Top 7 best recovery supplements of 2021

When it comes to muscle growth and improved training performance, recovery is what it’s all about.

That’s when you grow.

If you want to come back rested, refreshed, and ready to train, you need to fully recover.

In this guide, we will look at the best recovery supplements on the market.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

In a Hurry? Here is our top pick:

Best Recovery Supplement

Reviews – The Best Recovery Supplements

NutraBio Reload – Best Overall Recovery Supplement

NutraBio is typically at or near the top of most sports nutrition supplement lists.

This is because they manufacture premium quality products that are fully disclosed on the label.

Even the “other ingredients” are fully disclosed on all their product labels.

Reload features a 4-complex formula geared for total recovery.

There’s a BCAA complex featuring a 2:1:1 ratio and a Muscle Recovery Matrix consisting of glutamine, l-carnitine l-tartrate, ornithine, and glycine.

There’s also a Strength Matrix that contains two forms of creatine, betaine, and beta-alanine.

Finally, Reload contains an Electrolyte Complex containing taurine and minerals.

When it comes to quality, purity, potency, and formula design, NutraBio Reload can’t be beat. That’s why it’s our best overall. 

PROS

  • Contains A 4 Complex Formula
  • Full Label Transparency
  • Full Clinical Dosing

CONS

  • A Few Users May Not Like The Flavor

Optimum Nutrition Pro BCAA Powder with Glutamine – Best Glutamine Recovery Supplement

Optimum Nutrition Pro BCAA contains an impressive 8g BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio.

There’s also 5g of glutamine per serving. This amino acid makes up 61% of the protein in muscle.

The BCAAs make up about 35%. The combination of BCAAs and glutamine activates protein synthesis, supports recovery, and stimulates muscle growth.

Additionally, there’s an antioxidant complex of vitamin C, grape seed, whole grape extract, and citrus bioflavonoids. This is a flavored product with no artificial ingredients added.

There’s also an unflavored option, so it can be added to any beverage.

PROS

  • 8g BCAA In A 2:1:1 Ratio
  • 5g Glutamine Added
  • Includes An Antioxidant Complex

CONS

  • Some Users Feel It Has A Gritty Texture

Jacked Factory POWERBUILD – Best Creatine Recovery Supplement

POWERBUILD features a fully disclosed complex consisting of glutamine, creatine, betaine, beta-alanine, l-carnitine l-tartrate, and tart cherry.

There’s also Astragin for improved absorption.

All ingredients are clinically dosed.

POWERBUILD is keto-friendly and contains no artificial ingredients.

This recovery supplement is designed to reduce post-workout muscle soreness, speed recovery, and support muscle growth.

POWERBUILD was created based on research, it uses full disclosure labeling and clinical dosing.

PROS

  • Full Disclosure Labeling & Clinical Dosing
  • Features 7 Recovery Ingredients
  • No Artificial Ingredients – Sweetened With Stevia

CONS

  • Beta-Alanine Causes A Natural, Harmless Tingling Effect That Some Users Do Not Like

Isopure Infusions – Best Whey Protein Recovery Supplement

Isopure Infusions features 20g of whey protein isolate per serving in your choice of light fruit flavors.

It’s 100% natural, with only 2g carbs and just 15mg of sodium.

It’s naturally sweetened with stevia. This is the ideal recovery supplement for any low carb dieter. You can add carbs as you wish, you are in control.

Taken right after a workout, you can add in a banana which would complement the fruity flavors. It mixes in cold water, but you can use fruit juice if desired.

Low carb dieters mainly take carbs in before and after a workout. With Isopure Infusions, you can customize your shake to fit your needs.

Non-dieters can use it too, and use it as a base for the smoothie of their choice.

These benefits make Infusions the best whey protein recovery supplement.

PROS

  • 20g Fast Digesting Whey Isolate Per Serving
  • 100% Natural
  • Low Carb – Light Fruit Flavors

CONS

  • May Be Too Expensive For Some Users

Myokem mTOR PRO – Best BCAA Recovery Supplement

Myokem mTOR PRO is without a doubt the best BCAA formula for recovery and growth.

It has an mTOR Activating Recovery Matrix that contains a full 10.5g of BCAAs and EAAs.

