The Importance of Muscle Recovery
Workout recovery is arguably as important as the workouts themselves. Any time you push muscle past its normal level, it creates a tiny tear in the muscle tissue. It is the repair of this tear that leads to muscle growth.
If the muscle isn’t allowed to recover, you won’t see gains in muscle mass. You may also notice reduced muscle strength. This makes it a struggle to get through your workouts. It can also show up as a lack of progress.
Giving adequate time for muscle repair also reduces the risk of injury. Research reveals that, for young athletes, specialization may increase this risk. Though actual risk varies based on sport and the athlete’s sex.
For example, overuse injuries are more common in volleyball than in soccer or basketball. Additionally, female basketball players are almost four times as likely to have an overuse injury than males. Giving enough time for recovery helps reduce overuse-related muscle breakdown.
While taking time off gives muscle fibers time to heal, a workout supplement can assist. What value do these substances have to offer? Two of the most compelling are their ability to heal muscle damage and reduce sore muscles.
The Value of Supplements for Muscle Damage and Soreness
Some supplements work by supporting or enhancing muscle protein synthesis. Protein synthesis refers to the process that muscle cells use to make more protein. Protein is the building block for muscle. Thus, promoting protein synthesis gives the body more blocks to use.
Other supplements aid in muscle recovery in a way that reduces muscle soreness. Sore muscles are fairly common for new exercisers. It’s also common for those who have taken their strength training routine up a notch. Soreness that occurs quickly after the workout is often due to lactic acid buildup. Then, there is delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which is longer-lasting.
Some supplements ease both types of sore muscles. Some work by helping the body get rid of lactic acid faster. This is beneficial for acute muscle soreness. Others help by speeding the recovery process. This reduces the likelihood that the muscle soreness will last long term.
Still more supplements work to reduce muscle fatigue. They give muscle cells the energy they need to keep going while they recover. Some even aid in injury recovery. This type of workout recovery supplement provides the nutrients needed to repair muscle damage.
7 Supplements for Muscle Recovery
What type of recovery supplement is best for you or your clients? A lot of it depends on the client and their goals. While you, as a personal trainer, may not be able to prescribe supplements to your clients, you can help educate them about some of their options. Here are seven to consider.
- Protein supplement. Protein is perhaps the most useful supplement for muscle recovery. It helps the muscle repair faster and more effectively after a grueling workout. It is even more important if there isn’t enough protein in the diet. Whey protein is the most popular choice. This may be because whey protein also includes essential amino acids. A typical whey protein powder offers 25 grams per serving, though some provide more. Other options include soy, egg protein, rice, hemp, and pea protein.
- Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplement. Though the body can make some amino acids on its own, there are a few it cannot make. An amino acid falling in the second category is an essential amino acid. A BCAA supplement provides these essential amino acids. This aids in recovery. This type of supplement also promotes muscle growth while reducing muscle fatigue. It can even help ease sore muscles.
- Fatty acid supplement. Another good supplement for muscle recovery is fatty acids. They supply energy, but also reduce inflammation. A medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) fatty acid helps by reducing lactic acid buildup. An omega 3 fatty acid reduces muscle fatigue and muscle soreness. It also offers injury protection. To maintain their safety and quality standards, fatty acid supplements should be stored in a dark, cool place.
- Creatine supplement. Creatine turns into creatine phosphate, which the body uses for energy. Though research is somewhat mixed, some studies have found that taking a creatine supplement may aid in muscle recovery. One noted that taking creatine resulted in greater muscle strength during the recovery process. Another showed that it may even boost performance.
- Citrulline malate supplement. When taken as a supplement, citrulline—a non-essential amino acid that is also found in watermelon—converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps open blood vessels, thereby improving blood flow. This makes it easier to get blood and other nutrients to the muscle, speeding their recovery. Research reveals that citrulline also improves the bioavailability of L-arginine. L-arginine is another amino acid that aids in protein synthesis.
- Magnesium supplement. Magnesium assists with muscle recovery by helping them relax. In fact, if you don’t have enough magnesium, you have a greater chance of having muscle cramps. Research indicates that roughly 50 percent of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough magnesium in their diet. This number grows to 75 percent for women. Taking a magnesium supplement helps support healthy muscle contraction.
- Tart cherry juice extract. Some exercise enthusiasts swear by tart cherry juice for full muscle recovery. This extract works by reducing inflammation in the muscle. While some inflammation is good, too much leads to increased muscle soreness. One study found that ingesting cherry juice seven days helps minimize post-exercise muscle pain. High levels of inflammation can also increase injury risk.
It should be noted that taking a multivitamin regularly can boost recovery too. This all-inclusive vitamin contains calcium and vitamin D, both of which help create strong muscle and bones. Vitamin A promotes protein synthesis and CoQ10 reduces muscle fatigue. While this type of vitamin isn’t necessarily as powerful as the others mentioned, it is part of a healthy supplemental plan.
When and How to Take Muscle Recovery Supplements
After you select the supplement or supplements that could be the most beneficial for you, the next step is to come up with a schedule for taking them. When it comes to using a muscle recovery supplement, there are two basic options. It can either be a pre-workout supplement or a post-workout supplement.
The best time to take a specific supplement changes based on the type of supplement taken. Some provide more benefits when used before an exercise session. Others are more effective when used for post-workout recovery.
As an example, one study involved the use of creatine monohydrate. It found that more benefits were obtained when used as a post-workout supplement. BCAAs taken as a bodybuilding supplement are generally best when consumed before the exercise starts.
Recommendations about how much to take vary as well. For instance, magnesium is one supplement you don’t want to take too much of. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends not exceeding 310 mg for those in the 19-30 age range or 310 mg for 31 and up. Taking in more can cause diarrhea. And if you exceed the recommendations too much, it can actually be fatal.
For this reason, it is recommended that you talk with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen. This helps ensure that the substance is safe for you to take, given your health and medical conditions. Once you have clearance, work them into your diet slowly. This helps minimize negative side effects.
Your diet and supplements are important. Be educated on what you do to maintain your own personal fitness. Your body is your temple.