Muscle recovery is a crucial aspect of fitness and workout routines. Without proper recovery, you risk injury, fatigue, and hindrance in your progress. It is essential to allow your muscles to recover adequately between workouts to avoid over-training and burnout. While rest and sleep play a significant role in muscle recovery, supplements can also help speed up the process and improve the outcome. Here, we will discuss 11 of the best muscle recovery supplements available in the market that you can use to enhance your workout routine.
As glamorous as building muscle is, the healing process is just as important in developing the best physique possible. Without the necessary time and nutrients to repair torn muscle fibers, the entire body risks the consequences of over-training and burnout. It’s common knowledge that getting enough rest and a balanced diet are the foundation for proper recovery and muscle growth, but it’s only natural to search for that “extra” factor to optimize your results. Supplements are considered an industry go-to for improving results (especially recovery), however it’s important to 1) know which supplements enhance recovery and 2) know the best brands for it. Luckily in this article we’ve got you covered- here is our list of the best supplements for muscle recovery!
Why Consider Supplements to Help Rebuild muscle tissue?
Before we even dive into the list, the question you should be asking yourself is “why should I even consider taking supplements to enhance recovery to begin with?” I mean let’s be real; you really don’t NEED them to recover from a workout. If that were the case most of us would workout once and never go back to the gym. The body is a beautiful machine capable of repairing and rejuvenating itself without the help of your local GNC. However supplements are still an option for any serious gym-goer and there are still valid reasons for taking them- here are a few you might be considering.
Increased Protein Synthesis
After a tough workout the muscle repair process begins its long and complex cycle to make way for new muscle tissue. This new lean muscle mass is triggered by protein synthesis and fueled by the nine essential amino acids, some of the eleven non essential amino acids, and various vitamins and minerals. Supplements like whey protein, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and leucine are not only solid choices for improving athletic performance, but can also help your body resupply its amino acid stores and support the repair and growth of damaged muscle tissue.
Reduced Muscle Soreness
There are few things more painful and uncomfortable than sore muscles days after working out. Some supplements, such as creatine and beta-alanine, can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time by reducing the accumulation of waste products from exercise induced muscle damage.
The body needs an abundance of liquids to perform numerous functions, and while training we loose a considerable amount. Hydration is important for muscle recovery, and supplements like electrolyte-rich sports drinks can help your body replenish lost fluids and minerals.
Inflammation is a natural part of the muscle recovery process, however excessive inflammation can make recovery slower and painful. Supplements like fish oil and curcumin contain anti inflammatory properties that improve muscle recovery and decrease muscle fatigue.
Some supplements, such as glutamine, can support the immune system and help the body recover faster from intense workouts.
Key Chemical Compounds For Post Exercise Recovery
It’s important to remember that what you’re looking for isn’t just pills and powders wrapped in shiny cases- you’re looking for chemical compounds that produce a unique and purposeful reaction in your body. I get you didn’t come here for science class, but it’s important to understand what these supplements are and what they do on some level to make informed decisions.
This is your body, and unless you understand what you’re putting in it you could potentially be sold anything (and trust me people will sell you anything in this industry) which might be useless or even counterproductive to your goals. So we’ll briefly go over the best muscle recovery compounds and some of the industry standard supplements for each to set you on the express train to GainsVille.
Whey Protein Powder
Protein is an essential macronutrient that, with balanced eating, can be consumed in large enough quantities via diet. However there are other other forms such as protein supplements that can offer not only some of the nine essential amino acids, but improve healthy muscle function and increase the quality of post workout recovery.
Whey protein powder, often taken as a post workout recovery beverage, has a solid reputation for its numerous health benefits; its ability to help improve muscle strength, facilitate muscle growth, and promote recovery. There are numerous types of protein powders to choose from including whey protein, casein, as well as plant-based options such as hemp, pea, and rice protein.
