2018's 10 Best
When you think about workouts, most of what you hear and see relates to the workout itself. Much of the focus is on different types of exercises, the number of sets and reps you should do, and how to hit certain muscle groups. But one part of working out that often doesn’t get enough attention is your recovery.
How you go about your recovery process between workouts is arguably just as important as the work you do in the gym. To get optimal muscle strength, endurance, and growth in the gym, your muscles need to be able to fully recover so that they can rebuild themselves. One of the most important factors in muscle recovery is time, but there are other ways that you can help speed up your muscle recovery as well. This is where recovery supplements come in.
Muscle recovery supplements are a great way to help your muscles heal and recover faster between workouts, allowing you to maximize your results and get back into the gym sooner. Here’s everything you need to know about how recovery supplements work and how to choose the best one.
How Recovery Supplements Work
When you work out, your muscle fibers develop lots of microscopic tears in them. They also become drained of many necessary nutrients, making them weak. Your body responds by increasing blood flow to the area and causing inflammation to rebuild the muscles and heal the tears. The body heals the muscle stronger than it was before to help prevent future tears and adapt to future workouts and exercise.
This healing process not only takes time, but it can also be painful. Healing muscle tissue can make your muscles seem stiff, sore to use, and tender to the touch. This pain happens due to delayed-onset muscle soreness. Taking recovery supplements can help lessen this pain and encourage your muscles to heal faster and more effectively.
INCREASED MUSCLE GROWTH
Many recovery supplements include amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids. These have an anabolic effect, meaning they help to build up muscles and tissues. This is especially relevant when it comes to muscle growth and strength gains. Taking recovery supplements can increase the rate at which your body creates new proteins to give you the best results from your workout.
REPLENISHED ENERGY LEVELS
Exercise and weight lifting exhaust the muscles and deplete their energy and nutrient stores. During longer bouts of exercise, the muscles can become exhausted mid-workout. This causes fatigue and can make the rest of your workout less effective. Taking recovery supplements can not only help you replenish your energy stores after workouts, but they can also give you more energy to use during workouts as well.
REDUCED MUSCLE SORENESS
Sore muscles seem to be the undeniable telltale sign that you’ve had a solid workout. But muscles that are too sore can make it difficult to move and even function in everyday life. Much of post-workout muscle soreness is caused from lactic acid buildup. Lactic acid is generated in the muscles as they get fatigued and causes inflammation and tenderness in the muscles.
Taking a recovery supplement can help bring extra nutrients and blood flow to the muscles. This clears out lactic acid and reduces the amount of soreness you feel after a workout. These supplements can also make the muscles work more efficiently during workouts, reducing the amount of lactic acid that gets built up in the first place.
STIMULATED PROTEIN SYNTHESIS AND TISSUE REPAIR
Not only can recovery supplements increase muscle growth after workouts, they can reduce muscle breakdown during workouts as well. When the body needs more energy to get through a workout, it can start to break down proteins to get it. But these proteins are also needed to increase strength and promote recovery. Taking a supplement can help ensure you have enough proteins in the body to both restore your energy and rebuild muscle.
After exercising, the tiny tears in the muscles begin to heal themselves. They do this by bringing many different types of tissues to the needed areas. All of the extra tissues and blood flow result in inflammation, which can result in soreness and tenderness. However, too much inflammation can be a bad thing.
If you are working out too often and don’t give your muscles a chance to fully heal, you can cause chronic inflammation. This can also happen if you don’t get enough sleep, don’t eat a healthy diet, or have high stress levels. Recovery supplements can reduce the amount of swelling in the muscles and help the muscles heal faster to prevent this chronic state.
RESTORED NUTRIENT LEVELS
There are tons of nutrients that help regulate reactions all over the body. Lots of these nutrients are also key players in muscle function. Nutrients like glutamine and vitamin D are responsible for keeping proteins from being broken down too quickly. They also get rid of inflammation in the muscles. Exercising drains the muscles of these key nutrients, so it is important to put them back into your body so that it can recover before your next workout.
What to Look for When Buying Recovery Supplements
Recovery supplements can be made up of just a single ingredient, but they can also contain a mixture of different substances. It is important to be aware of the ingredients that are used in a recovery supplement to make sure that you know the benefits you are receiving and to prevent harmful substances from entering your body.
Branched-chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs, are one of the most commonly-used ingredients in recovery supplements. This ingredient is often used because amino acids are the building blocks for proteins. Because of this, they are needed to promote muscle growth and repair damaged tissues.
There are a variety of other common ingredients as well that help to heal the muscles, reduce inflammation and soreness, and replenish various nutrients in the muscles. Here is some information on a few of the most common ingredients and how they work and benefit your recovery.
BCAAs make up about 40 percent of the essential amino acids in the body. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make on its own, so you must get them through your diet. BCAAs are broken down in the muscles instead of the liver like most other amino acids. There are three main amino acids used in supplements: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
All three of these are essential in the body for different purposes. Leucine plays a major role in muscle protein growth. Isoleucine and valine do not impact muscle growth as much. Instead, these two amino acids help control blood sugar levels and increase energy for the muscles during and after exercise.
