as glutamine and carnitine
- 2 grams of Beta alanine for stamina and endurance
- A bit pricey compared to other similar products
This product is marketed as a powerful contender for the title of the best post workout supplements out there, with a trio of staple ingredients with active roles in muscle growth and energy production in the form of BCAAs, glutamine and creatine monohydrate. It is also a keto friendly supplement which provides a higher amount of glutamine than other supplements with mixed ingredients.
- 30 servings per container, suitable for vegetarians and vegans
- Free from genetically modified ingredients and artificial sweeteners
- Produced in a GMP-certified facility in the U.S.
- Some customers complained about digestive issues
Clearly, the recovery process is just as important as preparation for a training session along with the exercise itself. Along with a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle, each of the products we recommended can enhance physical functions so the post-workout phase becomes easier. However, our favorite product on the list so far is the Vintage Build Post Workout with BCAAs.
First of all, each serving contains a powerful combination between glutamine, BCAAs and creatine – all of which have scientifically proven benefits for promoting muscle growth and recovery. Simultaneously, though, the product is also free from sugar and other additives that may damage performance levels in both beginners and pros. Top that with a stevia-sweetened flavor and you have a perfect, vegetarian-friendly snack to accompany you on your way to reach your goals!