This Matrix features a 5g BCAA complex, with 2.5g leucine. There’s also 3g of trademarked Active TR or time-release leucine. That’s 5.5g total of this amino acid, which is known as the key trigger of protein synthesis.

The fact that 3g is in time-release form means you will get protein synthesis stimulation consistently over several hours. That means more muscle growth and that’s what recovery is all about.

There’s also Astragin for absorption and a hydration complex that includes taurine with electrolyte minerals. This product can be used intra-workout but is best used to support post-workout recovery.

You can drink right after you train. It can also be used throughout the day, especially on off-days to support recovery.

PROS

  • Features A 10.5g EAA Complex
  • Includes Trademarked Time Release Leucine
  • Contains A Hydration Complex

CONS

  • Contains Artificial Sweeteners

Core Nutritionals Platinum Post – Best Protein/Carb Recovery Supplement

This is a protein/carb post-workout formula that features 24g of fast-digesting whey protein isolate.

There’s also 36g of patented cluster dextrin, a low-glycemic carb that digests quickly to restore depleted glycogen levels.

Additionally, this formula has leucine, vitacherry tart cherry, and black pepper extract for improved absorption.

Perhaps the standout ingredient is velositol.

This is a patented blend of amylopectin and chromium that “amplifies” the effects of protein and stimulates protein synthesis.

PROS

  • Whey Protein/Carbohydrate Complex
  • Features Velositol & Cluster Dextrin
  • All Natural Ingredients

CONS

  • Low Carb Dieters May Need To Limit Use Due To The Carb Content

Rich Piana 5% Nutrition Drink Sleep Grow – Best Nighttime Recovery Supplement

Rich Piana 5% Nutrition’s Drink Sleep Grow is one of only a handful of products that contain the trademarked Active TR L-Leucine.

Unlike other products, this is designed to help you recover and grow while you sleep. Along with the BCAA complex, there’s a GH stimulating Recovery Blend, which includes GABA to support sleep.

Form here, we have a Conditionally Essential Amino Acid blend, a Joint Support blend, and an EAA complex.

This product has two downsides: there’s no glutamine included in the CEAA blend, and the entire formula consists of each complex as a prop blend.

So, while you can see this has a good nutrient profile, you cannot see how much of any ingredient you’re getting.

Still, it’s a solid approach to recovery, and you’re getting ingredients you won’t find in other recovery supplements.

PROS

  • Nighttime Recovery Formula – Includes GABA For Better Sleep
  • Features Active TR L-Leucine
  • Includes Joint Support Ingredients

CONS

  • The Entire Formula Consists Of 5 Prop Blends
  • Contains Artificial Ingredients

Buying Guide – How To Choose The Best Workout Recovery Supplements?

What Is Recovery?

Recovery is the stage that occurs after a workout where you replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue. During the workout, muscle fibers are torn down. During recovery, they respond to the demands of training by repairing, rebuilding, and growing. Many people think muscle growth happens because of how long you train. The truth is, it happens based on how well you recover.

What Takes Place During The Process Of Recovery?

What happens during the recovery process? Let’s take a look:

Glycogen Replenishment

Your body uses stored carbohydrates in the form of glycogen for energy when you train. One of the goals post-workout and throughout the recovery period is to restore glycogen levels. This sets you up with enough muscular energy to train hard at your next session. You can tell if glycogen stores are still depleted if you struggle through a training session and have difficulty completing your reps and sets.

Muscle Fibers Repair & Rebuild

Anyone seriously training with weights should allow at least two rest days between workouts for the same muscle group. This gives your body enough time for recovery. Many lifters use a split routine. This allows them to train one muscle group while another is recovering. Typically, many lifters train no more than two days in a row and then take off at least one day. Depending on whether you use a split routine or a full-body routine, you should try to get 3-4 recovery days per week.

Protein Synthesis Stimulation

While intense training stimulates protein synthesis, it’s also activated after you work out. Protein synthesis is considered a major trigger of muscle growth. The right recovery supplements, such as BCAAs/EAAs, support this critical process.