BCAA supplements generally advertise a ratio on them. This ratio is a comparison of parts of leucine to isoleucine to valine. Most BCAA recovery supplements have ratios of 2:1:1, 4:1:1, or 8:1:1. It is generally accepted that ratios of either 2:1:1 or 4:1:1 are the most effective.
Glutamine is another important amino acid in the body that plays a prominent role in protein building. There are two forms of glutamine: L-glutamine and D-glutamine. D-glutamine is not used in many reactions in the body, but L-glutamine plays a role in many functions. Taking it can help increase muscle growth and strength gains. It may also play a role in reducing muscle soreness and fatigue during and after exercise.
Beta-alanine is also an amino acid, but it is not used to build up proteins. Instead, it is combined with histidine in the body to create carnosine. Carnosine is stored in the muscles, and its purpose is to reduce lactic acid buildup during workouts. By lowering the level of lactic acid in the muscles, you are able to perform better for longer periods of time during exercise.
Less lactic acid can also help for muscle recovery. The body needs to break down and get rid of lactic acid buildup to allow the muscles to begin to heal themselves. If there is less lactic acid to begin with, the healing process becomes more efficient and effective.
Citrulline malate is another amino acid that is not used to build proteins but does play other important roles in the body. Citrulline is converted to arginine and then into nitric oxide, which helps to dilate the blood vessels in the body and increase blood flow. This can cause more oxygen to reach the muscles, making them perform better and heal more efficiently.
While citrulline malate does not directly increase muscle growth, it can help your muscles work better. This ingredient can increase muscle endurance, allowing you to stay stronger for longer periods of time. It can also reduce muscle soreness after workouts.
Creatine is best known for its benefits regarding increases in muscle growth and strength. Creatine is naturally produced and stored in the cells of your muscles. One of its main purposes is to provide energy for these cells during high-intensity exercise.
This supplement can also improve the ability of your cells to talk to one another, which can stimulate new muscle growth faster. It can also help to prevent existing muscle tissue from being broken down, speeding up the repair process.
The Proper Dosing for Recovery Supplements
The proper dose of a recovery supplement largely depends on the main ingredients in your supplement. In general, following the instructions on the supplement itself is probably the best way to go. Here are some general guidelines for the proper dosages for specific ingredients that you may find in your recovery product.
The proper dosage of BCAAs ranges widely from study to study. But, the majority of research states that women should consume at least nine grams per day and that men should consume at least 12 grams per day. For supplement use, dosages between 10 and 20 grams per day have been found to be most effective for the best results.
Glutamine supplements can range in dose from around five grams per day to more than 40 grams per day. The best results were seen with doses of between five and fifteen grams per day.
Beta-alanine is used to increase levels of carnosine in the body. These increases can take about a month to be seen, but a daily dose of between two and five grams of beta-alanine is ideal.
Citrulline malate is made into L-citrulline in the body, and supplements can include either of these ingredients. Taking around eight grams of citrulline malate per day provides the best results. But, there are no major side effects associated with taking extra. The body only requires between three and six grams of L-citrulline per day because it is already in its final state in the body.
Creatine usage often starts with a loading phase so that your muscles can become fully saturated with the supplement. This generally involves taking 20 grams per day in four doses of five grams each for about a week. After this loading phase, taking between three and five grams per day are enough to keep your creatine levels elevated.
Possible Side Effects of Recovery Supplements
In general, most recovery supplements are quite safe to take and have limited side effects associated with them. Most of the main ingredients in recovery supplements have been tested at high dosages, and no severe complications have ever been seen.
One thing that is important to note is that there may be a limit to the benefits you will see from supplements. The body is only able to digest a certain amount of some ingredients, such as creatine and citrulline. Taking more than this maximum dose will not be harmful, but it won’t cause better results either.
Best Recovery Supplements
Our top 10 list of recovery supplements is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All of our top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high-quality recovery supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping. This ensures that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final dose.
- CLAY MCNIGHT Branch Chain Amino Acids Benefits LiveStrong.com
- DAVID BENJAMIN The Best Workout Recovery Supplements LiveStrong.com
- Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA) BCAA Benefits: A Review of Branched-Chain Amino Acids HealthLine.com
- Kimball SR, Jefferson LS. Signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms through which branched-chain amino acids mediate translational control of protein synthesis. PubMed
- Doi M, Yamaoka I, Fukunaga T, Nakayama M. Isoleucine, a potent plasma glucose-lowering amino acid, stimulates glucose uptake in C2C12 myotubes. PubMed
- Gualano AB, Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, Roschel H, Dos Santos Costa A, Luiz Marquezi M, Benatti F, Herbert Lancha Junior A. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. PubMed
- Grant Tinsley, PhD Glutamine: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects HealthLine.com
- Arlene Semeco, MS, RD Beta-Alanine — A Beginner’s Guide HealthLine.com
- Grant Tinsley, PhD Should You Take Citrulline Supplements? HealthLine.com
- Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN Creatine 101 — What Is It and What Does It Do? HealthLine.com
As it releases BCAAs, glutamine, electrolytes, citrulline, and vitamin B6 into your bloodstream, the powerful Xtend formula provides the proper support muscles need to effectively repair, recover, and refuel for your next hardcore training session. Keep Reading »
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