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The Ultimate Guide to Muscle Recovery Supplements: 7 Must-Haves

This article was written by Forrest Smith

There’s nothing worse than having a good training session at the gym and then being plagued by muscle soreness and fatigue for the next few days.

Not having a solid muscle recovery plan or not prioritizing this can hinder progress, lead to overtraining and injury, and leave you feeling incredibly deflated.

While there are many natural approaches you should and can take - like resting, getting adequate sleep, proper nutrition, staying hydrated, stretching, and more - there are handy supplements that offer convenience.

To help you get back on track, we’ve outlined what supplements are good for muscle recovery and why.

 

The Need for Muscle Recovery

 

Rest


When leaving enough time to rest after an intense workout, you’re allowing your body the opportunity to repair and recover.

When training, muscle tissues can be damaged slightly in the form of micro-tears. The body has to go through its natural processes to be able to repair these tissues which takes time.

Red light therapy can boost this natural effort, so tissues are repaired much quicker, but you should still allow your body to recuperate.


Nutrition and Hydration


It’s no secret that eating junk food every day will just leave you feeling bloated, sluggish, and uncomfortable. Instead, the right foods can help you achieve goals of muscle growth, contribute to the repair of tissues, and bolster performance.

For example, consuming enough protein will provide the amino acids that are needed for rebuilding muscle tissues and increasing muscle mass. Carbohydrates, which are the body’s primary source of energy, will replenish glycogen stores - these are depleted during exercise. Glycogen is the energy source that your muscles utilize during exercise.


Improving Sleep


Sleep is the perfect time for the body to focus on repairing and rebuilding, leading to muscle growth and better strength. These hours help us to conserve energy, with the body redirecting resources toward the recovery process.

If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, this will be interrupted and energy will no longer be focused solely on the repair of tissues.

    

What supplements are best for muscle recovery?

             

So, what supplements are good for muscle recovery? From cherry juices to magnesium, we’ve looked at some of the very best.

If you’re taking blood thinners, antibiotics, or corticosteroids, you should talk to your doctor before taking any of these. You shouldn’t overdo the amount of supplements either. Check out the recommended guidelines for how much you should be taking each day.

     

Protein


Protein supplements are one of the most popular amongst athletes, gym-goers, and the health-conscious. Most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day, with weight lifters requiring between 1.4/2 kg of body weight per day.

While food like lean meats, poultry, eggs, and some dairy products are rich in natural protein, using supplements is a great way to increase intake. For weightlifters, the use of protein is said to enhance muscle growth, but everyone should have enough protein too - it’s required for organs like the heart, brain, and skin to function properly.

Protein supplements can come in the form of pills, pre-made shakes, powders, bars, and other food-related supplements. This form of supplement is often reached for due to its convenience and for those who aren’t eating enough protein naturally.

For vegans, there are specific plant-based formulas packed with protein too.

Why do people take protein: Can aid in building muscle, repairing tissue, and making enzymes and hormones. Having enough protein contributes to a balanced diet.


Vitamin C


Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient that plays a big role in how our body functions. It has antioxidant properties, protecting our cells against the effects of free radicals which are the molecules that are produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to sun radiation, smoke, and other sources. It helps your body absorb iron too.

Our bodies don’t naturally produce enough of this vitamin, so finding it in food sources is key. It can be found in citrus fruits, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, and spinach.

For those who aren’t reaching the right amount per day, vitamin C supplements are available in the form of oral tablets, capsules, and chewable gummies.

The recommended daily amount for vitamin C is 75 milligrams a day for women and 90 milligrams a day for men. Remember not to take more than you should though, as it can cause nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, headaches, heartburn, and diarrhea if you have too much vitamin C.

Why do people take vitamin C: It’s needed to help our bodies continue daily processes, including warding off harmful molecules, stimulating collagen, absorbing iron, and boosting the immune system.


BCAAs


Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids that the body can’t naturally produce. This means people need to get these from their diet or through the use of supplements.

Foods like whey, milk, and soy proteins, corn, beef, chicken, fish, eggs, baked beans, lima beans, chickpeas, lentils, whole wheat, and brown rice are packed with branched-chain amino acids - providing a natural way to increase your intake of this.

For athletes and fitness fanatics, BCAAs are sought-after as they’re said to help reduce exercise fatigue, prevent soreness, and improve endurance.

According to a study conducted in 2013, with 26 college-age men, researchers found that the group that took a BCAA supplement had lower levels of serotonin during the cycling activity. Serotonin is a chemical that plays a role in exercise fatigue.

Why do people take BCAAs: To promote muscle growth, prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue during exercise, and lessen muscle soreness.


Fatty Acids


It’s an unpleasant name, but fatty acids are hugely important as they’re energy sources. In the body, they influence cell and tissue metabolism, function, and responsiveness to hormonal and other signals.

In a balanced diet, healthy fatty acids should take the place of most saturated fats. Some of the best sources of this include fish, flaxseed oil, olive oil, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, sunflower oil, and avocados.

One of the main benefits is heart health which in turn, will improve your endurance when it comes to exercising. Healthy fats reduce cholesterol levels and lower your chances of heart attack and stroke. It will boost your skin and brain health too.

