Muscle recovery is a critical component of your training. Nobody wants to go back to the gym when you can barely get up the stairs in your apartment. In order to keep you healthy, sore-free, and on track to meet your training goals, your body requires essential nutrients to adequately rebuild and repair itself. Supplementing the right nutrients into your post-workout recovery routine can help with faster muscle recovery, promote muscle repair, and reduce muscle mass breakdown and soreness so you can optimize your athletic performance. To help you on this journey, we compiled this guide of the 9 best supplements for fast muscle recovery.
What Supplements Should I Take For Muscle Recovery?
Before we get into what supplements are best for faster muscle recovery and to reduce muscle soreness, it’s important to find a supplement that is transparent or proprietary-blend free and tells you how much of each ingredient is in your product. Most pre and post-workout powders use proprietary blends and do not disclose how much of each ingredient they use. Without knowing the amount of each ingredient your ingesting, you won’t know if you're getting enough of each ingredient to have any performance benefits.
Pay attention to the supplement label and make sure the amounts for each ingredient are clearly and transparently listed. Most products will put some key ingredients in the ‘other ingredients’ or into a blend with a trademarked name such as "muscle-matrix blend", "Recovery boosting blend" etc, and do not disclose the proportions of each ingredient.
You can be almost sure, that products marketed as "Post-WOD", or "Recovery" will use some type of blend.
What Are The Best Supplements For Faster Muscle Recovery?
Whey Protein Isolate
One of the best supplements for faster muscle recovery is Whey Protein Isolate. Whey protein isolate is rich in Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) which are essential to help build, rebuild, and repair muscle mass breakdown, and encourage muscle growth. Whey Isolate also digests faster than other forms of protein, delivering vital nutrients to your muscle tissue faster, for more rapid recovery times.
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How Does Whey Protein Isolate Help Muscle Recovery?
Supplementing with Whey Protein Isolate before, during, or after your training, stimulates protein synthesis and minimizes protein breakdown (proteolysis), which are the two biological processes that are essential for faster muscle recovery.
Compared to regular protein supplements, whey protein isolate is more effective at increasing blood amino acids concentration and stimulating the process of protein synthesis due to its different absorption kinetics and amino acid profile. The high availability of amino acids in whey protein isolate, especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), is important for protein synthesis in the hours immediately after ingestion.
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RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Whey Protein Isolate (30 Servings, Chocolate or Vanilla)
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs should be a staple product within everyone’s recovery strategy, to rebuild muscle mass, and recover faster. Branched Chain Amino Acids are comprised of three essential amino acids, Leucine, isoleucine, and Valine. BCAA’s are vital for faster recovery because they are directly responsible for increasing the rate of the biological process of muscle protein synthesis (anabolism, or muscle growth) and decreasing the rate of protein degradation (catabolism, muscle breakdown). They’re the building blocks of protein.
Whether you love lifting weights or crushing times at the CrossFit box, your body utilizes these essential amino acids for fuel, which increases the rate of protein degradation (muscle mass loss) and BCAA oxidation.
How Do BCAAs Help Muscle Recovery?
When you workout, BCAAs are expended quickly, and without a positive balance of BCAAs, the rate of protein degradation will be greater than the rate of protein synthesis, meaning you’ll actually lose muscle mass, rather than gain it. Not to mention, without an adequate supply of BCAAs your body won't have the essential nutrients it needs, to efficiently repair, rebuild, and restore muscle mass, for faster recovery times.
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RECOMMENDED PRODUCT BCAA 2:1:1 (50 Servings, Electrolytes + Glutamine Lemon Lime)
Your training isn't over until you recover and recovery is crucial to your overall performance. L-Glutamine is the most abundant conditionally essential amino acid in the human body. However, with increased training volume, glutamine stores are depleted faster than your body can replenish them, which can cause your body to be catabolic and break down lean muscle mass. Low levels of glutamine can also compromise your immune system, increasing the risk of infection.
How Does L-Glutamine Help Muscle Recovery
Glutamine is vital for reducing muscle mass breakdown and boosting immune system function. After prolonged periods of exercise, your immune system becomes susceptible to infection.
In a study conducted by Oxford Universities Biochemistry Department, 200 elite endurance athletes including distance runners and rowers, consumed a post-workout drink either containing 5g of glutamine, or a placebo immediately after and two hours after exercise. The results indicated that seven days following exercise, 81% of the glutamine group showed no infection post-workout, as compared to the placebo group, which showed 49% with no infection [R].
