Bodybuilders always knew that “you are what you eat” - it’s been common knowledge that people who work out need to alter their diets a bit in order to build better muscle. In the 70s, foods like fatty fish, eggs, milk, and cheese made up most of a weight lifter’s diet - just see what Arnold ate in his heyday!
Since then, the world has moved on - not always in good directions (when you think about all of the fad diets that happened in the past few decades, your hair will stand on end). But there has been amazing progress too - thanks to nutrition science.
Post-workout vs. Pre-workout supplements
Thanks to science, we now know exactly what your body needs in terms of nutrition, how much it needs, and when it needs it. When you perform a strenuous workout, you need fuel to power your muscles.
But after your workout is done, you need to set yourself up for the best recovery possible. What is post-workout recovery? And what do you need to give your body to set it up for post-workout success? Here are some basic post-workout boxes to check:
- Nutrition within 45 minutes of workout
- Protein to rebuild muscle
- Clean carbs
What changed in the market over the past few years?
This is a rapidly growing market, which means that competition is fierce. This is good for us - we have better products to choose from, and more variety as well.
This also means that we are more informed as consumers, and we’re harder to please. And the market is only growing, as well as customer awareness of their post-workout nutrition needs. Over 80% of the Gen-X generation is currently using some sort of supplements, and 7 in 10 adults aged 18 to 35 currently say they supplement.
What’s in a post-workout supplement? A short guide to common ingredients
Post-workout ingredients might have some pretty repetitive ingredients a lot of the time - but sometimes there’s something that knocks you out of the water. Is it better than the rest? Or is a post-workout supplement just not good enough unless it has something in particular?
Let’s go over a few of the most commonly found ingredients and see what their role is in post-workout recovery. Is it something you need or something you’d rather skip?
BCAAS - Branched-chain amino acids are the basic building blocks when it comes to muscle recovery. They come in vegan and non-vegan forms.
L-CARNITINE/L-TARTRATE - is a carrier molecule, and it transports activated long-chain fatty acids to mitochondria. The mitochondria oxidizes these fatty acids, and in turn, L-tartrate helps to get rid of them because it’s a potent antioxidant.
CREATINE - A popular additive in supplements, creatine helps muscles create energy. Creatine supplements help to increase energy stores in the muscles, where they’re usually found to begin with.
L-LEUCINE - This is a supplement multitasker because it may not only help increase your muscle mass post-workout but also help in increasing the production of the Human Growth Hormone and control blood sugar, as well as lean body mass.
PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE - Phosphatidylserine acts like cushioning for your nervous system and helps to relay messages between your nerve cells quickly and efficiently. Supplementing it may help in sharpness, both mental and physical. Phosphatidylserine is said to decrease as you age.
L-GLUTAMINE - Helps to make proteins in the body and aids in times of stress - like when you have a strenuous workout. It also helps to make glucose and amino acids.
CARBOHYDRATE POWDER - In simple terms, it helps with building muscle and fast post-workout recovery.
Supplements come in powder, pill, gummy, or packaged drink form. Here are the ones out on the market right now that we recommend.
BSN Amino X Muscle Recovery & Endurance Powder
This is a grape-flavored powder post-workout drink that comes in two sizes - 30 or 70 servings. It concentrates on amino acids and BCAAS to get you maximum post-workout building blocks for absolute maximum recovery.
If you work out hard and want to push yourself even further, this one's for you. It has one of the highest ratings possible out of thousands of reviews - which means that pretty much everyone thinks it gets the job done. Consider this one tried and tested.
- AMINO ACID INTERFUSION – 10g of micronized amino acids per serving - this supports muscle recovery and endurance and allows you to push your workouts further.
Amino X is everything a post-workout drink should be - and it doesn’t clump or dye your mouth purple, which surprisingly enough happens with a lot of the other drink powders we have tested out. This one simply dissolves and produces a thirst-quenching amino liquid.
Try the other flavors like raspberry, fruit punch, or watermelon if you don't like grapes. It’s caffeine-free and doesn’t jerk you wide awake when you’re trying to wind down from your workout. It also doesn’t cause a total crash - the energy supply carries you through nice and easy.
RSP AminoLean Recovery - Post Workout
This is one of our favorite post-workout thirst-quenchers not only because of the big BCAAS load but also because of one of the most important additions to post-workout recovery - hydrating electrolytes.