Brands of Protein Powders
Gnarley Sports Nutrition Vegan Protein Powder
Gnarly Vegan has a rich, flavor profile minus the chalky, chunky consistency of other plant proteins. Featuring the essential protein you need for active meal replacement or recovery with absolutely no animal-derived ingredients, GNARLY VEGAN uses a plant-based protein blend containing 14 essential vitamins and minerals for every vegans dietary needs.
Gnarly Vegan combines pea protein isolate, chia seed protein and cranberry seed protein to deliver 20g of protein per serving. It’s free of cholesterol, highly digestible, and hypoallergenic. By combining these proteins, Gnarly Vegan contains all 9 essential amino acids and is a rich source of antioxidants, and healthy fatty acids.
Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder
GOLD STANDARD 100% WHEY by Optimum Nutrition fuels your body with 24g of high-quality whey protein derived primarily from whey protein isolate, plus 5.5g of naturally occurring BCAAs to support muscle building, maintenance, endurance, and recovery.
Dymatize Elite Casein
Elite Casein is an excellent choice for supporting muscle recovery before you go to bed. This slow-digesting, slow-absorbing protein releases amino acids gradually, giving your muscles what they need, even while you rest. When you push yourself to your limits, repair and refuel with a supplement that works for you around the clock.
Creatine monohydrate/ creatine supplementation is by far one of the most studied (and backed) ergogenic aids on the market. It is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of lean muscle fiber. The increase of intramuscular creatine phosphate boosts the supply of energetic substrates that are responsible for producing ATP (1). This supplement has been shown to have positive effects on muscle recovery after intense bouts of exercise, intermediate activity, and for sustaining maximal performance during multiple exercises.
Brands of Creatine
BPN Metabolic Nutrition CGP
When it comes to supplements, it’s all about quality, and BPN comes highly rated for its customer service and top tier products. With their Metabolic Nutrition CGP blend you’re getting more than your average creatine monohydrate. This product provides 100% stable phosphate bonded creatine for better absorption, in turn leading to sustained ATP production. This ATP production and increased electrolyte reservoir will contribute to improved performance, delayed fatique, increased, and quality muscle recovery. It also comes in green apple, fruit punch, and blue raspberry for those who prefer tasty flavored beverages.
Gnarley Sports Nutrition Creatine
Few companies are as dedicated to transparency as Gnarley concerning their ingredients and the benefits you’ll get from them. Designed for helping athletes of all levels they focus on straight-forward, natural, science based nutrition for achieving your best. They also offer vegan alternatives, boast no GMOs, artificial coloring, soy or gluten for even the most health conscious.
What’s more is that they’re NSF certified, the gold standard of third party testing according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. Their products are tested for true label claims, microbe content, heavy metals and pesticides.
HMB (Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methylbutyrate)
HMB is a metabolite composed of the amino acid leucine. Traditionally HMB has been proven to be a great anabolic (muscle-building) aid for virtually all populations.
Research has shown that even just 3 grams of HMB was able to increase protein synthesis two-fold and reduce muscle protein breakdown by half- creating net protein synthesis. It also helps to improve cognitive health, bone health, reduce fat mass in abdominal obesity(2). Fortunately on top of all of these benefits HMB still has the added component of muscle recovery.
A recent study proved this to a degree involving 24 professional soccer players regularly taking 3 grams of HMB over a 12 night period. The results found a significant decrease in the creatine kinase index as well as the lactate dehydrogenase index. Both are markers triggered during intense bouts of exercise; increasing muscle breakdown and pain, inflammatory markers, and decreasing muscle function throughout the body(3).
Brands for HMB
BulkSupplements comes highly recommended by buyers and has gained a reputation in the supplement industry for its range of quality products and affordable prices. Their HMB specifically is quite affordable and as someone who takes this product specifically I’ll vouch for the effectiveness of this product.
They also give you the option of purchasing different amounts from 3.5 oz (which is already 100 servings) to 11lbs (or 5,000 servings!). With such flexibility in pricing and dosage, BulkSupplements is a great choice for anyone just trying the supplement or ready to go all in with it.
