My Go-To Supplements For Muscle Recovery a.k.a. Buh-Bye Soreness, Hello Strength!
As you guys know, I’m a firm believer in the mantra that FOOD IS MEDICINE & in EATING FOR BENEFITS. So, naturally, food should always remain a priority when it comes to getting most of your nutrients. However, I do also believe that supplements play a role in providing the right building blocks for muscle repair & growth, due to their convenience & how fast the body is able to absorb them.
Before I start taking any supplement, I do a lot of research. I don’t just like to know that X supplement helps with X, Y, Z issues, but rather, I like to dig deep. I like (& basically, NEED) to understand the underlying reasons for which X supplement can help with a certain issue I am targeting. Not only do I read about the pros, but I also like to inform myself about the cons so that I am aware of them & can watch out for them, especially if the supplement is completely new to me.
All this to say, everything that I speak about in this post is not only RESEARCHED, but also BASED ON MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. I never recommend something to you guys if I haven’t personally tried it, loved it & seen results from it. If ever a question does come along regarding an issue I never had to deal with, I ALWAYS tell you guys first that the information I am providing is based on research only (& not on my experience), because for those things, unfortunately, I can’t speak from experience.
I’m sure there are TONS of other supplements out there that are good for & have been proven to help with muscle recovery. BUT, the reality is YOU CAN’T TRY OR TAKE ‘EM ALL. The ones I’m about to talk about are the ones I use & that work for me! What’s great about a lot of these supplements is that not only are they amazing for muscle recovery, but they also provide tons of other health benefits, so I’m basically KILLING A MILLION BIRDS, WITH ONE STONE!
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Ok so magnesium is one of those supplements that is super underrated! It’s an essential mineral that is required by basically EVERY cell & is a building block of hundreds of chemical processes in the body. It’s especially important for muscles because the muscles’ ability to contract & relax is highly dependent on how much magnesium the body is getting. I
Magnesium is used for maintaining electrolyte balance in the body, metabolizing nutrients & turning them into energy. It activates enzymes which help produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which plays a crucial role in the metabolic process. Basically, when the body breaks down ATP, the energy released is used by your muscles. The more you exercise & the harder you go, the faster your body burns up the energy released from breaking down the ATP. In turn, if you’re not fuelling your body with enough magnesium to activate the enzymes that form ATP, your ATP levels will be depleted, which will ultimately lead to low energy levels & potentially, issues with muscle function.
Not only is magnesium essential for metabolic process, but it also helps relieve cramped muscles & spasms. As mentioned before, magnesium levels drop more quickly when we exercise because magnesium is carried out through sweat, which is obviously produced in greater amounts when exercising (OR AT LEAST I HOPE SO!).
During intense exercise, magnesium moves from the blood plasma into the red blood cells in order to balance the loss of energy produced by higher levels of oxygen. The less oxygen the cells get as a result of intense exercise, the greater the movement of magnesium from the plasma into the red blood cells. This is why if you exercise intensely or for extended periods of time, you need more magnesium!
The body also needs magnesium in order to use & properly absorb calcium. So, odds are, if you’re deficient in magnesium, your body isn’t effectively using the calcium its getting & this can in turn lead to weakened bones.
ALL THIS TO SAY: Magnesium is clearly a very crucial supplement not only for muscle recovery but for providing the enzymes necessary for your muscles to be provided with the energy it needs to sustain your strenuous workouts!
L-Glutamine is an amino acid that serves many key roles in the body. It’s naturally present in our muscle tissues & plays a crucial role in how our muscles function, recover & grow. Like collagen, our body naturally produces glutamine & you can also get it from certain food sources (which I will mention below).
One of L-glutamine’s main benefits is to support detoxification by cleansing the body from high levels of ammonia. It acts as a buffer to convert excess ammonia into other amino acids. Doing approximately 1 hour of exercise can cause a 40% reduction of glutamine in the body & can also cause suppressed immune function, which may in turn have a negative impact on resistance training & may lead to overtraining syndrome. L-glutamine boosts the immune system & reduces the stresses associated with overtraining.