Stay Hydrated

During your recovery period, keep yourself hydrated and get adequate sleep. This supports muscle repair and growth. Staying hydrated goes without saying. You should strive for proper hydration regardless of what you’re doing. Of course, when you exercise you lose fluids through sweat. As you can see, it’s important to try and stay hydrated when you train. Many recovery supplements include an electrolyte complex to support hydration.

Your Recovery Schedule

You need to look seriously at the recovery process. It’s never too early in your workout to think about recovery. Here are some tips to get started right:

Pre-Workout

Of course, you should always ingest adequate protein consistently throughout the day. In the hours before your workout, you should take in simple carbohydrates. This helps provide energy for training. Even low carb dieters should ingest carbs in the hours surrounding the training session. For the best results, eat several hours before you train. You should also use a pre-workout if you aren’t already.

Intra-Workout

Training is catabolic. You’re tearing down muscle tissue and depleting glycogen stores. During training you should be, at the least, drinking plenty of water. It’s also a good idea to consider using an intra-workout. This helps limit catabolism and gets recovery started before you end your session.

Post-Workout & Beyond

Post-workout, you should drink a recovery shake. This can include fast-digesting whey protein and simple carbs. It can also include extra BCAAs, glutamine, and other ingredients that support recovery. Beyond your post-workout shake, you should make sure you are eating enough protein and don’t go too low on carbs. You can continue to use the recovery supplement of your choice to continue to get the benefit of recovery ingredients.

What To Look For In Recovery Supplements?

What are the main things you should look for in a recovery supplement? Let’s take a look:

Potency & Label Transparency

Full disclosure labeling is a definite plus when considering the best recovery supplement. Having said that, not all products use open labels. Some otherwise good products are still stuck in the era of prop blends. In that case, you will need to be sure the prop blend is strong enough to support effective dosing of its key ingredients. Of course, an open-label makes this easy. However, a little further in this guide, we list the ingredients you should look for. We will include the proper dosing of each.

Side Effects

Side effects in a recovery supplement are rare. Some of the newer recovery products use beta-alanine. This ingredient causes a short-term, harmless tingling effect. If your product contains this ingredient, try drinking a glass of water to help ease the sensation. Should you experience gastric discomfort, try adding more water. Or, you can switch to a different product. Sometimes, some people can’t use a product no matter how good it is.

Ingredients To Look For In A Recovery Supplement

Listed below are the main ingredients you should look for in the best recovery supplements.

BCAAs

BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a combination of 3 of the 9 essential amino acids. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis, anti-catabolism, and recovery. The suggested dose of BCAAs is at least 5g, in a 2:1:1 ratio. This means leucine should be at least 3g. The best BCAA supplements go as high as 7-8g and often include the rest of the EAAs. (1,2,3)

Active TR L-Leucine

This is extended-release leucine. It’s not a common ingredient, even though it was touted as “revolutionary” when it was first introduced. Of the primary brands using it, 3g seems to be the highest dose. Bear n mind it is usually combined with BCAAs that typically have at least 3g of standard leucine. (4)

Glutamine

Glutamine makes up some 60% of the protein in muscle tissue. As a point of reference, the BCAAs make up about 35%. It’s a conditionally essential amino, so your body can usually make its own. Having said that, it cannot make its own during times of stress. This includes the physical stress of intense training sessions. The body depletes its stores of glutamine during tough workouts. Therefore, ingesting it as part of a recovery supplement makes a lot of sense. It also makes sense to include it with your BCAAs and protein shakes. Look for a dosage of 5g.

Whey Protein

If you train hard, you know how critical protein is. It’s what most of the dry weight of your body is made of. You also need to ingest it consistently every day. Of the many types of protein available, post-workout you want one that digests quickly. Whey protein is the fastest digesting protein on the market. As you go deeper into recovery, you can use a slower digesting casein protein. Better yet, you can use a protein blend of whey and casein. Or, you can simply drink a shake and eat high protein meals consistently.  Post-workout, look for at least 20g. (5,6,7)

Carbohydrates

Carbs are not always the evil macronutrient low carb dieters make them out to be. They serve a definite purpose. They are what the body uses for muscular energy, this form of carbohydrate is called glycogen. As you train, you deplete your body’s stored levels of glycogen. If you want to be able to have sufficient muscular energy for your next workout, you need to maintain enough stored glycogen. One of the most popular forms of carbs used in recovery supplements is known as Cluster Dextrin. This is a low-glycemic carb designed to prevent insulin spikes. Yet it digests quickly to help replenish glycogen stores. A good amount of carbs to ingest post-workout is 30-50g. (8)

Creatine

It was back in the early 90s when creatine first hit the market. It has stood the test of time. This is because it has become the most researched and proven-effective supplement available. Originally, creatine was used for its endurance and cell volume benefits. More recently creatine has been studied for its cognitive and recovery benefits.