Glutamine is one of the best supplements for muscle recovery due to its ability in reducing muscle mass breakdown and post-workout soreness. With less soreness and faster recovery, you can increase training volume. Increased training volume translates to more training and better results.
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In another study conducted by the School of Health and Exercise Performance in the division of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Sixteen healthy participants volunteered in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study to examine the effects that L-glutamine supplementation has on muscle strength and soreness ratings following eccentric exercise. The results concluded that supplementation of L-Glutamine directly influenced faster recovery of peak torque and diminished muscle soreness following eccentric exercise [R, R].
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT L-Glutamine (100 Servings, Unflavored)
Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain alkaline pH and hydration, which are required to normalize pH balance following exercise, to help with faster muscle recovery. During exercise, alkalizing minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and bicarbonate) are utilized to help with normalizing muscle contraction and muscle function.
How Do Electrolytes Help Muscle Recovery?
Muscles require a substantial concentration of alkalizing minerals to function smoothly and maintain consistent blood flow. Without an adequate concentration of the proper alkalizing minerals, the inflammatory response of muscles can lead to a lack of recovery and increased pain and soreness. 1 The last thing you want is to cramp during your training or competition. If I were you, I’d make sure to get an adequate amount of electrolytes, to recover faster.
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RECOMMENDED PRODUCT BCAA 2:1:1 (50 Servings, Electrolytes + Glutamine Lemon Lime)
Every human body requires carbohydrates to do things like build and repair muscle, keeping cholesterol levels in check, regulating the central nervous system, and providing the body with energy (just to name a few). While carbohydrates get a bad rap these days with diet fads like keto, the truth is, quality, whole food complex carbohydrates can help way more than you think, regardless of your goals.
They can help those on a weight loss journey by balancing blood sugar levels, they can help those looking to gain muscle, and they can especially help athletes who train over an hour a day so that they don't unnecessarily waste muscle in the process. Carbohydrates should make up ~30-40% of your daily caloric intake and should come from quality sources and real foods. If you're pinched for time, can't have a meal, or have a hard time getting in enough carbohydrates, then a whole food supplement may be beneficial for you.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT: Clean Carbs (45 servings)
How Do Complex Carbohydrates Help Muscle Recovery?
When you eat carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks them down into glucose (sugar), which then raises your blood sugar levels causing your pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that prompts your cells to absorb sugar for energy, which turns into glycogen and stores body fat. Replenishing glycogen stores is vital for normal cellular function, especially for athletes who regularly deplete this energy source. In the past, athletes would turn to simple carbohydrate powders (dextrose, maltodextrin, etc.), gummy worms, and simple sugars to replenish energy. However, the best way to replenish glycogen stores is with real food (think fruit, grains, and vegetables), or a high quality, real food carbohydrate powder.
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Now, if you are a competitive athlete, sometimes it can be hard to get the daily intake of carbohydrates you need, to adequately replenish glycogen stores for added energy and improved performance (over 400g club anyone?). In this case, it is important to supplement with a natural carbohydrate that sustains long-lasting glycogen release such as complex carbohydrate supplements, like Clean Carbs for faster muscle recovery and optimized performance. In order for carbohydrate supplements to be effective, protein or BCAA’s should be combined with carbohydrates to have a positive impact on faster muscle recovery and achieving a net positive protein balance.
Studies have shown for the past several decades, that glycogen replenishment is key to fuel endurance and recovery during prolonged periods of exercise performance. However, the vast majority of carb supplements such as waxy maize, dextrose, maltodextrin, and highly branched cyclic (cluster) dextrin are simple carbs (sugar) derived from cornstarch; a genetically modified ingredient with low to no nutritional value.
Swolverine's Clean Carbs is made with 100% real whole food complex carbohydrates; sweet potatoes, yams, oats, and blueberries. If you're going to go with a carbohydrate supplement for recovery, opt for something that is made with real food, not refined sugar.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Clean Carbs (45 Servings)
Citrulline Malate 2:1
Citrulline Malate is a unique combination of the nonessential amino acid L-Citrulline and malate, which comes from malic acid. Citrulline Malate is perhaps one of the most impressive and versatile supplements proven to help support faster muscle recovery.