The omega-3 fatty acid (which can be found in supplement form) acts as a vasodilator, helping to increase the movement of oxygen during exercise.

Why do people take fatty acids: Can lower your cardiovascular disease risk and promote brain and heart health.


Magnesium


Magnesium is a mineral that contributes to keeping blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a shocking 75% of Americans are estimated to be failing to meet the recommended intake of magnesium.

And unlike the popularity of other supplements like Vitamin C and Omega-3, magnesium is only just starting to pique interest. Food-wise, magnesium can be found in leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains.

For people who work out on the regular, this mineral is a huge factor in the production of ATP, which provides energy for the muscles. The more energy your body can produce, the better your workout.

Bone health is another component of magnesium as 50 percent of the body’s total amount of this mineral is stored in bone. So when you’re not having enough, this could contribute to bone disorders.

Why do people take magnesium: To increase energy output for fitness, improve bone health, and prevent bone disorders.


Nitrates


Nitric oxide is another supplement that could help you see an impact on your performance. It lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow, meaning the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard to help you out when you need it.

You may have seen some top athletes swear by beetroot juice which is because this holds key nitrates, as does some other vegetables like kale and spinach.

One of the reasons behind that is the potential ability to decrease muscle soreness. Some studies have shown how citrulline (which increases nitric oxide) improves muscle soreness 24 hours and 48 hours after exercise. But much more research needs to be done in this field.

Why do people take nitric supplements: To potentially improve muscle soreness and see marginal gains in the performance of sport.


Tart Cherry Juice


You might not usually opt for tart cherries in the morning, but the health benefits of this one drink are vast.

Tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidants and can usually be found in a juice format or you can eat them dried or frozen.

Studies show how it has anti-inflammatory compounds that could help your muscles spring back into action quicker than expected. Research suggests tart cherry juice can significantly aid exercise recovery and muscle pain too. In a placebo-controlled study involving college athletes, those who had less muscle pain and strength loss after exertion were drinking cherry juice twice a day for 8 days.

Why do people drink tart cherry juice: It’s a good source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. It’s said to prevent inflammation, aid exercise recovery, and ward off muscle pain after exercise.


Electrolytes


When you put in a good workout session, you’ll naturally lose a lot of water through sweat. Not only should you make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, but after exercise you should be focusing on boosting your electrolytes too.

When you sweat, you’re not just losing water but minerals like sodium and potassium (electrolytes). These help restore hydration by bringing water back into the bloodstream.
You can find these minerals in foods that would double as a delicious and healthy post-workout snack like watermelon, oranges, bananas, coconut water, or salty foods like pickles. Or if you’re looking for a drink replacement version, opt for an electrolyte-packed juice.

Why do people drink electrolytes: Electrolytes help our body maintain fluid balance and keep our muscles functioning properly.


Turmeric


Turmeric comes from a plant in the ginger family Zingiberaceae which is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. You’ll find it in supplement form or as a powder and it tends to be used as a natural coloring agent for some kinds of mustard or as an ingredient in curries.

This plant is rich in phytonutrients that can protect the body by neutralizing free radicals and shielding the cells from damage.

 

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Researchers from Nottingham Trent University in the UK found that turmeric improves recovery in professional footballers. The study has shown that a turmeric supplement, consumed as an easy-to–drink 60mL shot twice a day, can reduce the degree of inflammatory and muscle soreness that elite players experience after a match.

There are warnings against taking too much turmeric though and it shouldn’t be taken at all if you have liver or bile duct problems or gallstones - unless you have spoken with a doctor about your situation.

Why do people consume turmeric: Turmeric is rich in phytonutrients, helps with digestion, and can relieve pain.

    

Does red light therapy help with muscle recovery?

             

With red light therapy, the wavelengths penetrate deep into your muscles. They reach the mitochondria which is the powerhouse of our cells, promoting the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel our muscles need to repair and regenerate.

With Kineon’s MOVE+ Pro, you can directly target the areas that need some TLC and seamlessly integrate it into your daily routine, helping out with muscle recovery.

 


Cell Repair


Red light therapy works by stimulating blood flow and energy production (the mighty ATP) in the cells of the targeted area. It triggers the healing process to help damaged tissues repair themselves, speeding up the body’s natural response.

New blood vessels can also be formed which is crucial for supplying nutrients and oxygen to the tissues undergoing repair. These factors all play a part in the renewal and growth of tissue.


Improved Blood Flow


Red light enhances nitric oxide which is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels and allows for increased blood flow.

When blood flow can move quicker, it aids the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients to the tissues whilst removing waste products.


Reducing Inflammation


Inflammation can result in soreness and loss of mobility which directly impacts your workouts. Red light therapy has been shown to decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines while regulating the swelling process.

 

For more articles on muscle recovery, read:

Forrest Smith

Forrest Smith

Job Title: Founder & CEO
Company: Kineon Labs
LinkedIn: @the-forrest-smith
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Bio: Forrest Smith is the CEO and co-founder at Kineon. He is an entrepreneur, business operator, strategic planner and leader. Forrest is fluent in Mandarin and English. He also speaks conversational Spanish

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