ALSO, whether your goal is to increase athletic performance, boost your metabolism, improve recovery or build muscle, L-GLUTAMINE TO THE RESCUE. Seriously. When your body & more specifically, your muscles are under stress (i.e. when you exercise), the body can easily burn through its supply of glutamine & it can take some time to restore this supply. And sometimes, TOO MUCH TIME to allow your muscles to recover quick enough before your next workout! This is why supplementing with L-glutamine may be beneficial for some, especially if you work out often.
In fact, after an intense workout, since levels of glutamine drop by almost half, this muscle-wasting state is a gateway for the body to use your muscle for energy, as opposed to carbs. AND YOU DON’T WANT THAT because the result is MUSCLE LOSS. Supplementing with L-glutamine allows the muscles to fight & push further, which boosts strength & helps repair.
Lastly, L-glutamine also boosts muscle hydration, which makes it possible to recover quicker from intense weight training sessions.
P.S. Replenishing glutamine levels after intense sessions could take up to five days, so it is CRUCIAL to take it regularly if you are doing a lot of intense exercise in order to see optimal results!
Krill oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which offer numerous health benefits, one of which is decreasing inflammation in the muscle & enhancing body composition. Inflammation in the body is not only damaging to health in general, but also severely impacts your ability to recover & build muscle. By getting the optimal percentage of dietary fat from krill, you help reduce muscle inflammation, improve oxygen delivery & in turn, allowing your muscles to recover faster.
If you work out regularly (especially lifting weights), it has a huge effect on your body’s natural anti-inflammatory & antioxidant levels, both of which are a vital part to your muscles building success or lack thereof. Inflammation can slow down progress, cause loss of muscle mass, increase body fat & decrease levels of testosterone & increase estrogen levels.
Lysine, like most amino acids, doesn’t act alone. Often, amino acids will combine with other vitamins, minerals & other compounds in the body to form other amino acids that are beneficial (& necessary) to your overall well-being. Lysine combines with Vitamin C, especially when concentrations of lysine in the body are high. When this combo happens, the body converts lysine into carnitine (another amino acid), which helps the body metabolize fat stores & regulate oxygen. When you exercise, your body will be more efficient in burning fat & delivering oxygen to the muscles that need it & thus, less strain & stress will be placed on your muscles.
Lysine is found in abundance in skeletal muscle & plays a crucial role in the building & maintenance of muscle tissue. If you have low levels of lysine, research has shown that you may be affected by a slowdown of protein synthesis, which is a crucial component in helping the body REBUILD muscle post-workout. Basically, as explained earlier, when you exercise your muscles, the muscle proteins break down. Lysine helps rebuild the muscle tissue, helping in the overall recovery process.
In addition, catabolism is the process of breaking down tissues. When you work out, your body enters what is referred to as a catabolic state. Post-workout, YOU HAVE TO REVERSE THIS CATABOLIC EFFECT & get your body into ANABOLIC STATE, which is the state during which tissue growth happens. Lysine decreases the rate of protein degradation int he body, and acts as an anti-catabolic compound. By slowing the rate of protein degradation, your body has an easier time with getting into an anabolic state post-workout, to recover & to build muscle!
TART CHERRY CONCENTRATE
Tart cherry not only helps speed up the recovery process, but is also super anti-inflammatory, which helps ease muscle soreness after exercise. The pain associated with exercise involves muscle damage, inflammation & oxidative stress. And due to the concentrated amounts of anthocyanins (antioxidant compounds) inside, tart helps reduce muscle pain & weakness after bouts of intense strength training.
Research has also shown that taking tart cherry juice or supplements before your workout might also help with post-workout recovery & soreness (so it’s not only great post-workout, but also pre-workout to enhance & speed up the post-workout recovery!).
Tart cherry also helps decrease some of the s symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage following strength training.
To red all about the benefits of collagen, click here: Collagen Here, Collagen There, Collagen Everywhere: The Basics & Why You Should Add It To Your Daily Routine!
As you guys know, collagen promotes joint health. If you exercise regularly, you know how hard it can be on your joints. Put it this way, as collagen production is decreased, our tendons & ligaments start to move with less ease, which can lead to stiffness &/or swollen joints. Collagen’s gel-like smooth structure that covers & holds our bones together allows us to glide & move without pain, therefore helping the joints move with more ease & reducing the pain associated with aging, intense exercise & the risk of joint degeneration.