One reason to use creatine for recovery is that it restores phosphocreatine stores used for ATP production during your training session. Additionally, if you take it with other recovery ingredients like carbohydrates, it helps increase glycogen storage. Finally, it’s thought that creatine can reduce post-workout inflammation. The suggested dose of creatine is 5g per day. (9, 10, 11)

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

One of several forms of carnitine, this version supports recovery by helping to reduce muscle soreness. It also helps prevent the use of protein by the body as an energy source. The suggested dose is 1-3g. (12)

Tart Cherry

Tart Cherry is a good source of antioxidants, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. As a recovery supplement, it supports joint integrity and decreases post-workout muscle soreness. The suggested dosage is 450-500mg per day. (13)

Beta-Alanine

This compound is more than being famous for its tingling effect. Intra-workout, it extends endurance by buffering lactic acid. That means you can do more sets and reps. What about post-workout? Exercise depletes carnosine levels in the body. This is the substance beta-alanine converts to. By restoring carnosine levels, you are increasing your endurance for your next training session. The suggested dose is 3.2g. (14)

Conclusion

Many people new to exercise don’t understand how important it is. The enthusiasm for exercising can overshadow recovery. It’s critical to your workout success to allow your muscles to completely recover between workouts. This is because that’s when growth occurs.

To help you make the most of this period, NutraBio Reload is our best overall recovery supplement. Reload features a 4-complex fully disclosed formula that includes key recovery ingredients.

If you want more of a nighttime recovery supplement that helps you sleep, Rich Piana 5% Nutrition Drink Sleep Grow is the best choice. This is a well-rounded formula that provides everything you need for recovery and a refreshing night’s sleep.

Finally, Jacked Factory POWERBUILD is the best creatine-based recovery supplement. There’s creatine, glutamine, and other key ingredients such as beta-alanine, tart cherry, and l-carnitine l-tartrate. Recovery starts as soon as you put the bar down after your last set. Make the most of this crucial process.

Use our guide to choose the best recovery supplement for your needs. Get ready to recover and grow!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577439/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212987/
  3. Jackman, S. R., Witard, O. C., Philp, A., Wallis, G. A., Baar, K., & Tipton, K. D. (2017, June 07). Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28638350
  4. Time-Release Leucine Will Revolutionize Sports Nutrition, Firm Suggests | Nutritional Outlook
  5. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/protein
  6. Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDougall, J. D., & Atkinson, S. A. (1988, January). Influence of protein intake and training status on nitrogen balance and lean body mass. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3356636
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/
  8. CLUSTER DEXTRIN™ | Glico Nutrition
  9. Kreider, R. B. (2003, February). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701815
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691485/
  11. Cooke, M. B., Rybalka, E., Williams, A. D., Cribb, P. J., & Hayes, A. (2009, June 02). Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19490606
  12. Kraemer, W. J., Volek, J. S., French, D. N., Rubin, M. R., Sharman, M. J., Gómez, A. L., Ratamess, N. A., Newton, R. U., Jemiolo, B., Craig, B. W., & Häkkinen, K. (2003). The effects of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance exercise and recovery. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 17(3), 455–462. https://doi.org/10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0455:teolls>2.0.co;2
  13. Gao, R., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Effect of Tart Cherry Concentrate on Endurance Exercise Performance: A Meta-analysis. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 39(7), 657–664. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2020.1713246
  14. Culbertson, J. Y., Kreider, R. B., Greenwood, M., & Cooke, M. (2010). Effects of beta-alanine on muscle carnosine and exercise performance: a review of the current literature. Nutrients, 2(1), 75–98. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2010075
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