What is the Best Post Workout Recovery Supplement Brand in 2017?
The science and research behind exercise and associated eating programs has advanced tremendously in recent years. We have more knowledge than ever about how the body works before, during and after exercise. We also have insight into how to provide the body with the key nutrients needed to reap maximum benefits from training and exercise.
Post workout recovery supplements are exactly what they say they are. They are supplements designed to help the body maximize recovery and make the most of all the hard work we put into our training and exercise regimes.
With a wealth of information out there and a huge variety of different products being promoted by manufacturers, post workout recovery supplements can be a complicated subject to explore.
In this article, I’m going to clarify exactly why post workout supplements are important, what the key ingredients do and how they affect the body. At the end I’ll share some of my picks for the best post workout supplement on the market right now.
Who Needs a Post Workout Recovery Supplement?
Anyone who follows a regular exercise or training program can potentially benefit from adding a post workout recovery supplement to their routine.
The benefits of a regular fitness or trainings program are widely known, but there’s no escaping the fact that results take time, dedication, motivation, consistency and a lot of hard work.
Workout recovery supplements have been proven to maximize the results you’ll see from the effort you put in. They’re also useful for anyone trying to increase or maintain muscle mass.
What is a Post Workout Recovery Supplement?
Available mainly in powder form, but also in capsule form, post workout supplements are basically a recipe to replace and replenish the substances used by the body during exercise.
To explain further, it’s helpful to understand some of the physiology of exercise.
During exercise, the body first uses up carbohydrates as the primary energy source before turning to fats and finally protein to provide the energy needed.
The first port of call when it comes to the body’s energy supply is a substance called adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). When we start exercising, the ATP stored in the muscles is broken down to release energy.
However, the ATP from the muscles doesn’t last long, so the body then turns to the creatine phosphate (CP) system to create more.
After this, the body starts to use energy from sugars in the blood, then other stores of carbohydrates, before fats and eventually proteins.
Having looked at the way the body uses energy during exercise, we now need to look at the way exercise affects our bodies. Specifically, the effect of exercise on the muscles.
The effect of exercise itself, according to the principles of training overload, is to demand slightly more of the body than it is currently capable of.
Our amazing bodies can then recognize, essentially, that they are not quite up to the job being asked of them. Therefore they repair and rebuild in preparation for the next training or exercise session.
Inside the muscles - which are made up of protein and water - the effect of this overloading is to create tiny tears, or microtrauma. Given the right conditions, this stimulates the brain to heal the muscles and strengthen in response to the microtrauma.
So in summary, after we have exercised we don’t have any readily available sources of energy left. We are left with tiny tears in the muscle that the body needs to repair.
Consider one of the top chefs in the world in a kitchen that contains only the bare minimum of ingredients and tools. Then don’t give him any food, so even if he uses all the ingredients he has at his disposal, he hardly has enough energy to use them.
Now ask him to bake a cake.
Let’s face it – even with all his skills and knowledge, this cake is probably not going to be a masterpiece, right?
The situation is exactly the same for the body after exercise. We’ve used up almost all of the resources we need to recover from exercise – there’s nothing left in the tank! In order to heal, rebuild and repair after training, the body needs several dietary components to provide the optimum conditions.
Research suggests that the first 45 minutes after exercise is an essential time period for providing your body with the ingredients it needs to recover.
One effect of exercise is to dramatically increase blood flow to our skeletal muscles – the ones that allow us to move. This means that more nutrients are flowing around the body and can potentially be accessed more quickly – if the nutrients are present.
Consuming a post workout recovery supplement immediately after exercise is an effective way to make sure these nutrients are present at the exact time of increased blood flow.
By missing out on refueling at this stage, you’re that poor old, tired, grumpy chef in the kitchen. You are compromising your body’s ability to recover and prepare for the next training session.
The timing of re-stocking your body with the ingredients it needs is now thought to be more critical than ever to maximize the results of all the effort you put into your workout.
One scientific study carried out on competitive cyclists found that providing the correct supplementation immediately after exercise has an extremely significant effect on the body’s ability to resupply cells.
Compared to taking a supplement two hours after exercise, immediate consumption of an appropriate supplement increased the speed of recovery by a massive forty-five per cent (source).
A post workout recovery supplement is an easy, quick and convenient way to give your body what it needs while taking advantage of that 45 minute maximum recovery window.
What’s in a Post Workout Recovery Supplement?
The ingredients in each post workout recovery supplement vary from product to product. That said, there are some common ingredients that are essential to create the right environment for maximum recovery:
The role of protein in exercise recovery is widely known and well documented. Quite simply, it is one of the most important nutrients for recovery.
The muscle fibers which have been used during exercise now have tiny tears that need to be repaired in such a way that makes them bigger and stronger than they were before exercise.
Without any available protein, they body simply doesn’t have the right ingredients to make good the damage that has been done during training.
We all know we can take in protein as part of our regular diet from food sources like chicken, fish, red meat and eggs. However it’s often not practical to prepare and consume a meal immediately after exercise.
