When you hit an intense two-hour workout at the gym or finally nail the 10-kilometer run, a number of things happen inside your body:
- Muscle fibers tear apart.
- Muscles cause lactic acid buildup.
- The pH of blood surrounding your muscles drops.
- Electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are lost.
At this point, your body is extremely tired and ready to drop.
But say, instead of resting, you attempted another round of repeat exercise immediately after?
Most likely, you wouldn’t last that long.
When you push your body to the extreme without scheduling proper post-workout recovery periods in-between, you’re at the risk of:
- Extreme delayed onset of muscle soreness and swollenness
- Muscle fatigue
- Muscle injuries such as stress fractures, muscle strains, and runner’s knee
- Decline of athletic performance
Muscle recovery is as important as the exercise itself. Without it, you’ll overtrain and eventually cancel out all the benefits of working out.
This resting period allows for muscle protein synthesis to take place. It’s where the body increases protein ingestion to repair and regenerate new muscle tissue resulting in muscle growth.
Simply put, there’s no muscle building without muscle recovery.
There are a number of ways in which muscle recovery occurs.
But today, we’ll focus on the best workout recovery supplements for enhancing muscle protein synthesis, making you well-rested and feeling ready to go again for your next workout session.
BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
BCAA supplements are known champions in helping athletes and fitness enthusiasts achieve faster recovery after intense workouts—almost instantly in some cases.
How do they do it?
Your body requires twenty amino acids—the building blocks for protein—to function normally.
However, not all of them are synthesized naturally inside your body.
Nine are essential amino acids, which means they can only be obtained through diet and supplementation.
BCAA contains three essential amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
When there’s a low concentration of any essential amino acid in the bloodstream, the body reacts by causing protein breakdown in search of them. This leads to loss of muscle mass, also known as muscle wasting or muscle breakdown.
For people who work out regularly, muscle breakdown is the exact opposite of building muscle mass. That’s where BCAAs come in.
BCAAs are responsible for increasing the rate of protein synthesis. They allow your body to build muscle by repairing muscle damage caused while exercising.
“The best BCAA on the market!
Ath BCAA is the best one I've ever used. They use non-GMO clean ingredients from plant sources. I am so happy I found this brand. It helps my recovery time after my heavyweight workout. Mahalo ATH team!”- Aras, verified purchase
When consumed, BCAAs are absorbed quickly by the muscle cells to prevent muscle wasting by slowing down protein degradation. This leads to reduced muscle fatigue and acute muscle soreness.
It’s impossible to talk about the best workout recovery supplements without mentioning whey protein shakes.
It not only contains all the essential amino acids but also minerals and vitamins that promote muscle anabolism.
The high concentration of amino acids in whey protein accelerates protein synthesis to repair muscle damage and prevent muscle loss.
Compared to other forms of protein powders, whey protein is absorbed the fastest in the muscle cells since the essential amino acids don’t need to be processed by the liver first.
"As usual ATH delivers another high quality product with this BUILD protein. Provided and sourced from quality, no BS ingredients, Grass fed whey, no artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame, now weird gums and tastes awesome. Sometimes I drink this just as a snack, as well as before or after training. Definitely a must have for your everyday supps."
John Selb | Customer review
Finally, whey protein replenishes your energy stores after a workout by stimulating the synthesis of glycogen in your muscles. This way, you’ve enough energy to expend in prolonged periods of exercise.
Electrolytes are positively or negatively charged minerals responsible for muscle function and contraction. They include:
For instance, potassium helps to reduce inflammation, while magnesium promotes muscle relaxation.
Normally when it’s hot, your body sweats to cool it off. The amount of sweat is insignificant to offset the electrolytes balance in the body.
But in the instances where the body is subjected to intense workout activity, it sweats so much enough it causes an imbalance.
According to studies, an athlete loses one to three liters of sweat during exercise leading to a high loss of electrolytes in the body. Given body fluids make up 60 percent of the body weight, electrolyte loss at this rate is rather alarming.
The low concentration of electrolytes in bodily fluids causes a pH drop of the blood surrounding the muscles. The poor blood alkalinity triggers swollen muscles and soreness.
In return, the inflammation interrupts the smooth blood flow to the muscles causing painful muscle cramps.
The electrolyte imbalance leads to muscle fatigue and general body weakness.
Considering the consequences, electrolytes are among the best supplements to have in your workout recovery process.
You can’t afford not to replenish electrolytes if you hope to continue workouts without risking muscle injury.
When working out for purposes of fat loss, the idea of consuming anything with carbohydrates in it might cause wrinkles to appear on your face.
But carbohydrates are as essential as proteins in both muscle growth and recovery.
The energy you have to power through every workout and run comes from carbs. And every time you hit the gym, your body’s energy stores are depleted greatly.
When you consume complex carbohydrates, they’re broken down into glucose which, in turn, leads to the production of insulin.
The purpose of insulin is to transport the glucose to body cells. Once absorbed in the cells, it converts glucose into glycogen, which is kept in the energy stores.
When the glycogen stores are diminished, the body breaks down the protein in the muscles leading to muscle wastage. Muscle repair and regeneration are also halted due to low protein levels.
This means, complex carbohydrates prevent the body from using protein as an energy source.
Carbohydrates are also important in controlling cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol levels may cause you to experience shortness of breath and lethargy when exercising.
“I used the Build protein for a while but just didn't feel fully recovered after my workouts. With the added carbs inside POST, I have more energy post-workout than what I started with. I can crush my lift and still work 8 hours full of energy. My EDC protein supplement.”- Jonathan Heise
Finally, complex carbohydrates are critical in regulating the central nervous system that’s responsible for the functioning of muscles. They do this by balancing blood glucose levels in the body.
Glycogen replenishment is a must-have in your post-workout recovery strategy.
Since your body needs a higher intake of complex carbohydrates than an average person, ensure you’re getting enough by arming yourself with complex carbohydrates recovery supplements.
You may or may not have heard of this.
But mushrooms are an underrated muscle recovery supplement that every athlete should know and embrace.
They contain polysaccharides, which are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. This enables them to speed up your recovery by reducing muscle soreness caused by inflamed muscles.
Mushrooms also possess antioxidant properties that fight free radicals in your body to prevent oxidative stress. They slow down cell damage and enable you to heal faster.
Another benefit of including mushroom supplements in your after-workout recovery process is their ability to increase oxygen utilization by improving blood flow in your body.
The lactic acid buildup is decreased, resulting in less muscle soreness and delaying the onset of fatigue.
And that’s not all.
Some mushrooms have nootropic properties—the ability to enhance mental focus and clarity. They’re known as nootropic mushrooms. They include:
- Lion’s mane
For intense workout sessions, like weight lifting, sharpness of mind isn’t only a requirement but a survival skill. You’re likely to injure yourself when your mind isn’t in tune with your body.
“Climbing - Sharp Mind
This blend of athletic shrooms works well to help me solve boulder problems. Accurate foot placements, balanced movement, and linking powerful sequences make or break a climber's success. I have noticed a clear difference between days where I forget to use the athletic shrooms, and the days when I do. When I use the athletic shrooms, I can easily maintain body tension while focusing on proper foot placement, while the opposite is true on the days where I forget to take these. Overall, a sharper mind = success when your body is balanced on small edges and you need to get to the next hold.”- A. Baumgartel
Improve Your Muscle Recovery Today
Muscle recovery isn't an option, it's a necessity.
It’s when your body:
- Rehydrates and replaces electrolytes
- Repairs torn muscles to encourage muscle growth
- Recuperates from muscle inflammation to reduce muscle soreness
- Relaxes and stabilizes for optimal athletic performance next time
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