No pain, no gain. We all know that when you push yourself to crush a particularly intense workout, you’ll be left with stiff, sore muscles. But feeling a little pain post-exercise is normal and means your body is doing its job. In fact, the experts say the soreness—referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—means your muscles are being put to the test and learning new movements, which can cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibers.
Here’s the thing, though: If we’re feeling achy and stiff, we’re way less likely to head into the gym again the next day or push ourselves further during our next session. Enter post-workout supplements. These powerful rejuvenators fuel the muscles so they restore themselves faster, getting you back on track quickly so you can wreck your personal best and then some. Here are some of the best muscle recovery supplements to take to aid in post-workout recuperation.
Whey Protein Isolate—There’s a reason why your trainer says to chug a protein shake after a workout, and it’s because it contains the vital amino acids that assist in protein synthesis (the body’s way of generating new proteins to repair the microscopic muscle damage caused in the gym) as well as other essential nutrients to aid in recovery. We recommend going for a clean whey protein isolate supplement post-workout because it’s absorbed by the body fast and because it provides ample protein with fewer calories.
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Creatine—Found in the cells of muscles, creatine is the natural chemical compound responsible for producing energy. Creatine is only second to protein on the list of the most popular post-lifting supplements, and it’s not hard to see why. Studies have shown that creatine supplementation enhances the recovery of muscle force after a workout, which can help lead to lower risk of exercise-induced skeletal muscle injury. It also boosts athletic performance and recovery because it actually reduces muscle breakdown at the same time.
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Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)—BCAA supplements are commonly taken after working out because they can help you reduce workout fatigue and boost muscle growth and endurance. BCAAs are a group of three amino acids— leucine, isoleucine and valine—which are essential for the body to function properly, doing everything from reducing serotonin production to helping to regulate blood sugar. Rather than digesting in the liver like other amino acids, BCAAs break down in the muscle where they help produce energy, keeping you on the top of your game.
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Beta-Alanine—Similar to BCAAs, beta alanine is an amino acid that the muscles put to good use before, during and after a workout. In fact, beta alanine actually helps the body produce carnosine, a compound that serves as a protein building block necessary for endurance and muscle exercise. Beta-alanine supplements can help build up your carnosine levels so that you’re able to work out harder and faster without becoming fatigued. This results in a better workout with fewer feelings of soreness and tiredness.
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L-Glutamine—Another amino acid found naturally in the body, L-glutamine serves as a building block of protein, which means it can help support your body’s ability to repair the muscles that get damaged during hard-hitting workouts. Research shows that L-glutamine aids in muscle recovery because it helps maintain a positive nitrogen balance. After a tough lifting session, the body rushes nitrogen to the muscles to stimulate tissue repair, so you need it for fast, effective muscle rebuilding.
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More Post-Workout Essentials
If you want to push yourself further and harder day after day, not only do you need supplements for muscle recovery, but you also need a good night’s rest and the many diverse vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs for a nourishing restoration period. Taking supplements that help you get a good night’s sleep and that fuel the body while you snooze will also result in a well-rested feeling so you’re ready to hit it harder tomorrow.