3 Muscle Recovery Supplements to Keep Crushing Your Workouts

By Kyle Milligan / March 29, 2017
3 Muscle Recovery Supplements Thumbnail

You come home from the gym and you're tired. You're a bit sweaty. But you're stoked. You're so stoked on yourself that you put in another day of work to make yourself better. You go to sleep that evening with a smile on your face and pride in your heart. You wake up the next morning, ready to spring into another day; only to find there is no spring in your step. Instead all of your joints have been replaced with rusty hinges and your muscles filled with lead. What do you do? You my friend, are having a muscle recovery problem. Luckily, there are tons of great muscle recovery supplements on the market to help get you through this. 

Whey Protein Powder - Post Workout

Nothing is more of a classic supplement for muscle recovery on the earth than the post-workout protein shake. Whey is great because it's fast absorbing and easily accessible. Whey protein is just a byproduct of cheese. There are more companies making whey protein powder supplements now than you can shake a stick at.

Protein Shake for Muscle Recovery

Supplementing your diet with the right things is the fastest way to recover from sore muscles.

The only thing there are more of than companies making protein, is the variety of flavors you can find protein in. Some whey protein is amazing and some is just plain terrible. Still, if you want to really improve your muscle recovery, you should really supplement your diet with a post workout protein shake.

How Whey Protein Helps Muscle Recovery

The first you thing you must understand is protein's role in your diet. Protein is a macronutrient, meaning your body needs them in large quantities to function properly. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Protein also makes up DNA, composes most cell structure, and makes up enzymes that catalyze metabolic reactions

As you workout, your body breaks down your muscle fibers. After you workout, whatever protein food or supplement is ingested gets used to rebuild those damaged muscle fibers. It's important to get protein to your muscles in a relatively short amount of time so that your body doesn't burn away your lean mass for fuel after your workout. 

There are different types of protein supplements you can consume. One is whey and one is casein. The difference between the two is the speed at which your body can process and absorb them. Whey protein is a fast assimilating protein; one of the most rapid absorbing protein sources you can consume, which makes it an amazing supplement for muscle recovery.

The most efficient period to consume a whey protein supplement for muscle recovery is about 30 minutes after your workout. The sooner the better, some say. While your body does not stop protein absorption, say, 31 minutes following your workout, it has been proven that the most effective period for protein absorption is right after a workout. During the time immediately following a workout, your body is capable of processing higher capacities of protein which helps a lot with muscle recovery. 

Gold Standard Whey Protein muscle recovery Supplement

Optimum Nutrition's Gold Standard Whey Protein is a must have muscle recovery supplement.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) - During or Pre-Workout

Maybe it’s because I have been looking into them so much lately, but branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are probably one of the most exalted muscle recovery supplements you can go after. You should especially look into BCAAs when cutting or fasted training.

BCAAs are known for their amazing muscle preservation effects, which also factors into muscle recovery. BCAAs comprise leucine, isoleucine, and valine, three essential amino acids. What makes these guys “essential” amino acids is that your body cannot produce them, you must consume them. They get their name “branched chain” from their chemical structure.

BCAAs have been shown to:

  • Increase protein synthesis
  • Improve muscle recovery
  • Decrease muscle soreness
  • Improve training endurance and reduce fatigue
Gold Standard BCAA Train and Recover Powder

BCAAs are some of the best supplements for muscle recovery & soreness

BCAA Basics

Amino acids are strung together with peptide bonds and make up proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of your muscles. You can get BCAAs from consuming proteins like usual. BCAAs can be found in animal proteins (like chicken, fish, turkey, or beef), nuts, eggs, and so on. But when you eat BCAAs through regular food it gets digested the regular way. That is, slowly. In order to maximize muscle recovery you can use a supplement like BCAA powder to speed the process up.

The reason BCAA supplements work so well for muscle recovery is because they help prevent muscle breakdown with their rate of absorption. Catabolism occurs because your body increases protein breakdown in order to use amino acids as fuel.