Plus, it kind of looks and tastes like Tang, and that makes it a clear winner in our book - but it’s not just orange, it’s blood orange!
- Vegan friendly
- BCAAs and EAAs
- Immunity boost
- No artificial flavors
- 30 servings
One of the most unique things about this post-workout supplement is that it also contains reishi mushroom powder for optimum immunity aid, as well as vitamin C, D, and Zinc. This is an incredible mix of power and clean and natural health supplements.
Old School Vintage Build
If you’re into good old lean muscle building and want a mix of ingredients that will help you after the most grueling workouts, look no further than this lean muscle-building recovery powder. This watermelon-flavored post-workout powder includes:
It doesn’t have any GMOs or synthetic sweeteners and is 100% vegan. But oh boy, is it hardcore! Old School Vintage Build is a great post-workout powder for just about anyone - runners, swimmers, rowers - but it’s mostly recommended by the CrossFit community.
Garden of Life Sport Vegan Organic Plant-Based Post Workout Muscle Recovery Powder for Men & Women
“Garden of Life” is a name that makes you think it’s pure vegan power - and it is. This box contains 30 servings of incredibly delicious blackberry lemonade post-workout aid that includes:
- Organic pea protein
It has a light formula that helps speed up hydration and muscle recovery post-workout. If you’re not into Stevia, you’ll be happy to know that the Garden of Life uses only organic cane sugar and no artificial sweeteners.
Pink Stork Post Workout Gummies
Ok, we’ve been so eager for these, and they’re here - post-workout gummies for the kid in us! Maybe you want to try something else than your regular post-workout drink, or maybe you want to supplement on top of what you’re drinking right now.
Gummies have a way of making everything alright - but are they powerful enough and turn into mini post-workout grizzlies? Cherries are a great post-workout fuel; they are used in a lot of vegan post-workout supplements for muscle recovery. These Pink Stork gummies contain cherry extract and celery seed extract.
Maybe they don’t have the protein that you need, but taking them will definitely speed up your recovery post-workout. It’s a great special treat to have on those really tough workout days when you just know that recovery is going to be painful.
- 30 day supply
FITAID Post-Workout Recovery Drink Variety Sampler Pack
This fun sampler helps you test out FITAID’s wide array of all-natural post-workout drinks. These are jampacked with good stuff, proof that good things come in small packages. If you’re too busy in your morning routine to mix your powders, or if you have an especially busy day, keep these around to rejuvenate you post-workout, help you with recovery and help you start your day on the right foot with a gentle, all-natural caffeine kick.
- Quercetin and coq10 for stress relief
- Natural caffeine, green tea extract and quercetin
What’s a nice bonus is that this is a locally run business started in a CrossFit box in Santa Cruz, California, by two friends and passionate healthy lifestyle aficionados. If you’re doing keto, try the “zero” option.
Outwork Nutrition Recovery Supplement - Post Workout Recovery Drink & Muscle Builder
Here is another family of gummies for you - this time, it’s a gummy flavored drink, so don’t expect actual gummies! This fun bottle is filled with:
- Creatine Monohydrate,
- Tart Cherry Extract
The Outwork Nutrition Recovery Supplement is formulated for muscle stress relief and recovery. It helps to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Layne Norton, Ph.D., is known in fitness circles as a pretty serious authority on what’s “legit” and what isn’t. He is ruthless when it comes to “crushing BS with science”, and he just happens to be the founder of Outwork Nutrition.
The one thing you can be sure of when buying this supplement - is that its formula is based on peer-reviewed scientific research.
Choose your post-workout supplements wisely
When on the lookout for the best post-workout supplements, it’s best to double-check if they’re vegan. There are a lot of supplements out there that look good and all-natural but aren’t 100% vegan, and in the case of BCAAs, that might be a problem - since non-vegan BCAAs are made of animal matter; like hooves, horns, or even human hair!
Vegan post-workout supplements are some of the best on the market right now - vegans can get the same if not better post-workout protein, amino acid, and hydrating supplements without sacrificing their way of life. In fact, we encourage people who aren’t vegan, haven’t thought about being vegan, or are even close to becoming vegetarian to try vegan post-workout drinks and supplements.
You won’t be disappointed, and they might taste better and work better for your post-recovery too.