Best Recovery Supplements For Post-Workout Muscle Repair

Man drinking recovery supplement

Recovery supplements are essential for post-workout muscle repair and energy restoration. Key supplements include whey protein, BCAAs, creatine, and electrolytes. Let's dive in and find out more.

So, you've given your all during your intense workout, and now it's time to focus on the next crucial step: recovery.

We're here to remind you of the importance of refuelling your body with the right macro and micronutrients to optimise your recovery process.

Recovery isn't just about taking a breather and resting. It plays a vital role in growing and repairing your hard-working muscles. 

Why? Well because a good recovery regime can prevent pesky post-workout muscle soreness and replenishing your energy sources—so you're ready to tackle your next gym session with full force.

It's the key ingredient that will keep you consistently smashing your workouts week after week, leading to the impressive results you're after.

By giving your body the proper refuel it needs after exercise, you'll be nurturing your muscles, helping them grow stronger and recover faster.

You'll also banish post-workout soreness, moving freely and without discomfort while boosting muscle recovery. 

Embrace the recovery process, give your body the nutrients it craves, and watch as your results skyrocket.

Why is post-workout recovery important?

When you push your muscles beyond their normal limits, little tears in your muscle tissue form.

But here's the exciting part: It's the repair of these tears that actually leads to muscle growth.

But, take note…if you don't give your muscles the time they need to recover, you won't see the gains in lean muscle mass that you've been working so hard for.

You might notice a dip in your muscle strength, making it a real struggle to power through your workouts—and let's be honest— seeing a lack of progress is no fun either.

Giving your muscles proper time to repair doesn't just contribute to your gains, but it also helps reduce the risk of injury.

SmartFact: Studies have found (1) that if you neglect or completely ignore recovery or don’t get adequate rest, you can experience a decrease in performance (2), increase your risk of injury and post-exercise muscle pain, and prolong muscle soreness and pain (3).

Now, while taking time off allows those muscle fibres to heal, there's something else that can lend a helping hand—muscle recovery supplements.

In addition to rest, muscle recovery supplements can do wonders to help speed up your recovery time and get you back on track faster.

Why do our muscles get sore?

When we subject our muscles to new or intense activities, they experience a level of stress that’s new or intensified.

This stress can lead to tiny tears in the muscle fibres, which can leave us feeling sore anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after exercise. 

Believe it or not, your body actually doesn't enjoy being sore.

So, after you've pushed yourself through a challenging workout or physical task, your body goes to work repairing that muscle damage.

This repair process is what strengthens and thickens the affected muscle fibres, making them more powerful than before. 

As you continue to exercise at a similar level of intensity, you may notice that your muscles won't get as sore.

That's because your body is adapting and getting stronger, ready to take on new challenges without leaving you hobbling around in discomfort.

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Delayed onset muscle soreness

Unlike acute soreness, which you might feel during a workout, delayed soreness shows up fashionably late, around 24 to 48 hours after your workout. 

SmartFact: Muscle soreness is actually a positive thing. It's caused by microtears or minor inflammation in your muscles. Now, we know that might sound a bit alarming, but fear not.

These microtears and inflammation actually give your muscles the nudge they need to heal and adapt, making them stronger and more resilient.

But why does delayed soreness take its sweet time to show up? Well, that's a mystery yet to be fully unravelled.

There are several theories floating around, from micro-trauma to muscle spasms, lactic acid buildup, release of muscle enzymes, and even connective tissue damage or muscle inflammation. 

The truth is—delayed onset muscle soreness seems to be a result of several factors working together. 

As for how long it lasts, delayed onset muscle soreness can hang around anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

SmartTip: Delayed onset muscle soreness should gradually improve over time, so be patient with yourself and take it easy when needed.

Lactic acid

When you're giving it your all during a workout, your body relies on oxygen to convert glucose into energy.

But during those super intense moments, oxygen may not be readily available to complete this process.

So, your body goes into superhero mode and produces lactate as an alternative source of energy. 

Now, here's the catch: When lactate builds up faster than it can be removed, you start feeling that unmistakable burning sensation of lactic acid.

Surprisingly, it's not actually the lactic acid itself that leaves you feeling sore. It's the aftermath of intense physical activity and the muscle damage that occurs.

Simply sitting down and stretching after a vigorous workout won't do the trick. Lactic acid tends to get ‘stuck’ in the muscles, and we need to get that circulation flowing to kick it out. 

SmartTip: You can conquer lactic acid buildup after your workout by treating your body to a proper cool-down session. Try such as five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, which will allow oxygen to re-enter the bloodstream and muscles.