When you ingest BCAA supplements, you are directly feeding your muscles the fuel they need to work and rebuild themselves.

As I said, you can ingest BCAAs when you consume protein, because amino acids are strung together with peptide bonds and make up proteins. But when you consume BCAAs in the form of a supplement powder, they are considered to be unbound. They don’t have to be liberated from their peptide bond through digestion before being absorbed into the bloodstream.

This improves the amino acid’s rate of absorption tremendously, and allows the amino acids to be shuttled directly to your muscles. As a result, muscle catabolism can be significantly reduced. This is one of the reasons you see people chugging pink water at the gym. It’s probably BCAAs and it feeds their muscles fuel RIGHT AWAY. That’s also why BCAA supplements for muscle recovery make so much sense.

As a result of their rapid (almost immediate) absorption, BCAAs contribute to increased protein synthesis, muscle recovery, and therefore reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.

BCAAs to Preserve Muscle Mass

Make sure you use BCAAs as a supplement for muscle recovery if you are cutting, because muscle recovery can become an even greater issue for someone on a strict diet. BCAA supplements can really make a positive impact on your recovery and energy when cutting.

Working out actually increases the metabolic effects of cutting. You must operate at a caloric deficit to shred fat and lean out, and the decrease in glycogen storage (glycogen is a substance in body tissue that serves as energy storage) and energy will take a toll on your muscles. Your body will have to adopt to this restricted energy supply may not build new lean mass, and may even burn it for fuel.

BCAA supplements come into play here by allowing your body to do a couple things.

  1. Feed your muscles unbound amino acids rapidly
  2. Stimulate protein synthesis (particularly the amino acid leucine)
  3. Reducing the rate protein breakdown by reducing the activity of components in protein breakdown

There are varying opinions on how much BCAA supplements for muscle recovery you should consume. Generally, BCAA supplements provide 5 grams of branch chain amino acids in 1 serving with a 2:1:1 ratio, leucine, to isoleucine, to valine. For optimal muscle recovery you can consume BCAAs with your post workout meal or recovery drink, which will quickly replace the BCAAs in the muscles.

Beta-Alanine - During or Pre-Workout

Another fantastic supplements for muscle recovery is Beta-Alanine, which can be found as a stand-alone powder or in many pre-workouts (it’s what gives you that tingly pins-and-needles feeling that may have scared you to death the first time you tried pre workout). Personally, I ingest beta-alanine through a pre workout powder as opposed to a standalone supplement.

I don't take a pure beta-alanine supplement for muscle soreness and recovery. Instead I take pre workout powders that contain beta-alanine. I've always been a big fan of Legion Pulse pre workout powder. And my second favorite is Cellucor's C4 Original. ​

Unlike BCAA supplements, Beta-Alanine is a non-essential beta amino acid, which means it isn’t a necessary part of your diet because it is naturally created by your body. Beta-Alanine forms a di-peptide with L-Histidine, and that’s important because it creates the compound Carnosine.

So why take beta-alanine as a supplement for muscle recovery if your body naturally produces it? For the additional carnosine, of course.

So you're like, "uhhh...so what is carnosine?" Legit question. Let's dive into that now.

How Beta-Alanine Reduces Muscle Soreness and Fatigue

Your body needs Carnosine when you are training to help prevent muscle fatigue. Once the Carnosine compound is created from beta-alanine and L-histidine, it works in your favor to keep you lifting harder and longer.

When you are performing high intensity training, your body accumulates a large amount of hydrogen ions, which put it in an acidic state. This creates a build-up of lactic acid, which results in feelings of fatigue and muscle soreness. And this is where beta-alanine becomes a useful supplement for muscle recovery: because beta-alanine contributes to the creation of carnosine which combats this fatigue and soreness.

Carnosine is necessary when this occurs to delay muscle fatigue by buffering the overall pH of the body. Think of it this way: acid = bad. It makes you feel muscle soreness and fatigue. So If your body has a buffer for the acidity, it can continue to work longer and harder. Furthermore, pH stability also aids in muscle recovery because of the lower amount of muscle and tissue damage your body experiences.

