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Did you know that you tear your muscles every time you lift heavy, run, or squat? The damage is minor, but that soreness you feel after a workout is the inflammation resulting from that damage to the muscle fibers. It’s also the reason you’re supposed to take a day or two off between training the same muscle: it gives your body time to recover.
The good news is that your muscle grows thanks to that damage. Your body senses that it doesn’t have enough strength for that load, so it expands those muscle fibers to store more energy for next time. That is why your muscles grow and you get stronger with every workout!
Taking the right supplements can help to increase muscular growth, but it will also speed up post-workout recovery. With a good supplement, your muscles will be back in optimal condition next time you hit the gym.
Try these supplements below to enhance workout recovery:
Protein is the most important of the post-workout recovery supplements for one simple reason: your body needs protein in order to repair/expand your muscles.
Whey protein is a great pre-workout supplement, but it’s just as good for post-workout. It’s bioavailable, meaning your body can easily absorb and put it to use. It’s also a fast-acting protein that won’t take too long to digest, and it can start working on repairing your muscles right away.
A post-workout whey protein shake can help to reduce muscle soreness, but it will also contribute to muscle growth. Whey protein will also keep your metabolism firing for longer after you work out. It’s especially important if you do a resistance training workout—one that causes a lot of microdamage to your muscles.
If your goal is weight loss, try a “Lean Muscle” supplement. It delivers a good dose of protein, but it also contains a higher dose of carbs than regular bulk-up protein. Those carbs will suppress your appetite and deliver the energy your body needs after an intense workout. A post-workout protein shake will get you back on your feet ASAP!
Our recommendation: Try CytoSport Muscle Milk Lean Muscle Protein Powder as a good post-workout protein powder. It contains more carbs (9 grams per serving), so you get that boost of energy. You also get a solid 16 grams of protein per serving to help repair your muscles. Best of all, it mixes easily, doesn’t have that grainy texture you hate and tastes pretty great!
BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids, are potentially more effective as a post-workout recovery supplement than even protein powder. Why is that?
Simple: because of three little amino acids!
BCAA supplements contain:
These three amino acids make up 66% of the protein molecules your body uses to build new muscle tissue. Essentially, they’re the most important component of muscle-building. But they also help your body to send amino acids into your bloodstream, and thereby to your muscles.
These three amino acids help your body absorb all amino acids more quickly, prevent muscle breakdown (catabolism), and protect your muscle mass (particularly for those who do a lot of cardio training).
All protein powders contain these three amino acids, but only BCAA supplements contain them in such high quantities. Alone, a BCAA supplement won’t lead to effective muscle-building. However, pair them with plant-based proteins (like beans, brown rice, quinoa, etc.), and you get plenty of these very important amino acids.
Our recommendation: Try the BPI Sports Best BCAA Powder as a concentrated source of these three important amino acids. Not only does it have a unique flavor (Watermelon Ice), but you’ll find it’s one of the best BCAA supplements in terms of both quality and price.
Beta-alanine is another important amino acid, but let’s be clear: it’s not one of the nine “essential” amino acids your body needs to build muscle. If your goal is sheer muscle mass, a beta-alanine supplement isn’t going to help.
But what it will do is help you recover from your workout more quickly. Why? Well, beta-alanine is needed (along with histidine) in order to form carnosine. Carnosine is a compound that reduces the hydrogen ions that form in your blood, preventing your pH from becoming too acidic.
Carnosine keeps your pH levels balanced, delaying muscle failure and fatigue. A healthy pH also makes it easier for your body to recover, as there is less damage to your tissues and muscles.
Note: Carnosine DOESN’T buffer against lactic acid. Lactic acid is an important part of the energy cycle, and carnosine will not affect it. It only helps your body to avoid becoming too acidic.
Beta-alanine is one of those supplements to take after your workout is over. It will speed up recovery and protect your body from becoming too acidic, making those muscle repairs easier and quicker.
Our recommendation: Try BulkSupplements Pure Beta Alanine Powder if you want to take beta-alanine to your post-workout routine. It may be a bit pricey (almost $14 for just 250 grams), but it delivers a pure, clean source of beta-alanine that can help to speed up recovery. It’s ideal for preventing the post-workout fatigue that sets in after an intense workout.
Tart Cherry Juice
You may be wondering, “How the heck can juice help to prevent soreness and speed up muscle recovery?” Well, it’s not just any juice—it’s tart cherry juice!
Cherries contain a lot of phytochemicals, antioxidants that will help to protect against oxidative stress and free radical damage. But those antioxidants can also strengthen your heart and, best of all, reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
In a 2010 study, it was discovered that cherry juice helped to speed up recovery and reduce inflammation after a workout. Less inflammation means your body can send more blood (carrying oxygen and nutrients) to your muscles, speeding up the repair. It will also help to reduce muscle soreness, which is caused by the swelling of your damaged muscle fibers.
Of the marathon runners that participated in the study, the ones who drank tart cherry juice on the day of and 48 hours after their race recovered isometric strength “significantly faster” than the runners who did not. The cherry juice also reduced inflammation and sped up recovery.
Our recommendation: Try Dynamic Health Organic Certified Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate as a great way to prevent post-workout soreness. The cherry juice is 100% certified organic, and it delivers a hefty dose of antioxidants to speed up muscle recovery. The fact that it’s concentrated means that the 16-ounce bottle can make a few quarts of cherry juice. All in all, it’s a well-priced product that delivers results!
Bonus: To seriously reduce post-workout inflammation and soreness and speed up recovery, STRETCH! Spend a few minutes stretching at the beginning of the workout, and end with 5-10 minutes of stretching to cool down. The stretches will increase blood flow to your muscles, getting the recovery processed started before you ever leave the gym.
The four supplements mentioned above are ideal if you want to speed up recovery after an intense workout. Try them to see which delivers the best results according to your body type, workout type, and lifestyle.
Health enthusiast, runner, protein nut. Owen likes to write about protein, particularly alternatve supplementation and supplement comparisons.