How to relieve muscle soreness fast?

Recovery is all about finding your way back to that glorious state of normalcy after a challenging workout.

For your muscles, that means bidding farewell to soreness and embracing the feeling of rejuvenation.

While the market’s flooded with supplements promising to enhance your recovery journey, you might not actually need them if you're fueling your body with the right nutrients.

By establishing healthy eating habits and getting the perfect balance of nutrients from your diet, you can enhance your muscle recovery game.

It all starts with making smart food choices. When you finish your workout, aim to refuel within two hours with a combination of carbohydrates and protein.

This duo plays an incredible role in replenishing your energy stores and supporting muscle repair.

When you've got your nutrition on point, supplements take a backseat, but if you're curious about their potential benefits, there’s a range of additional benefits and recovery aids that can be acquired through a range of products.

SmartTip: Check out our Smart guide to the best muscle recovery foods for more nutritional hacks and insider advice.
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Supplements for muscle recovery

Recovery supplements are available in a variety of options. You can take them individually, combined, or as part of a dedicated recovery blend.

Their main purpose is to replenish and revitalise your muscles, as well as other parts of your body, following an intense workout.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ones to consider.

Whey Protein

To kickstart the rebuilding and recovery process, it’s important to stimulate muscle protein synthesis—the process of our body's tissues starting to build and repair themselves.

To support this rebuilding process and foster the growth of bigger, stronger muscles, you need to get your daily fill of protein.

By fueling your body with protein, you’re giving it the necessary tools to repair and grow your muscles.

SmartTip: Between 20 to 25 grams of high-quality protein maximises the response of muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise.

After  a delicious protein punch, your body's digestive system springs into action, breaking down that protein into its precious building blocks called amino acids.

Once in the bloodstream, these branched-chain amino acids make their way to the liver, where they are expertly processed.

The beauty of whey protein is its convenience, offering an easy way to rebuild and recover, especially if you find it difficult to reach your daily protein goal or need a quick and portable snack on the go.

BCAAs

BCAAs, which include valine, leucine, and isoleucine, are part of the exclusive club known as essential amino acids.

What does that mean?

Well, it means that we need to get them from our diet because our incredible bodies can't produce enough of them on their own.

BCAAs have some pretty impressive powers.

SmartFact: BCAAs have been suggested to improve performance, recovery, and body composition (4), and be helpful for low-to-moderate exercise-induced muscle damage (5).

You can find BCAAs in various protein-rich foods, such as juicy meats and wholesome eggs. But if you're looking for a convenient way to ensure you're getting enough, BCAA supplements are a popular choice.

They usually come in the form of a powder, making them super easy to weave into your routine.

Creatine

Our natural levels of creatine can vary from person to person, but fear not, because supplementation with creatine has been shown to be a helpful tool in maximising our creatine stores.

And what does that mean for you? Well, it means faster recovery after those intense workouts you no doubt love.

When you use creatine, we are preparing our muscles to be strong, powerful, and ready to rock our next workout.

SmartFact: According to research (6), creatine supplementation has some pretty incredible potential benefits for recovery.

Creatine supplementation may enhance glycogen loading. By enhancing glycogen loading, creatine helps replenish those energy stores, ensuring our muscles have the power they need to crush those intense training sessions.

Another benefit is creatine may also reduce inflammation, empowering you to bounce back quicker and get back to doing what you love.

Creatine supplementation may also allow for more training, helping you to push through those extra reps, squeeze out more sets, and defy your own limits.

Finally, taking creatine may result in fewer injuries by enhancing our recovery process, reducing inflammation, and fueling your muscles, creating a stronger and more resilient body that's less prone to injuries.

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Electrolyte powder

Hydration is key before, during, and after your workouts. 

That's why we're here to remind you that dehydration can be a real setback, potentially delaying muscle recovery.

If you're clocking up a 90-minute session or less, water is usually sufficient to maintain hydration levels, but if you're putting in some serious sweat and pushing the limits with longer bouts of exercise, endurance events, or multiple games in a day, sports drinks or electrolyte drinks can step in and be your heroes.

Electrolytes support muscle function, balance your body’s energy stores, and reduce tiredness after exercise.

Every time you work up a sweat, your body loses these key salts and minerals. That’s why it’s so important to take electrolytes and get back to your best as quickly as you can. It’s optimum hydration at your fingertips.

Beta-alanine

There are essential amino acids that our body needs to get from food—but beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid—meaning your body has the ability to produce it.