Double Wood Supplements HMB
Another highly rated brand, Double Wood Supplements offer a wide range of medicinal herbs and supplements to choose from- their company’s focus on holistic wellness. Double Wood’s HMB is Gluten-Free, Soy-free, contain no GMOs, and is sold in capsule form for easy dosing and consumption.
Magnesium is a mineral cofactor of different enzymatic reactions involved in both anabolic and catabolic processes that affect muscle performance during exercise. A deficiency in this mineral produces muscle weakness and damage, a point emphasized by an increase in circulating muscle damage markers- in turn compromising muscle recovery.
Magnesium (especially in athletes) has been noted to prevent muscle damage during strenuous aerobic exercise, and as a result helped in the muscle recovery process. While it’s possible to achieve adequate magnesium levels via a balanced diet, supplementation is also a viable option.
Brands for Magnesium
Life Extension Magnesium Capsules
Offering 100 servings in safe, vegetarian capsules, Life Extension Magnesium Capsules are a healthy and convenient way of consuming this essential micronutrient. It’s also offered at one of the best prices on the market, so don’t sleep on this deal!
Zinc, while representing the second highest trace metal in the human body, plays an essential part in overall health. This mineral has structural and catalytic roles in protein and cellular signaling and a severe deficiency of it can lead to loss of appetite, immune abnormalities, dwarfism, hypogonadism, mental lethargy, and rough skin(4).
It’s been noted that zinc levels decrease significantly during exercise recovery compared to pre-exercise levels. This has led researchers to theorize that exercise induced fluctuations in zinc levels are a result of muscle repair mechanisms following exercise- thus implying zincs potential for improving muscle recovery.
Brands for Zinc
The Vitamin Shoppe Zinc 50mg Capsules
The Vitamin Shoppe offers their name brand zinc supplement for the everyday wellness seeker who’s looking for immune and antioxidant support, growth, and muscle recovery. They offer different amounts at very affordable prices, and it’s as easy as picking it up from your local Vitamin Shoppe or ordering it online.
Life Extension Zinc Capsules
Another Life Extension product, this highly rated zinc product will conveniently provide your daily dosage of zinc in a safe, vegetarian capsule. It’s also important to remember that if you take 50mg of zinc capsules daily for more than 2 weeks, you should take 2mg of supplemental copper to protect against copper deficiency.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega 3 Fatty acids is a complex fat that contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). They are essential nutrients that are important in preventing and controlling heart disease(6).
In particular there have been positive outcomes on muscle recovery from taking fish oil supplements, the consensus on the dosage is still up in the air. Research has shown that taking an investigation of untrained men consuming 1.8mg of fish oil for 30 days showed significant decreases in delayed onset muscle soreness at 48 hours post eccentric exercise(5).
Omega 3, when incorporated into skeletal muscle, takes longer to absorb due to slower fatty acid turnover rate in existing muscle. As such supplementing for shorter and longer durations may have a positive effect on perceived muscle soreness. That being said it’s up to you to determine how long you choose to consume this supplement. Omega-3 supplements are available in various forms, including pills, liquids, and softgels.
Brands of Fish Oil
Primal Kitchen Omegas
Primal Kitchen’s Omega 3 blend is sourced from wild caught Norwegian cod and is served in gelatin capsules. Best part is that these omega 3s have a nice lemon lime flavor, opposed to the typical fishy taste of other brands. This brand offer 100 quality capsules with a 100 percent money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with the product
Life Extension Omega 3
Life extension’s omega 3 unlike many other products on the market also uses sesame lignans and olive extract. EPA and DHA fatty acids from fish oil support cardiovascular health, brain health, and much more. Inspired by the Mediterranean diet, their Super Omega-3 delivers the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids your body needs, plus potent olive polyphenols and sesame lignans for additional cardiovascular, cognitive, and whole-body health benefits.
How Do Muscles Recover?
