You’ve made it to the gym, you’ve completed an intense workout, now, how do you optimize your muscle gain?
Taking a post workout recovery drink can help you put the cherry on top of the hard work you’ve just done. These supplements can fill nutritional gaps, helping you repair muscle tissue, offset muscle soreness, and keep going back to the gym for more.
Here’s what you need to know about what to look for in recovery supplements and how to choose the best post workout supplements to help you reach your goals.
Here’s our top ten selection to get you started:
Transparent Labs Coreseries Post Workout
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Dark Matter Post Workout, Recovery Accelerator
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Mutant Pro – Triple Whey Protein Powder Supplement
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Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
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XTEND Original BCAA Powder
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Transparent Labs Coreseries BCAA Glutamine
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Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder
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Transparent Labs Strengthseries Creatine HMB
|View on Transparent Labs
Vitargo Complex Carbohydrate Powder
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Transparent Labs Strengthseries Carb Powder
|View on Transparent Labs
Why Use A Post-Workout Supplement?
You have owned your workout. You’ve pushed harder, lifted heavier and achieved the greatest pump of your life! You feel satisfied that you’ve crushed your workout and your body is in the ultimate anabolic state. Now it is time to GROW!
Whether you actually capitalize on all of that hard work depends on what you do next. More specifically, it comes down to what you put into your body. Your workout has placed maximum stress upon your muscles, causing micro tears in the cells and depleting them of glycogen. Once it’s over you’ve got a twenty to forty minute window to prime those muscles with the nutritional ammunition they need to recover and grow. That is the time that you need to take in the right type of post-workout supplement.
Post Workout Recovery Supplement Benefits
Speed Up Muscle Recovery
This involves your ability to recover properly between sets as well as after workouts. The goal is to ensure that the body recovers fully from the stimulus of exercise and to reduce the amount of time necessary for it to take place. Recovery is critical for muscle growth. Your body must recuperate from the catabolic process before productive protein synthesis can occur. The sooner you recover from a workout, the sooner your body can begin to respond to it and adapt by adding muscle.
When you don’t recover from workouts, you can go into a state of chronic over-training. You’ll actually begin to lose muscle instead of gaining it. In the gym, you’ll find yourself lacking the energy to do further sets at maximum ability (it will take some time to get this state, but don’t let yourself. Recover properly). Even if you do manage to get through a workout without losing effort, your body still won’t respond with the kind of adaptation you want – more muscle.
Build Muscle Faster
Muscle growth can only occur if muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown. This means that there must be a positive muscle protein balance. Strength training improves muscle protein balance, but in the absence of food, the balance will remain negative, or catabolic.
The ingredient within protein which makes it so vital in the muscle building process is nitrogen. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein contains nitrogen, which is essential for the replacement of body cells. If proteins are the building blocks of the body, then the building blocks of protein are amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that can be reformulated in a vast number of ways to create hundreds of different proteins. A dozen of these amino acids are able to be produced naturally by the human body. They are known as non-essential amino acids because we don’t have to rely on outside food sources to get them into our body.
The remaining 8 amino acids are known as essential because they can’t be manufactured by the body and must come by way of the foods and supplements we ingest.
Essential Post Workout Supplement Ingredients
Post workout supplementation is the most important aspect of muscle building supplements. Getting it right will give your nutrient starved muscles the ideal mix of both macro and micronutrients to build your body back that little bit bigger and stronger than before. That is why the post workout supplement sector is a massive segment of the supplement industry. It is so large in fact, it has become downright confusing. With so many players making so many outrageous product claims, how can you possibly find the product you need to get the job done?
By focusing on the key ingredients necessary to promote recovery and growth, you will be able to find the right post workout supplement to do the job. Here are the big four to look out for . . .
After your workout, your muscles cell are beaten down. To get them back to a state of anabolism, you need to get quality protein into the cell as quickly as you can. Whey protein powder is a complete protein source with all of the essential and non-essential amino acids present. As opposed to casein protein, whey has a faster absorption rate, allowing you to fast track it to your muscle cells more efficiently. Whey protein powder as part of your post-workout recovery formula will supply key amino acids and micro nutrients.
A BCAA supplement (Branch Chain Amino Acid) consist of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are three of essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. The three branch chain amino acids are unique among the essential amino acids because they are able to be oxidized for fuel by our muscle cells. They also trigger protein synthesize, supply muscle energy and, preserve lean muscle mass, and help offset muscle soreness.