Beta-alanine plays a crucial role in delaying muscle fatigue. How? By supporting the synthesis of carnosine—a muscle compound that works wonders in buffering exercise-induced acid.

So, when we take beta-alanine, you’re basically giving your body an extra boost to produce more carnosine. And when carnosine levels are optimised, it helps to buffer that pesky acid, allowing your muscles to keep going strong—even during intense workouts.

SmartFact: Experts found that athletes see improvements in performance after two to four weeks of taking four to six grams of beta-alanine daily (7).

Turmeric and ginger

Turmeric, derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, is like a golden treasure trove of goodness.

At the heart of this treasure lies curcumin, a naturally occurring compound that gives turmeric its dazzling yellow hue. But that's not all. Curcumin is also packed with potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Curcumin may help alleviate symptoms of arthritis, depression, and inflammatory digestive disorders. (8)

Research (9) shows that curcumin may also have a surprising effect on our muscles. It may help reduce muscle soreness and improve post-exercise recovery. Bonus.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids support the production of signalling molecules that maintain our immune system, lower inflammation, improve blood flow, and even decrease pain.

These recovery wonders may also help reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness, allowing you to push through those intense workouts with less discomfort and bounce back faster. 

SmartTip: There’s no need to worry about consuming omega-3s immediately after exercise, as you can include them in your regular diet between workouts.

We can find omega-3 fatty acids in some incredible food sources, like cold water fish, salmon, herring, and sardines—all of which are packed with this powerful muscle recovery tool.

Omega-3 fatty acids also occur naturally in plant sources, with nourishing options like walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.

Lifestyle choices for muscle recovery

Aside from taking supplements for muscle growth and eating a diet rich in protein, there are other ways to help your body and muscles recover.

It’s not all about what you put in: Applying a consistent approach to your overall lifestyle, sleep, and habits also harness the potential to elevate your muscle growth.

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Prioritise more sleep

When you exercise intensely, your body undergoes tremendous strain and stress. That's why you need even more rest than the average person.

Think about it—you're pushing your limits—challenging your muscles, and breaking them down to build them back up stronger. 

Research (10) has uncovered some fascinating findings. When you deprive yourself of sleep, it can actually impair your body's inflammation reaction and disrupt the production of hormones that aid in muscle growth. 

In other words, lack of sleep can throw a wrench in your muscle recovery process. So, get on top of your sleep hygiene and you’ll skyrocket your post-workout recovery.

Stay on top of your hydration

Dehydration can throw a wrench in your muscle recovery process, impairing your body's ability to repair muscles. This means you might not see the gains you deserve for a long while..

The American College of Sports Medicine has our back and recommends a simple rule of thumb. For every pound you lose while exercising, aim to replenish your body with 16 to 24 ounces of fluid (11). 

That way, you're hydrating like a champion and giving your muscles the support they need to bounce back stronger than ever.

Get a massage

In a 2020 review (12) of studies, our trusted sources have found that massage has a small but significant effect on two key things—improving flexibility and decreasing your risk of DOMs.

By adding a massage into your training routine, you're giving your muscles the love and attention they deserve.

With regular massage, you’re essentially promoting flexibility, making it easier for your body to move and perform at its best.

Plus, you're saying goodbye to that unwelcome soreness that can sometimes linger for days after intense workouts.

Level up your post-workout the Smart way

Not sure where to start when it comes to post-workout supplements? Let us set you on the path to recovery and recuperation and allow you to keep training hard.

Ensure your body gets back to its incredible best after exercising with our top products for optimising the post-activity recovery process.

With whey protein for muscle repair, replenishing electrolytes, and gummies for joint health, The Recovery Kit has just what you need to keep you fresh, sharp, and recharged after intense activity. Go for it.

Source

Smart Protein is committed to sourcing only the best and scientifically-backed research in our articles.

1. Mdpi

https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020294

2. Ncbi

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26945309/

3. Oxford Academic

https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/76/4/243/4851715?login=false

4. Mdpi

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/19/4002

5. Mdpi

https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9101047

6. Taylor & Francis Online

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z

7. Nih

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4501114/

8. Examine

https://examine.com/supplements/curcumin/

9. Bmj

https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935 

10. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2020/02000/effects_of_sleep_deprivation_on_acute_skeletal.28.aspx   

11. American College of Sports Medicine

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/07000/exercise_and_fluid_replacement__brought_to_you_by.3.aspx 

12. PubMed

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7228568/

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