The process of muscle recovery is a complex and multi-step process that begins immediately after exercise and can last for several days. It is the process by which the body repairs and regenerates damaged muscle tissue, and in preparation for the next workout. The amount of time it takes for muscle recovery depends on several factors, including the intensity and duration of the workout, the individual’s fitness level, and overall health.
The Chemical Process
The chemical process of muscle recovery involves the activation of several pathways and mechanisms, including inflammation, protein synthesis, and cellular repair.
The process begins with inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to muscle damage. Inflammation triggers the release of immune cells and cytokines, which help to clear away damaged tissue and start the healing process.
Protein synthesis is another crucial aspect of muscle recovery. The body uses amino acids from dietary protein to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue.
In addition to protein synthesis, the body also uses energy stores and glycogen to support the recovery process. During the first 24-48 hours after exercise, the body is in a state of negative energy balance, and it relies on stored energy to support the recovery process.
Amount of Time For Body Repair
The total time it takes for muscle repair can vary from person to person, but generally, it takes 24 to 48 hours for muscle soreness to subside and 72 hours or more for the muscle to fully recover from the previous workout. For some people, full muscle recovery can take up to several days, especially after a very intense workout.
Muscle Recovery And Supplement Q&A
Q: Are The Best Muscle Recovery Supplements Safe to Take?
A: To the general public no, however there is always a risk, no matter how slight. At the end of the day it all comes down to two factors; the specific product and the individual’s overall health. Its essential for you to better understand the ingredients in each product and to better understand your own body by speaking to a healthcare professional. This will help you steer clear of products that may have an adverse effect on your health.
Q: How Do These Supplements Relate To Your Post Workout Routine?
A: Ideally many of these substances can serve you well as a post workout supplement. Think of your muscles as individual storehouses- as you breakdown fibers during intense workouts your “storehouses” are depleted of resources to keep up with the demand for energy. These supplements and your diet help restock those energy stores for the next workout. With that being said it would imply the best time to take supplements specifically for recovery is after the workout itself- and in many cases that’s true. However for some supplements taking them preemptively as a pre workout will not only provide an abundance of energy during the workout, but give the also provide an additional supply for the next workout.
Q: Can Muscle Recovery Supplements Be Taken With Medication?
A: It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before combining muscle recovery supplements with other medications or supplements. Some supplements may interact with certain medications, and it is important to be aware of any potential interactions.
Q: Should You Take Branched Chain Amino Acids?
The supplement market is very big on pushing bcaas, which makes the question a valid one. Some studies claim that BCAAs supplements may increase muscle mass and strength during training. The studies were short term and did not show that supplementing with BCAAs is superior to getting them from dietary sources. Some studies also suggest that BCAAs may relieve muscle soreness and help with recovery following exercise. While this sound good on paper, the overall effects may not be significant enough to warrant the use of supplements.
Benefits of Taking a Muscle Recovery Supplement
Taking a muscle recovery supplement can offer numerous benefits for athletes looking to maximize their performance and reduce injury risk. Some key benefits include:
- Increased energy levels
- Faster recovery time from workouts
- Improved inflammation response
- Enhanced metabolic rate
- Improved overall muscle health and regeneration after workouts
All these benefits combine to help athletes maximize their results without sacrificing safety or health. This can be especially beneficial for those engaging in intensive training regimens that require intense effort for extended periods of time.
What To Consider When Choosing The Best Muscle Recovery Supplement
When deciding which muscle recovery supplement is right for you, there are several factors to consider. These include:
- Types and amounts of nutrients included in the product
- The type(s) of activities being undertaken (e.g., weightlifting vs running)
- Cost vs effectiveness ratio
- Personal dietary needs/restrictions (e.g., vegan or gluten free diets)
This list is an excellent place to start for the best in muscle recovery supplements, however its still important to do thorough research into each product before making a decision. Remember that as not all products or there quality levels are equal for optimal results. Additionally, some products may contain substances which could interact negatively with certain medications or medical conditions – always consult a doctor prior to taking any new supplements!