Fast Digesting Carbs
Your body uses carbs for 3 things:
(1) to replenish glycogen (blood sugar)
(2) burning blood sugar for energy
(3) storing as body fat
When you work out, you break down muscle tissue, while depleting your energy system. Post workout carbohydrates are desperately needed by the body to replenish energy levels. So when you take in carbs post workout, the body converts them into glycogen and sends them into the bloodstream to replenish the blood sugar that you’ve been using up during the workout. Post workout carbs will also cause a spike in insulin, which is the most anabolic hormone in your entire body.
The best type of carbs to have post workout are simple carbs that are readily digested and that have a very high GI. One hundred percent dextrose is the best form of post workout carbs that you can get. Take half a gram per kilogram of lean body weight.
Creatine is a mix of 3 amino acids (arginine, glycine, methionine) that occur naturally in proteins like fish and meat. Creatine floods your body with ATP (Adenosine Triphsosphate). The result is that you will be able to replace ATP cycles more frequently during a workout.
Taking creatine post workout will infuse your depleted muscle cells with ATP and other nutrients to kick you out of a catabolic state and allow you to recover and move into an anabolic growth state. It will also help to spike your insulin levels to help shuttle the creatine into your cells for maximum absorption. The key to taking creatine is consistency. You need to maintain a steady supply of it in your system.
Do I Need Post Workout Supplements?
No one really needs to take a post workout recovery supplement. However, they’re a smart option for athletes who have an intense training schedule and struggle to get all the nutrients they need from dietary sources.
What Helps Muscles Recover Faster?
While workout recovery supplements can help with muscle repair, they’re just a small part of a recovery routine. Remember that supplements are just that— supplements. They don’t replace the foundational habits that will help you with weight loss, athletic performance, or building muscle mass.
Hydration is a must when supporting muscle repair. Fortunately, many recovery drink options have added electrolytes to guide the process. However, it’s important to drink enough water to support your intense exercise and improve your blood flow. The benefit is that your muscles recover faster, and you get that nice post-workout pump.
Nutrition is another key component of muscle recovery. You need to get enough lean protein to aid in tissue repair and eat carbohydrates to restore your muscle glycogen as a part of your post workout nutrition plan. Again, supplementing with a protein shake or carb supplement can help.
Finally, rest! Give your muscles a chance to rebuild by using a muscle group split as needed and incorporating active rest days into your training routine.
What Supplements Help Build Muscle Fast?
Generally, the same supplements that support muscle tissue repair are the ones that will help you build muscle mass. After all, building muscle is a cycle of damaging and repairing muscles for growth.
If you want to hone your focus on muscle growth and minimize your supplement intake, focus on protein and creatine. Protein gives you those basic building blocks you need for muscle repair, and creatine is scientifically proven to improve athletic performance in strength sports.
However, if you want that temporary pump and vascularity, you’ll want to take supplements containing citruline malate that act as a nitric oxide booster.
Top Post Workout Supplements For 2021
Overall #1 Pick
It’s no secret that Transparent Labs is our favorite brand at Athletic Muscle. The high quality, clean formulas make them accessible to athletes of all levels. Like most of Transparent Labs’ blends, Post has no artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives.
- Betaine Anhydrous
- L-Carnitine L-Tartrate
- Tart Cherry Powder
It’s important to note that Post is perfect for athletes who are doing everything they can to hit their dietary targets, as the clean blend offers just a basic arrangement of recovery components. If your diet is lacking, you should also consider taking protein and creatine supplements, as well as replenishing your muscle glycogen with a healthy carb-rich snack after your workout.
MHP is known for their detailed, quality products, and Dark Matter certainly lives up to the rep. The first thing this product tries to do is to spike insulin to quickly delivery nutrients into the muscle cells. This product also contains 3 different types of creatine in order to build cell volumization. It’s also has tons of amino acids.
- Waxy maize
- Glycerol monostearate
Dark Matter includes a mix of creatine and some other anabolic enablers to replenish and grow your muscles after your workout. This is a mediocare post workout supplement.
On the downside the product doesn’t mix very well. The ingredients are hidden into a 35 gram proprietary blend, meaning you don’t know the exact amounts of every ingredient. MHP also only contains 2 grams of protein. MHP changed to a new formula (according to reviews on Amazon, a cheaper formulation).
Mutant protein powder has the best flavors of any protein brand, with a wide variety to choose from. Some of the fan favorites include:
- Cookies and cream
- Chocolate fudge brownie
- Chocolate and peanutbutter
- Triple chocolate cheesecake
- Vanilla ice cream
- Birthday cake
- Salted caramel
If Betty Crocker made protein powder, this would be it.
Flavor, of course, isn’t everything. In addition to tasting great, Mutant makes a great product. This time-released protein supplement also contains a branched chain amino acid supplement for a complex recovery drink that will help you repair muscle tissue after an intense workout.