How Does Citrulline Malate Help Muscle Recovery?
Citrulline Malate is one of the best supplements for faster muscle recovery, due to its ability to release nitric oxide (NO).
NO is a vasodilator, meaning that it widens the blood vessels, without raising blood pressure. By promoting the release of NO, the body is able to transport more oxygen and blood, resulting in improved strength, better endurance, and optimized recovery. By improving each aspect of your training through an increase in Nitric Oxide production, you'll be able to clock faster times, delay muscle fatigue, increase training volume, row harder, and lift heavier.
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In a study, published in the Journal Of Strength and Conditioning Research, at the University of Córdoba, Spain 41 male participants performed two consecutive flat barbell bench-training sessions for a total of sixteen sets. 8g of Citrulline Malate was administered during one of the first two sets and placebo was administered for the third. The subjects' resistance was tested using the repetitions to fatigue test at 80% of their predetermined one rep max in the 8 sets of bench presses during the training session.
The number of reps showed a significant increase from placebo treatment to treatment with CM from the third set achieving 52.92% more repetitions. The study also showed a 40% reduction in muscle soreness at 24 hours and 48 hours with a response rate greater than 90% with Citrulline Malate supplementation [R]. Again, this study proves that one of the greatest benefits of Citrulline Malate is reducing muscle fatigue, in addition to optimizing post-workout recovery.
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Muscle soreness can cause extreme physical discomfort and interrupt training sessions. With a reduction in acute muscle soreness and post-workout muscle breakdown, you can increase training volume, and generate greater gains in strength and overall performance.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Citrulline Malate (100 Servings, Unflavored)
Krill oil contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA) eicosapentaenoic acid and (DHA) docosahexaenoic acid. Essential, meaning that your body cannot produce them on its own therefore they must be obtained through your diet or through supplementation. But, since you can’t usually go to the grocery store and buy a bag of Krill for the BBQ, then I’d suggest buying a high-quality Krill Oil supplement.
How Does Krill Oil Help Recovery?
Krill Oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And omega-3 fatty acids are proven to help with post-workout inflammation and faster recovery.
In randomized, controlled trial 50 adult participants with mild knee pain were administered 2g of Krill Oil or placebo for thirty days. The results indicated that the krill oil group had significant improvements in knee pain, stiffness, and increased range of motion [R].
What’s unique about Krill Oil, is that it also naturally contains the world's most powerful antioxidant, Astaxanthin.
RELATED ARTICLE The Benefits Of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid or an antioxidant that helps fight the build-up of free radicals. Astaxanthin is also an anti-inflammatory and can help reduce chronic inflammation and help you with faster recovery. If you have constant joint pain, especially after lifting, or spending a few hours at the CrossFit Box, I would definitely consider adding Krill Oil to your recovery regimen to faster active recovery.
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RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Krill Oil + Astaxanthin (60 Servings)
What Are The Best Supplements For Muscle Recovery: Takeaway
It’s important to establish a recovery strategy and regimen that includes stretching, rest, healthy nutrition, and supplementation with the right nutrients to optimize your performance. You work out hard, to become stronger, faster, and healthier, however, the process of protein synthesis (muscle building) occurs during your recovery period and while you're resting. Adding some of the supplements above in your recovery routine will be a good way to help you recover faster. Faster and optimized recovery means better workouts, harder training, and improved results.
Are you extremely sore all the time after your workouts? Looking for supplements that will help you recover faster and reduce muscle mass soreness?
The Momentum Stack was created to generate the momentum you need to push through your workout from start to finish without compromise. All products are clinically dosed for optimum performance with the vital nutrients you need for your endurance, strength, and recovery all with a delicious lemon-lime flavor.
SWOLVERINE is an endurance athlete and active lifestyle brand. Made for the elite athlete, and the strong-willed our products were designed to fuel your athletic performance. We perform when you perform.
We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.
Suzuki, Yoshio et al. “Krill Oil Improves Mild Knee Joint Pain: A Randomized Control Trial” PloS one vol. 11,10 e0162769. 4 Oct. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162769
Pérez-guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(5):1215-22.
Legault Z, Bagnall N, Kimmerly DS. The Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015;25(5):417-26.
Gleeson, Michael. “Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training1,2.” The Journal of Nutrition, 1 Oct. 2008