The Best Post-Workout Supplements: Better Recovery for Better Results

person drinking a pre-workout supplement


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When you finish a workout, your body is in a state of repair. There are several important ways to support muscle recovery such as doing post-workout stretches, but a big focus should be on nutrition and the right ingredients to consume after a workout. After all, the gym is where you break down your body, but the kitchen is where you build it back up.

It is crucial that you give your body the nutrients it needs to recover properly so you can continue making progress. One of the best ways to do that is with a high-quality supplement that contains the ingredients, minerals, and vitamins for muscle recovery that you need. It is no secret that supplements can help improve your results in the gym, but with so many different options on the market, it can be tough to know which ones to choose.

Here, we will discuss the best post-workout supplement ingredients, what to look for when buying supplements, and our picks for the best post-workout supplements for different goals.

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Post-Workout Supplements - Our Top Picks

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What to Look for When Shopping for Post-Workout Supplements

When you're shopping for a post-workout supplement, it's important to remember that not all supplements are created equal. There are several things you should look for when shopping for a supplement because these factors will be the difference between buying a mediocre and a great post-workout supplement.

Form

First, you need to decide what form you want your supplement to be in. Do you want a powder, pill, or liquid?

There are pros and cons to each form. Powders are usually the most affordable option and they're easy to take with you on the go. Powders can be messy, but overall, they are typically the best option for most people.

Pills are also convenient, but they can be hard to swallow. Pills also might have a protective covering on them that ensures they don't break down as quickly. For some people with digestive issues and low stomach acid levels, the drawback is that these pills never fully break down and digest, becoming a waste of money (no pun intended).

Liquids are the fastest-absorbing option, but they're not as portable or convenient as powders or pills. What's more, the best-quality liquid supplements can be very pricey.

Ingredients

Next, you need to look at the ingredients in the supplement. The best post-workout supplements contain ingredients that will help your body recover from your workout. But it's important to note that not all post-workout supplements will contain all of these ingredients at one time.

For example, protein is a great post-workout supplement by itself, but it's unlikely you would find it wrapped up with too many other ingredients such as electrolytes or betaine anhydrous. On the other hand, you would typically find betaine anhydrous combined with several other ingredients such as creatine, glutamine, and BCAAs. Some of the best ingredients for post-workout recovery include:

Protein

The quintessential post-workout ingredient, protein is required for muscle growth and repair. Dietary protein is broken down into amino acids, which are the literal building blocks for muscle tissue. There are several types of protein powders that you can choose from depending on your goals, dietary preferences, and budget. In general, the three most popular types are the following:

  • Whey concentrate: Traditional whey protein concentrate is cheap and effective. The level of concentrate versus carbohydrate filler depends on the brand you buy.
  • Whey protein isolate/hydrolyzed: This whey protein is filtered, providing you with a highly bioavailable and purer form of protein. Easy to digest and fast to absorb, whey isolate also comes with a bigger price point.
  • Plant proteins: Great for people with dairy allergies, vegetarians, and vegans, plant protein tends to be made up of a combination of a few sources of plant protein like brown rice, pea, and quinoa. However, plant proteins can host a big price point and might not have the same level of bioavailability as dairy protein powders.

Creatine

Creatine is another post-workout staple, and has been shown in multiple studies to help improve your strength and power during your workouts while supporting your recovery and muscle gains after the workout. It's often found in both pre-workout and post-workout supplements because the timing is irrelevant so long as you're taking it daily.

BCAAs

BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acid. While there are 20 amino acids in the human body, only three are dubbed BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amino acids are essential for muscle repair and growth. They can also help to reduce workout fatigue.

Glutamine

Like creatine, glutamine is one of the most popular ingredients for muscle recovery. Glutamine is an amino acid that has been shown to promote growth while fighting against muscle breakdown. Many people also take glutamine to boost their immune system, help with digestive issues, and support cognitive function.

Bioperine

Bioperine is a compound that's derived from black pepper. It helps improve the absorption of other nutrients, making them more effective.

Betaine Anhydrous

Betaine is naturally occurring in foods such as beets and spinach. It's been shown to improve power output and help with muscle growth.

L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is an amino acid that's involved in fat metabolism. It can also help with recovery from exercise.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals that help your body stay hydrated. It's not enough to drink plain water, you need electrolytes in that water. They're especially important if you're sweating a lot during your workout.

Dextrin

After a tough workout, your muscle glycogen stores will be depleted. That means you need glucose so your body can refill its stores of glycogen. Dextrin is a type of carbohydrate that's efficiently absorbed by the body.