Following so far? More carnosine equals more gains.

squirrel confused about sore muscles and recovery foods

My face when I first tried to understand beta-alanine benefits

Why Supplement Beta-Alanine

The reason you need to supplement beta-alanine is because it is the limiting amino acid in the carnosine compound. Remember, carnosine is a compound made up of beta-alanine and L-histidine. Basically, your body will run out of beta-alanine way before it ever runs out of L-histidines.

You ever been to a dance and it was all dudes and no girls? That’s what we have here, a sausage fest. So we pump the dance party full of beautiful beta-alanines to get the party started.

So you know that acid is bad for muscle recovery and carnosine helps reduce its harmful effects, so why not supplement directly with carnosine instead of beta-alanine? Great question! I have an answer for you…

When you consume carnosine, it doesn’t reach your muscles intact. The carnosine gets broken back down into its components beta-alanine and L-histidine. Then those two have to be reformed once again into carnosine, which is a major inefficient bummer. The best solution to this problem is to just use beta-alanine as your supplement for muscle recovery.

How to Take Beta-Alanine

​Personally, I ingest my beta-alanine in my preworkout. But I read up on beta-alanine powders for this post.

If taking beta-alanine as a stand alone powder, it is recommend to do a trial and error phase when starting beta-alanine as a supplement for muscle recovery. In clinical studies, the amount of benefit-showing beta-alanine ranges from 2 to 4.8 grams. Start with a few grams spread over two or three doses during the day for the first week, then move into the maintenance phase, taking in about 3-5 grams divided into three doses.​

You on beta alanine supplement

This is you on beta alanine.

I just like to take my beta-alanine in my preworkout powder. And I eased into it. I started by mixing half the serving size of my pre workout supplement (which contained about 2.4 grams of beta-alanine) with 10 oz of water. I would drink it about 20 minutes before my workout. Over time I steadily increased my dosage to the standard serving size (4.8 grams of beta-alanine).​

Don’t forget, when you first start beta-alanine, you may notice a tingling sensation in the body due to nerve stimulation. Don't panic. The tingles are normal. Consider it a sign that the beta-alanine supplement is working. Beta-alanine reacts differently to each person, but if you are taking large doses and not noticing any tingly tickles, call shenanigans on that pre workout supplement and try something else. Remember, you want to see AT LEAST 2 grams of beta-alanine per serving on the label.

​The muscle recovery from supplementing beta-alanine is immediate. You will be able to power through your final rep without terrible muscle fatigue and soreness. After training, having balanced pH levels will provide lower amounts of muscle and tissue damage, and reduce muscle recovery periods. As one of the most affordable and consistently-effective performance enhancing supplements, I highly recommend adding it to your daily supplement regimen.

​Supplements for Muscle Recovery Wrap Up

You now have a three pronged approach to preventing muscle soreness and some supplements for muscle recovery.

Whey protein is the classic muscle recovery supplement. ​It's a rapid absorbing, fast acting protein that sends your muscles the resources it needs for repair. 

You can supplement BCAAs and beta-alanine products before, or during your workouts to help prevent fatigue and push you through your sets. BCAAs can also be consume post workout as well for muscle recovery benefits.​

Let me know in the comments if there are other great supplements for muscle recovery that you use!

Thanks for reading!

3 Muscle Recovery Supplements to Keep Crushing Your Workouts
Article Name
3 Muscle Recovery Supplements to Keep Crushing Your Workouts
So it feels like your muscles are filled with heavy lead. Luckily, there are tons of great muscle recovery supplements on the market to help you get th...
About the author

Kyle Milligan

I'm Kyle Milligan. I really enjoy writing. I wrote a couple novels (The Hang-Ups and Hangovers series) and now I blog frequently on a bunch of different websites. I also enjoy lifting heavy things and and writing about it.

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