If you want a clean protein supplement, Transparent Labs has you covered. This high-quality protein supplement will help boost muscle repair after a tough workout, without the risk of any banned ingredients or extra surprises.
This grass-fed whey protein powder blends well, and lacks that chemical sweetness that many protein powders use to mask a bad flavor. As you’d expect, Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed protein is more expensive than other blends.
If you’re looking to supplement your protein intake, and don’t want a complex supplement with a proprietary blend to do the job, it’s guaranteed that what you see is what you get with this blend.
XTEND brand BCAAs have been one of our top recommendations for some time. One of the extra benefits of this great blend is the addition of electrolytes. XTEND is meant to prevent muscle breakdown, help fuel an intense workout, and support protein synthesis.
XTEND BCAAs contain:
- Citrulline Malate
- Vitamin B6
- An electrolyte blend
What this BCAA supplement lacks is the carbohydrates and energy replenishment you need after a tough workout. Use this in conjunction with other supplements to get everything you need.
Transparent Labs makes a fantastic BCAA Glutamine blend that’s ideal as an intra workout supplement or to support recovery after an intense workout. This BCAA supplement helps reduce muscle breakdown and improves recovery after resistance training, provides hydration via electrolytes, and aids in protein synthesis.
One thing that sets Transparent Labs BCAAs apart is the extra Vitamin C. Not only does Vitamin C help support immune function, keeping you active and healthy, but the body also uses it to form collagen. Collagen is a protein that aids in tissue repair and recovery.
Again, Transparent Labs doesn’t disappoint when it comes to making a clean, additive-free formula.
Optimized Nutrition is a global favorite when it comes to supplements. While they also offer a full post-workout recovery blend, their creatine is ideal for those who have their post workout nutrition down pat, and just want some extra support.
Optimized Nutrition creatine contains:
- Nothing else
Creatine is meant to help improve athletic performance and recovery, making a great intra workout supplement and post workout supplement. Optimum nutrition recommends stacking this supplement with a carb drink, protein shake, or electrolyte blend.
When supplementing with creatine, ensuring you get adequate hydration is a must. Ensure you have the foundational habits in place before adding this supplement to your training toolbox.
Transparent Labs offers Creatine HMB in a variety of flavors, as well as an unflavored option to help stack your supplements.
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB contains:
- Creatine monohydrate
- Vitamin D
- Black pepper extract
The thing that sets this blend apart is the addition of HMB, also known as β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (say that five times fast). Studies show that this naturally occuring amino acid performs similarly to creating, boosting strength, increasing lean body mass, and decreasing body fat when used to support resistance training.
Vitamin D doesn’t directly cause bigger, stronger muscles. However, it supports muscular and skeletal health, giving your body the foundation it needs for growth. In other words, think correlation over causation. It’s also effective at offsetting Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the colder months,
The addition of black pepper extract is meant to help improve absorbption, which improves the efficacy of any supplement.
Vitargo has designed their carbohydrate powder to act as a pre, intra, and post workout recovery option. People like that this blend uses barley amylopectin as the carbohydrate source, as it promotes quick uptake in the bloodstream. This blend is promoted as gluten-free, but it’s important to be mindful of the fact that it’s derived from barley. The difference is in the amylopectin, a starch, which is a separate compound from gluten. While there have been no notable complaints from those with gluten sensitivities, those with diagnosed celiac disease should proceed with caution.
Each scoop offers 35g of quick dissolving carbohydrates. A negative aspect of this supplement is the addition of sucralose as a sweetener. However, they do use natural colors and flavors.
Transparent Labs makes the best carbohydrate powder. The carbs are sourced from cluster dextrin rather than sucralose or other inflammatory sources . Cluster dextrin increases athletic performance without creating that heavy stomach feeling that athletes pay for after the fact. It also help reduce the perceived RPE during an intense workout, which is likely attributed to better fueling and recovery.
At a glance, it’s nice to see a label where the macros and calories match up. Every gram of carbs contains four calories. Thus, seeing 25g translate to 100 calories means there are no surprise sources in the formula.
Transparent Labs recommends stacking this powder with a protein shake after your workout for optimal recovery.
What is the Best Supplement to Take After a Workout?
There will never be a clear black and white answer about what supplement is best for your recovery. It all depends on your training style, your diet, and all those unique genetic qualities that make you who you are.
Start by determining where you’re lacking in your training. Are you finding it challenging to hit your protein goals? Are you getting winded part way through an intense workout? Is your muscle growth limited, despite eating all the right things?
Once you have those questions, choose from the best post workout supplements listed above to guide the decision-making process.