Our ligaments are made up almost entirely of collage (75%) & consuming collagen helps rebuild these important connective tissues when they are strained with physical activity. Further, when you work out regularly, the muscles can grow faster than these connective tissues, which may lead to pain & injury. Collagen helps to keep the connective tissues supple & able to expand as your muscles do.
Collagen helps maintain nitrogen balance. It’s SUPER important if you work out a lot that our nitrogen levels are balanced as this is what helps put the body into its anabolic state (which is the ideal state to achieve muscle growth!).
And last but not least, collagen also helps boost metabolism, muscle mass & energy output. It provides pure protein of low molecular weight that gets quickly absorbed into the digestive tract. It contains TONS OF AMINO ACIDS & adds lead muscle mass to your frame, all while helping with the conversion of essential nutrients. In fact, one of the most important roles of glycine (an amino acid found in collagen) is to help form muscle by converting glucose into energy that feeds muscle cells (BTW, glycine also plays an important role for the digestive & central nervous sytem & improves the body’s use of antioxidants).
One of the most important ways to boost post-workout recovery is often overlooked & underestimated… HYDRATION BABY!!!! While we all understand the role of hydration during a workout, we often fail to acknowledge the power of post-workout hydration & its effect on unlocking our optimal performance. Water helps recovery by helping digest vital nutrients & repairing muscles damaged during exercise (Did you know that our muscles are actually 75% water?)
Drinking plenty of water is so important for so many reasons, but regarding muscle recover in particular, it can help flush out toxins from the body & prevent dehydration, which is actually one of the things that can make muscle soreness even more painful!
In addition, exercise causes the muscles to become stronger by first breaking them down then rebuilding them using muscle protein synthesis. HOWEVER, protein synthesis cannot occur if the muscle are not well-hydrated. Therefore, if you’re dehydrated post-workout, protein synthesis AIN’T GOING DOWN (or will be very slowed down) & subsequently, will delay recovery).
After a strenuous workout, it’s impotent to eat enough to refuel the body & replenish your glycogen stores (as mentioned earlier). BUT, as you guys ALSO most probably know, in order to properly & adequately digest your food, you need WATER! Saliva, which helps break down your food, is made up of water (primarily) & i crucial in the digestion & absorption of nutrients. Rehydrating post-workout helps with that too!
One of the most common signs of dehydration is fatigue (sometimes, accompanied by migraines or by headaches). When you are dehydrated, your blood volume is decreases, which means the heart has to work harder to pump blood to your body parts that need its vital oxygen & nutrients. This fatigue has an impact on post-workout recovery & might even reduce motivation for your next workout.
Lastly, hydration has a large impact on heart rate recovery & the speed at which it occurs following a workout. The more hydrated you are, the more quickly your body & heart will recover from the stress of exercise.
The goal is to FOCUS on hydration to replenish the liquids, electrolytes & sodium lost during exercise in order to get that extra boost needed to recover & get the most out of your next workout!
EPSOM SALT BATHS
To read all about why epsom salts are beneficial for health, click here. BUT, if we’re talking specifically regarding muscle soreness & recovery:
- Epsom salt baths are anti-inflammatory & are therefore super effective & used to treat muscle aches & swelling & sore muscles.
- Epsom salt baths also boost magnesium levels naturally (& as I explained earlier, magnesium is crucial not only for many bodily functions ing general, but more specifically, for muscle control, energy production, muscle recovery & electrolyte balance).
PROTEIN & CARBS
Protein & carbs after a workout are crucial! The muscles have been broken down & need to be repaired & rebuilt! Consuming protein in the form of a shake or smoothie is efficient & fast-digesting, and a great way to get aminos to the muscles quick, but also a perfect way to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, recovery & growth.
As for carbs, contrary to popular belief, building muscle requires you to eat a substantial amount of carbs. The main reason our bodies need carbs before working out is to have an adequate amount of energy for exercise or activity, in general. However, the most critical time is after training because our muscles’ glycogen stores are depleted & replacing them puts our body into an anabolic state. This ensures that all the hard work paid off & that the damaged tissues can recover.
Aim to consume a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein either before, or after a workout, or both, in order to help cure & relieve muscle soreness!
There are also certain foods that help assist with muscle recovery, such as:
- Foods high in potassium: Potassium is a mineral crucial to heart function & muscle contraction. Most people don’t consume enough potassium on a daily basis, which is why a lot of us experience muscle soreness & cramping. Foods high in potassium include: bananas, oranges, raisins, melons, spinach & potatoes.