In addition, proteins from these food sources take time to digest and become useable – certainly longer than our 45 minute window.
What we really need here is a good helping of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that are easily digested and ready to use.
This is one of the biggest reasons why post workout recovery supplements are so convenient and helpful as part of your daily routine.
It would be hard to find a post workout recovery supplement that didn’t include amino acids - but not all amino acids are equal.
There are 20 different amino acids required by the human body to perform effectively, and all of them perform different functions in the body.
Several are important for post workout recovery for different reasons.
This is one important amino acid for optimizing post workout recovery, something well-known by elite athletes and bodybuilders. Research shows that consuming l-carnitine immediately after exercise helps to reduce the muscle damage created during exercise.
L-carnitine can also dramatically reduce muscle soreness after exercise, and can shorten overall recovery time.
Studies have also suggested that l-carnitine can help to convert fat stored in the body to more useable forms of energy more efficiently. Potentially, this can help to reduce body fat (source).
Thought to have a vital role in post workout recovery, l-glutamine helps to build muscle and improves general health.
During exercise, the body’s stores of L-glutamine are used up. This has a negative impact on the body’s ability to recover from exercise, energy levels and can also adversely affect the immune system. This in turn increases the likelihood of illness and injury.
Particularly after intense exercise, studies have shown that it can take a number of days to replenish the body’s stores of l-glutamine through food intake alone.
A post workout recovery supplement which includes l-glutamine is a much faster way of replenish the body’s stores. It can significantly shorten recovery time after exercise as well as improving general health (source).
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Essential amino acids are the nine amino acids which cannot be manufactured by the body, and therefore must be included in a healthy diet to avoid a protein deficiency.
Three of these nine amino acids are of particular interest for recovery post-exercise. These are l-leucine, l-isoleucine and l-valine.
This trio are known as the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), and all are essential for healthy muscle growth and development.
Research has indicated that a surprisingly large number of men and women who lead very normal, active lives can be critically deficient in BCAAs.
This suggests that many people who engage in regular training programs are not maximizing the effects of their training, and are missing an opportunity to enhance the results from their exercise (source).
However, some research also suggests that regularly supplementing your diet with BCAAs has a direct effect on the body, causing it to manufacture the correct proteins needed for muscle growth.
In addition, these BCAAs encourage the body to use up stores of fat for energy. In particular, the BCAA leucine has been shown to decrease muscle damage and increase post workout recovery time (source).
Together, these BCAAs help to produce more protein fibers and encourage the uptake of glucose – for example by increasing the production of insulin, which stimulated more glucose to be produced. This provides energy for rebuilding and re-charging the muscles (source).
Creatine is another key ingredient which you’ll find in most post workout recovery supplements. In our 45 minute post-exercise window, our muscles are hungry and looking to refuel.
Creatine not only has a direct effect in terms of increased muscle size and strength, it also reduces post workout muscle soreness (also known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS) and encourages the body to retain lean muscle mass and burn fat (source).
When considering post workout supplementation, it’s easy to overlook the importance of carbohydrates.
However, when we consider that exercise severely depletes the body’s stores of carbohydrates, it makes sense that it is essential to consume them after a workout.
In fact, research suggests that if carbohydrates are not replaced within the all-important 45 minute post workout window, the body’s ability to store usable carbohydrates in the form of glycogen may be decreased for the next exercise session (source).
Corosolic acid is included in some post workout supplements. This is due to its stimulating effect on the body’s insulin production.
An increase in insulin allows the glucose in the blood to gain entry to cells where it can be used as energy. In this way, corosolic acid supports the function of BCAAs (source).
Precautions For Use
Consumers are generally advised to seek medical advice before taking post workout recovery supplements, and particularly if you are taking regular medication, especially MAO inhibitors.
Most manufacturers advise against the use of post workout recovery supplements if you are contemplating pregnancy, pregnant, nursing, prone to dehydration, or exposed to excessive heat.
Undesirable side effects can include sleeplessness, tremors, dizziness, nervousness. In these cases, users are advised to reduce or discontinue use and to seek individual medical advice.
What is the Best Post Workout Supplement?
Our Choice for the Best Post Workout Supplement
When comparing post workout recovery supplements, we found it difficult to choose a clear winner as each manufacturer chooses to include slightly different ingredients and omit others.
In our selection, we decided to look for the best all round product which supplies most of the ingredients we need to take in after exercise.
In my personal opinion, the Old School Labs Vintage Build 3-in-1 Muscle Builder is the winner.
I was impressed with the quality and the fact that it was the only product to be tested by a third party. It is a non-GMO product, suitable for most diets, including gluten free and vegetarian. It’s produced in the US to GMP standards, and the vast majority of users report excellent results when taken regularly immediately post workout.
Some users were not keen on the taste, but many reported this was much more tolerable when mixed with a larger quantity of water (which is also an essential requirement after exercise), or with the inclusion of some fruit juice. I felt that the slightly higher price of this product was justified given the high quality of the product.
Overall, in my opinion, I consider this product to be the best of the best.