If you're tired, sore, or hitting a plateau, the missing piece to your fitness program isn't more reps — it's recovery.
Recovery work is one of the most important, yet often overlooked elements within fitness. Many times, athletes think the answer to getting faster, leaner, stronger is to work out harder and longer. Which frankly, can be counterintuitive to your progress.
Recovery is one of the four pillars of 4 Legs Fitness because it's just as important as cardio, strength training, and nutrition (the other three pillars). I encourage athletes to foam roll, stretch, and even take a dip in a cold shower to help heal their muscles post-workout.
And yet, sometimes it's not enough.
Your body will occasionally need a little extra help when it comes to recovery work. Recovery supplements help repair and rebuild your muscles when other techniques just aren't enough (or when you simply can't stand another minute of foam rolling). Below, find my favorite recovery supplements to include in your training program.
Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.
6 Recovery Supplements To Rebuild Your Muscles Post-Workout
Muscle soreness is a regular part of training, felt by novice to elite athletes. With that being said, chronic fatigue and soreness can prevent you from bouncing back to your next workout (or worse, lead to injury). To help aid in muscle recovery, try these six supplements:
1. Grass-Fed Whey Protein
Protein consumption is essential to muscle repair and recovery. Every time you work out, tiny muscle fibers tear themselves apart. In order for your muscles to grow bigger and stronger, they undergo a process called muscle protein synthesis, which — surprise — requires protein.
Athletes need more protein than sedentary individuals. In fact, studies show that active individuals need 1.5-1.7 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight — nearly double the recommended amount for sedentary individuals.
GoPrimal’s 100% Grass-Fed Hydro Whey Protein is my chosen form of protein powder. Whey protein is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein — more on this in the next section). In addition, unlike whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed protein removes unnecessary sugar and carbs during the filtration process. Include one scoop in your post-workout protein shake, and especially on workout days try to have a second protein drink at some point during the day.
Creatine is one of the most popular post-workout recovery supplements on the market. Creatine is an amino acid, which contributes to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production. ATP, in turn, is responsible for providing energy to your muscle cells.
Studies show that creatine helps stimulate muscle growth, improve athletic performance, reduce recovery time, and encourage fat loss.
My preferred form of creatine is GoPrimal Hydraforce Creatine & Electrolytes. Combining creatine monohydrate, B vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium, you can simply mix it with water to enjoy during workout or as a post-workout supplement.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. The most common omega-3s include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Omega-3 fatty acids act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant for the body, which can aid in the recovery process. When micro-lesions (small tears) appear in your muscle tissue due to exercise, this causes inflammation throughout your body. Taking omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent muscle breakdown after intense workouts, and lessen the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
My preferred form of omega-3s come from GoPrimal Protection and Performance Omega 3 capsules. Made with zero artificial flavors or colors, it contains 200 milligrams of pure fish oil and 1,500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Vitamin D
In a perfect world, each of us would get enough vitamin D from the sun. Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world, and long hours spent indoors contribute to a growing prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. In fact, researchers estimate that 1 billion people worldwide don't get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements help build strong bones, which can help prevent exercise-related injuries. In fact, studies show that there is a direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of developing stress fractures.
Vitamin D has also been shown to increase calcium absorption, boost your immune system, support weight loss, and reduce symptoms of depression. Athletes will benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement, as it's been shown to increase muscle function, improve explosive movements, and improve recovery times.
My preferred form of vitamin D is GoPrimal Strength & Immunity Vitamin D3. Simply take one capsule per day to improve your recovery. (If you're feeling under the weather, you can increase your dosage to two capsules.)
5. B Vitamins
If you're feeling tired and fatigued post-workout, B vitamins could help.
B vitamins directly impact your energy stores and brain function. Like creatine, B vitamins are credited with converting glucose into usable ATP energy — which is necessary to fuel you for your workouts. In addition, a deficiency in B vitamins can contribute to iron-deficiency anemia, which can leave you feeling tired and lethargic, thereby sidelining you from your workouts.
I get my daily dose of B vitamins through GoPrimal Recover & Regenerate Mag-Zinc-B6, which contains magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. You can also take a daily B complex vitamin (which contains all eight B vitamins) to aid with recovery. (Note: If you are prone to an upset stomach, don't take a B vitamin as a pre-workout supplement, which can cause stomach pain.)
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in our body. When magnesium levels are too low, it could lead to exercise performance limitations (especially cramps), sleep problems, migraine, tiredness, weakness, or even depression or heart disease.
Magnesium helps your muscles to relax after contraction. Lack of magnesium may lead to cramps or muscle spasms. This can easily be avoided by consuming foods high in magnesium such as almonds, spinach, avocado, salmon, or dark chocolate. For convenience, supplementation of magnesium is very effective too.
(Un-)Honorary Mention: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Earlier I covered that protein is essential for muscle building. Now, let's dive into the specific type of protein your body needs (and no, not all protein is created equal).
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are over 20 amino acids that make up protein, divided into two groups: essential and non-essential. Non-essential acids are amino acids that your body produces on its own. Essential amino acids, on the other hand, have to be consumed through food.
Of all the essential amino acids, three are imperative to increasing muscle gains: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Together, these three amino acids are known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which cause an anabolic (growth) effect in your muscle tissue, helping to build muscle mass or prevent muscle breakdown.
You can find BCAA supplements on the market (often in combination with l-glutamine, which is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that it’s generally produced by the body but in certain conditions may have to be obtained from diet).
However, the effectiveness of BCAA supplements has largely been debunked. For a thorough explanation, see Sean Nalewanyj’s excellent article Are BCAA's Worth it? (Branched Chain Amino Acids Review).
The good news is that all protein powders, including whey and casein protein, contain BCAAs in their ingredient list. In fact, if you are consuming a standard diet in which you stick to my recommendation of daily protein amount you will already consume enough BCAAs. If you add protein shakes, then buying further BCAAs is basically a waste of money.
Take Recovery Supplements To Help Build Muscle Strength
Recovery is an essential component of any training program. Proper rest and recovery gives your muscles time to repair themselves following high-intensity exercise, helping to increase strength and improve body composition.
I recommend taking whey protein powder with BCAAs, creatine, vitamin D, B vitamins, and magnesium to aid in your recovery work. However, I know finding high-quality recovery supplements can prove difficult — particularly within a multi-billion dollar industry.
Throughout this post, I recommended supplements that I personally take to aid in recovery, and therefore feel comfortable recommending to athletes. If you're interested in taking recovery supplements, I recommend purchasing the Complete Health Pack by GoPrimal (a partner of 4 Legs Fitness), which includes all supplements mentioned above. By supplementing with amino acids, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, you can boost your immune health, rebuild muscles, and recover faster from your workouts.
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