- High-protein foods: As you guys know, protein is the building block of muscle, so obviously, foods high in protein will help repair & replenish your muscles. You can find protein in TONS of foods, such as: meat, poultry, seafood, fish, eggs, dairy, plant-based sources, such as: chickpeas, black beans, quinoa, lentils & nutritional yeast.
- Manuka honey: No, this is not the same HoneyBee honey we all grew up with! It’s a mono floral honey, meaning it comes from the nectar of one plant species called the Manuka bush. It’s literally MEDICINAL HONEY & is one of the most beneficial forms of honey in the world. It’s a potent anti-inflammatory that helps suppress exercise-induced inflammation in the body & it’s rich in carbs, which are needed to refill glycogen stores & deliver protein to the muscles! Drizzle some on some grass-fed Greek yogurt with berries & you’re killing the carb & protein game!!!!
- Pineapple: Pineapple contains an enzyme, called bromeliad, which is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help treat muscle strains & sprains.
- Fish oil: In the same vein as krill oil being a useful supplement to help with muscle recovery, eating foods high in omega-3s, such a salmon, mackerel, tuna, etc. may help reduce inflammation in your joints and muscles (P.S. Hemp hearts are also a great source of omega-3s!).
- Nuts & seeds: They provide essential omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation, protein for muscle synthesis & growth, electrolytes for hydration & zinc to help boost immunity! They’re a quick way to get in some post-workout fuel, EVEN ON THE GO! Keep some in your car in a ziploc!
- Spinach: I ALWAYS add spinach to my post-workout smoothies. It’ legit a superfood! It’s an antioxidant powerhouse that fights free radicals in the body to not only prevent serious diseases like cancer & heart disease, but also quickly rebound from strenuous workouts. It’s also a great staple in the diet for promoting good health & strengthening the muscles (due to its nitrate content). It’s packed with magnesium, which helps maintain normal muscle function & also nerve function.
- Sweet potato: This starchy veggie helps replenish the glycogen stores that are depleted after strenuous workouts, a.k.a. THEY ARE GOOD CARBS! They’re also a great source of antioxidants (in the form of beta-carotene) & vitamin C, which overall help keep the body strong & healthy!
- Foods high in glutamine: Bone broth, grass-fed beef, spirulina, other meats, dairy products, such as cottage cheese, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, wild caught tuna, cod or salmon & turkey.
What other lifestyle choices might get in the way of proper muscle recovery?
- Lack of sleep: And I’m not just talking about one or two nights of sleeping late or hardly sleeping at all; I’m talking if you’re chronically sleep-deprived, the muscle soreness will likely be more painful & may take more time to heal.
- Lack of proper nutrition: This is an obvious one, guys! If you’re not adequately hydrated, or deficient in potassium, or you aren’t eating enough protein or carbs, the pain from your muscle soreness may be even more intense. This happens because your muscles do not have the fuel they need to recover & re-energize.
- Overtraining: If you work out intensely without giving your body the rest that it needs (& this is different for everyone), muscle soreness may get worse & legit feel like it’s NEVER going away!
What to do if you feel overtrained & fatigued for many days in a row? BREAK TIME!
If you’re feeling overtrained & fatigued for many days in a row, chances are you need a break! Overtraining happens when you train more than your body can actually recover from. This is different for everyone: if you’re new to working out, overtraining may happen quickly, whereas if you are an experienced athlete, it might take weeks of unusually difficult exercise to set in.
Only you can be the judge of whether or not you’ve overtrained but look out for these signs: elevated heart rate, decreased strength, lack of motivation to go to the gym & chronic soreness in your joints/muscles that just isn’t going away! Listen to your body. If you’re feeling any & all of those things, TAKE A BREAK! (HAVE A KIT-KAT). Ok, maybe not a full one. Maybe just a piece. OR MY HEALTHY TWIX BARS: Vegan & Gluten-Free Crumbly Caramel-y “Faux-But-Better-Than-Twix” Bars a.k.a. A Chocolate Lover’s Dream Come True!
I hope this was helpful loves!!!!
Please don’t be shy to message me if you have other questions.
Safe to say, you know where to find me!! xx