Unlike a pre-workout which is trying to do many things at once, a post-workout supplement is pretty simple. The goal is to maximize recovery from your workout.
Post-workout recovery typically means two main things:
- Maximize muscle repair & growth
- Minimize muscle soreness
Let’s discuss the ingredients best suited to address these two issues:
Ingredients to Maximize Muscle Repair & Growth
The key to maximizing muscle repair and growth post-workout is the adequate delivery of amino acids to the muscles. There are two key ingredients for maximally achieving this:
- Free form Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
- Whey protein
Recent studies (1,2,3) have shown that these two ingredients used together post-workout ensure a higher anabolic response than either one by themselves.
Free form EAAS rapidly increase blood amino acid levels and get essential amino acids like leucine to your muscles for immediate recovery.
While Whey Protein is perhaps the very best complete source of protein, it takes some time to digest and so is better suited as your longer form source of amino acids for post-workout recovery.
In other words: muscle repair occurs over time but you want amino acids available to your muscles immediately. If all you took were EAAs, then you’d get some initial recovery but your body would run out of amino acids quickly.
Ultimately, your maximal approach to post-workout muscle recovery will be three pronged:
- Free form essential amino acids immediately after workout (about 10g)
- Whey protein shake (isolate is best form) within 20 minutes after workout (about 25g)
- A full, nutritious, protein rich meal within 1 hour after workout
An optional 4th ingredient to the mix is a nighttime extended release Casein supplement (10-20g).
Ingredients for Minimizing Muscle Soreness
While there is some debate about whether minimizing muscle soreness may prevent maximal hypertrophy, it may be worth the compromise. Why? Because you will see better gains over time if you’re not too sore the next day for the next workout.
Several ingredients have been identified as minimizing muscle soreness post-wokout:
- Creatine Monohydrate (4)
- Tart Cherry (5)
- ORAC Blends
Creatine aids muscle glycogen resynthesis. ORAC blends as well as Tart Cherry ingredients reduce inflammation and improve oxygen delivery to muscles, thus aiding in recovery.
- Church et al. (2020) Essential Amino Acids and Protein Synthesis: Insights into Maximizing the Muscle and Whole-Body Response to Feeding. Nutrients
- Gwin et al. (2021) Essential amino acid-enriched whey enhances post-exercise whole-body protein balance during energy deficit more than iso-nitrogenous whey or a mixed- macronutrient meal: a randomized, crossover study. JISSN
- Park et al. (2020) Anabolic response to essential amino acid plus whey protein composition is greater than whey protein alone in young healthy adults. JISSN
- Santos et al. (2004) The effect of creatine supplementation upon inflammatory and muscle soreness markers after a 30km race. Life Sci.
- Hill et al. (2021) Tart Cherry Supplementation and Recovery From Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. IJSNEM