Bioavailability

Bioavailability refers to how easily and effectively an ingredient is digested and absorbed by the food. Based on a scoring system up to 100, the higher the score, the better the bioavailability. Just like whole foods, not all ingredients are processed equally by the body.

For example, did you know that zinc oxide is not as bioavailable as zinc chelate? Here are the best versions of certain post-workout ingredients:

  • Protein: This really comes down to your budget. Classic whey protein concentrate is effective enough, but it's not nearly as bioavailable as hydrolyzed whey protein. You can use both in your training regimen, though. Consume whey concentrate as a meal replacement and use hydrolyzed whey right after a workout for the best results.
  • Creatine: The most studied and proven version of creatine is creatine monohydrate. There are other forms of this ingredient, but for most people, these are just pricey versions of the same thing. If you have an extremely sensitive stomach and find that creatine gives you indigestion, consider trying micronized creatine or creatine HCl.
  • L-Carnitine: L-carnitine L-tartrate is the preferred form of L-carnitine for exercise performance due to its superior bioavailability and muscle recovery results.

Dosage

Another thing to consider is the dosage of the ingredients in the supplement. Just because an ingredient is featured in a supplement doesn't mean there's enough of it to see real benefit. Make sure your post-workout ingredients are properly dosed according to what the science is saying.

Proprietary Blends

Speaking of proper dosages, you need to be careful of proprietary blends. A proprietary blend is a mixture of ingredients that's been combined into one formula. The problem with proprietary blends is that you don't know how much of each ingredient is in the supplement. That means you don't know if you're getting a high enough dose of the ingredients for the supplement to be effective.

Third-Party Testing

You want to make sure the supplement you're considering has been third-party tested. Third-party testing is when an independent company tests a product to verify that it contains the ingredients it claims to contain, and that those ingredients are present in the amounts listed on the label.

This is important because it ensures that the supplement is safe and effective. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that you're taking a quality product.

Price

On average, post-workout supplements can range in price from $20 to $60, depending on the brand, ingredients, and total serving size.

You don't need to spend a lot of money on a supplement to get good results, but you also don't want to go with the supplement that is priced suspiciously low.

Flavor Options

Last, but not least, you need to consider the flavor options of the supplement. Some supplements come in a variety of flavors, while others only come in one or two flavors. If you're picky about flavors, you'll want to find a supplement that has a variety that you can try. Otherwise, you may not be as motivated to take the supplement after your workout.

Our Rating Scale

Here's how we rate our post-workout supplement choices in terms of price and flavors:

Price/Affordability (scale of $-$$$)

Prices depend on a number of factors and tend to fluctuate over time. We've kept our affordability rating scale simple so you can easily see how products compare:

$ = under $1 per serving
$$ = $1-2 per serving
$$$ = over $2 per serving

Flavor Options (scale of 1-3)

When it comes to dietary supplements that you take frequently, or even daily, options are important. And while your protein powder or post-workout doesn't have to taste good to be effective, having several flavors to choose from can make it easier to stick with your fitness and health goals. 

N/A = Unflavored
1 = 1-2 flavor options
2 = 3-4 flavor options
3 = 5 or more flavor options

Best Overall Post-Workout Supplement - Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Artificial sweeteners: None (uses stevia)
  • Serving size: 7g (1 scoop)
  • Calories per serving: 0
  • Allergens: Processed in a facility that contains coconut and peanuts, but the product goes through an allergen control program for cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin D, creatine monohydrate, HMB, and BioPerine (black pepper extract)

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How did Transparent Labs Creatine HMB get the top spot for the best overall post-workout supplement? Two words:right pairing.

The team over at Transparent Labs knows what they're doing when it comes to their formulas. While HMB and creatine are fantastic supplements on their own, they work even better when taken together. These ingredients are also dosed properly, copying the same dosage levels as used in many studies.

You might be wondering why they added vitamin D. Turns out that HMB and vitamin D are another super duo team, promoting better muscle function together than alone. Then, to top it all off, you have BioPerine to ensure the highest level of bioavailability of the other ingredients.

No matter what your goal is, if you want to recover better and faster so you can go harder during your next workout, this formula will help you get there.

