We've researched the ingredients & compared the best post-workout supplements on the market.
Finding the right post-workout supplement can be challenging. Photo via Shutterstock
Intense workouts tend to damage muscles at the microlevel. This may sound like a bad thing, but it is what ultimately renders the muscles leaner, bigger, and stronger. Much like damage in any other parts of the body, exercise-induced muscle damage also requires repair and rebuilding.
Luckily a few minutes after workout, the muscles are most primed to receive nourishment for repair, rebuilding, and growth - thus the need for proper post-workout nutrition.
In this article, learn more about post-workout supplements and find out how they can help you achieve your fitness goals.
What are Post-Workout Supplements?
Post-workout supplements are supplements that promote muscle building and faster recovery from intense workouts. As the name suggests, it must be taken immediately after your workout session.
As previously stated, the muscles have to undergo the process of being "broken down" first in order to be rebuilt after and make them bigger and stronger. In the rebuilding process is where post-workout supplements come in. Not only do they allow faster recovery, they also allow the user to continue training despite the muscle repair process being underway.
In other words, post-workout supplements allow its users to recover faster, increase muscle size and improved muscle quality, and repair workout-induced damage. These benefits seem to be applicable to everyone, regardless of age or gender.
Key Ingredients to Look for in Post-Workout Supplements - Do They Work?
We take a look at some of the most common ingredients that can be found in the post-workout supplements.
Whey Protein - Hailed as the best and most popular post-workout ingredient due to its high BCAA (branched chain amino acid) content, particularly leucine. According to studies, leucine works pretty much like a "light switch" for muscle building as it stimulates muscle protein synthesis while also inhibiting protein degradation (source). It also causes blood insulin levels to spike, causing greater shuttling of nutrients into the muscles. This, in turn, results in faster and much better recovery.
Branched Chain Amino Acids: They serve as good energy source during exercise, particularly when carbohydrate stores are depleted. They may be taken before and after workouts to improve performance, reduce fatigue, and promote faster recovery. These amino acids are abundant in whey protein, so if you are already taking one, separate supplementation with this will not be necessary.
Creatine: A second serving of creatine post-workout is ideal to provide additional muscle-building support. It is recommended to be taken with whey isolate to maximize creatine absorption.
Betaine: It helps promote muscle protein synthesis by lowering homocysteine levels (source).
Fish Oil: Aside from its obvious benefit of promoting heart health, athletes also swear by this ingredient due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It contains omega-3 fatty acids which resolves inflammation at a cellular level (source).
Tart Cherry: It has high amounts of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant which promotes faster recovery from strenuous workouts. So far, the evidence for its effectiveness is limited, but the existing ones look promising. Since this is a natural ingredient, it is not expected to produce any harm to the user and therefore worth a try.
Do Post-Workout Supplements Work?
Post-workout supplements have been proven many times to improve overall recovery from a high-intensity workout. By providing post-workout nutrition, it also has the added effect of improving body composition and enhancing physical performance the next time you hit the gym.
To get the most benefits, however, you need to take your post-workout supplement at the right time - that is, a few minutes after your workout. If you don't do so fast enough, you won't experience the maximum benefits.
How to Choose the Best Post-Workout Supplements?
Although post-workout supplements are absolutely useful when it comes to reaching your fitness goals, it can be quite challenging to pick the right product for you. Especially since it is difficult to separate the legits from those that are not.
Finding the right post-workout supplement for you depends on factors such as the type of workout and your fitness goals. Do some research first or if you're absolutely unsure about anything, just consult your fitness expert and/or doctor before you decide to buy one.
The Bottom Line
The post-workout period is arguably the best opportunity to maximize your gains after an intense workout. Post-workout supplements, in this case, can be a great aid to reach your fitness goals. Take note, however, that the key here is "POST-workout" so these supplements are not something that you can just take whenever you please and expect explosive results.
Much like any other supplements, post-workout supplements are pretty much ineffective on their own. Don't expect results if you don't eat right and make yourself more physically active. Always build your foundation first with proper diet and exercise, then think about if you need a post-workout supplement (or any other workout supplements) and if so, how it can help you.
**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.
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