What We Like

  • Simple but extremely effective formula
  • Plenty of flavors to choose
  • Established brand with several popular supplements

What We Don't Like

  • Sticker shock—this one might cost a bit more than your average post-workout
  • Only some of the flavors are third-party tested

BUY: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Best Post-Workout for Muscle Gain - Jacked Factory Growth Surge

Jacked Factory Growth Surge

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, sucralose
  • Serving size: 10g (1 scoop)
  • Allergens: None
  • Key ingredients: Creatine monohydrate, betaine anhydrous, L-carnitine L-tartrate, BioPerine

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Ask any professional bodybuilder about the work they put in at the gym and they'll usually tell you they pretty much live there. But hard work is only half the equation. You can do hundreds of reps but if you aren't supporting your body post-workout, you won't see much in the size gains department.

The Jacked Factory Growth Surge formula is solid—starting off with creatine to help with both workout performance and recovery. We were happy to see betaine anhydrous because of its reputation to help muscles have that fuller appearance. The R&D team over at Jacked Factory chose L-carnitine L-tartrate, our preferred version of L-carnitine, for its ability to protect lean muscle from breakdown. Smart move.

This trio of active ingredients has the science and support behind it specifically for people who want to build more muscle.

What We Like

  • Designed exclusively for muscle growth
  • Great value for cost per serving
  • Vegan-friendly
  • 100% hassle-free money-back guarantee

What We Don't Like

  • Uses 2 artificial sweeteners
  • On the lower end of the recommended creatine amount

BUY: Jacked Factory Growth Surge

Best Post-Workout for Muscle Recovery - Kaged Re-Kaged

Kaged Re-Kaged

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 2
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Serving size: 41.5g (1 scoop)
  • Allergens: Milk
  • Key ingredients: Whey protein isolate, L-glutamine, betaine anhydrous, creatine HCl, digestive enzymes

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You just put in a solid hour at the gym, going to failure on the last rep of every exercise. Your muscles are feeling it and they are begging for nutrition. What do you give them? The first thing should be a highly bioavailable whey protein isolate. This will ensure immediate absorption where it's needed most. Follow this up with the most bioavailable form of glutamine, betaine anhydrous, and creatine—all proven muscle recovery ingredients. That's exactly what you get with Kaged Re-Kaged.

This is our favorite post-workout supplement for muscle recovery because of the attention to detail. The guys over at Kaged included three of the most reliable supplement ingredients for muscle repair along with a pure form of whey protein, making this one a great choice if you aren't a fan of soreness and want to get back in the gym faster.

What We Like

  • Uses fermented glutamine
  • Includes 28g of protein
  • Supports proper protein digestion with enzymes
  • Fast-digesting whey protein for better results

What We Don't Like

  • Only 20 servings
  • Expensive
  • Mixed reviews on the flavors

BUY: Kaged Re-Kaged

Best Post-Workout for Hydration - XWERKS Motion

XWERKS Motion

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 1
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose
  • Serving size: 34g (1 scoop)
  • Allergens: Soy
  • Key ingredients: Electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, sodium), dextrin, BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine)

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Hydration during a workout is important, but even more so after a workout when you've depleted your stores of electrolytes and glucose. Most people reach for water to hydrate, but this alone isn't what your body needs. To truly rehydrate yourself, you need electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, and calcium. XWERKS Motion provides this, but it goes past the bare minimum for hydration supplements—you'll also get a high-quality carbohydrate, dextrin, to help restore your muscle glycogen levels.

The finishing touch is what we like the most: XWERKS Motion adds branched-chain amino acids in their proper dosage ratio of 2:1:1. This is easily the best post-workout for hydration that we've seen, and everyone, regardless of their fitness goals, could benefit from having this in their gym bag.

What We Like

  • Proper ratio of BCAAs
  • Use of dextrin, not maltodextrin
  • Natural flavoring that tastes great

What We Don't Like

  • Use of artificial sweeteners
  • Large serving size

BUY: XWERKS Motion

Best Post-Workout Whey Protein - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, sucralose
  • Serving size: 31.5g (1 scoop)
  • Allergens: Milk and soy
  • Key ingredients: Whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey protein

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If you've been working out for the last few decades, it's highly likely you've had a tub of Optimum Nutrition on top of your refrigerator at some point. This classic protein supplement is still going strong, and it has the reputation to back it up as our pick for the best post-workout whey protein.

Optimum Nutrition doesn't just give you whey concentrate like most manufacturers, they also throw in whey isolate and hydrolyzed whey, which are two of the most bioavailable forms of protein on the market. They do this so you can have three levels of speed for protein digestion: immediately after your workout and for hours afterward. This will support protein synthesis, muscle recovery, and muscle growth.

Optimum Nutrition has always been a no-frills supplement line, putting in only the ingredients that are shown to be the most effective. The cherry on top is the fantastic flavors—and you have over 20 to choose from.

What We Like

  • High-quality protein that will digest over the course of several hours
  • Awesome flavors
  • Solid reputation

What We Don't Like

  • Can be a bit pricey
  • Uses 2 artificial sweeteners

BUY: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein

Best Post-Workout BCAAs - XTEND Sport BCAAs

XTEND Sport BCAAs

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 1
  • Artificial sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, sucralose
  • Serving size: 11.5g (1 scoop)
  • Allergens: Tree nuts (coconuts)
  • Key ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), electrolyte blend (betaine anhydrous, sodium, potassium, magnesium), coconut water

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Personally, I've been a big fan of XTEND Sport BCAAs since it hit the market. It's my go-to post-workout BCAA supplement because it's simple, effective, and budget-friendly. XTEND Sport BCAAs don't just use the suggested 2:1:1 ratio, they also provide you with the proper dosage that's used in most studies.

Although this might be a BCAA supplement, it's a post-workout supplement above all. That's why XTEND included an electrolyte blend to help with hydration. Not only are your muscles getting the nutrients they need, but your body is also able to fully hydrate after a long workout. The added touch of coconut water powder, an excellent hydration ingredient, is a nice touch. While the flavor options are limited, they do taste great.

What We Like

  • Proper ratio and dosing of BCAAs
  • Excellent price point for what you are getting
  • Addition of electrolyte blend

What We Don't Like

  • Lack of flavors
  • Artificial flavoring

BUY: XTEND Sport BCAAs

Best Post-Workout for Endurance - Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

SPECS

  • Price (scale of $-$$$): $$
  • Flavor options (scale of 1-3): 3
  • Artificial sweeteners: None
  • Serving size: 19.18g (1 scoop)
  • Allergens: Processed in a facility that contains coconuts and peanuts, but the product goes through an allergen control program for cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Key ingredients: Vegan BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), L-glutamine, coconut water powder

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The same brand on the list twice? Are they that good? Definitely. The team over at Transparent Labs says that their BCAA Glutamine supplement is designed to be the best "repair and recover" post-workout supplement. Seeing as how the active ingredients all have clinical research to their credit, Transparent Labs wasn't kidding around. In their quest for a great post-workout supplement, they ended up creating the best post-workout for endurance.

Perceived post-workout fatigue can be a damper on the rest of your day after you leave the gym. It can also impact the next workout in your routine. Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine is made to do more than support muscle recovery, it also helps restore electrolyte levels and reduce exercise fatigue. Transparent Labs is not stingy with the BCAA dosage. Not only are you getting the recommended 2:1:1 ratio, but you are also getting higher doses than you'll find in most other post-workout endurance supplements.

Finally, one addition that we really enjoyed was vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce fatigue and muscle damage.

What We Like

  • High dosage of BCAAs
  • Good flavor selection
  • No artificial sweeteners, flavors, or dyes

What We Don't Like

  • Larger serving size than most
  • Some of the flavors aren't popular

BUY: Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

FAQS About Post-Workout Supplements


Do I really need protein after a workout?

Absolutely, especially if you performed a strength-training workout. Protein contains the building blocks of muscle tissue that support muscle recovery and growth.

What should I drink for muscle recovery?

For optimal muscle recovery, you want a post-workout supplement that contains electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein or BCAAs. Immediately after your workout, stick with a variation of whey protein or BCAA supplements. For later on in the day, you can use post-workout supplements that focus on hydration and specific ingredients like betaine anhydrous and glutamine.

Are BCAAs good after a workout?

Yes, BCCAs are highly recommended after a workout. BCAAs are composed of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. All three of these amino acids have been found to provide the most benefit for muscle recovery, growth, and results.

Is creatine good for post-workout?

You can take creatine anytime as long as you take it every day. To ensure they don't forget, many people find it convenient to take creatine with their post-workout supplement.

What should I not do after a workout?

Do not skip your post-workout nutrition routine. Your body needs nutrients to kick-start the muscle recovery process. Whether it's a protein-rich meal or a post-workout supplement, be sure to get something after your workout.

What happens if I don't eat after a workout?

If you don't eat or take a post-workout supplement, then you increase the risk of muscle protein degradation. Looking for nutrients, your body may break down muscle protein, especially if you've burned through your glycogen supply. This is why a convenient post-workout supplement is so important.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

What to Eat Before a Workout | Creatine Timing | Protein Timing | Best Pre-workout Supplements | Best Post-Workout Supplements | Best Creatine Supplements | Best Protein Powder Supplements | Best Peanut Butter | Best Greek Yogurt

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