6 Surprising Supplements for Muscle Recovery Post-Gym

Wondering how to speed up muscle recovery, or better yet, prevent soreness?  New and regular gym-goers know what it means to feel like Bambi on ice post-gym. Even sitting down after squat day is a test of endurance. It’s pretty normal to experience this muscle soreness, although nonetheless, a pain to manage (pardon the pun).

We present to you the six most surprising muscle recovery supplements you need to stock up on.

What is delayed onset muscle soreness?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS for short) is a sore, sometimes tight, and aching feeling that usually develops after eccentric exercise. Eccentric exercise is generally strength-related training involving slow movement that lengthens the muscles. This is your squats, chest presses, pull-ups – you know the drill.

DOMS tend to be more short-term pain which gym-goers will be no stranger to, and it naturally resolves itself within 24 hours. Some people like to feel this pain, believing it’s proof that they’ve worked hard in the gym. It’s almost like a pay-off. 

When you train regularly, you break down the muscle tissue, which then repairs itself naturally. But it might leave your muscles feeling sore the day after. This tear-and-repair process is repeated, which is what leads to muscle building and growth.

Is muscle pain after a workout good or bad?

What’s important to remember is that when you work out, this results in some “unfamiliar activity” in the body. This means certain muscles aren’t regularly used when performing specific exercises, so they may not automatically recognise the activity.

Whether a moderate or intense workout, exercise-induced muscle damage comes part and parcel with the job. Sometimes it’s from the lactic acid buildup, other times it’s due to poor recovery routine, like lack of sleep .

Each time you increase the weights or the repetitions, it results in hypertrophy. This is how you build lean muscle mass. Sore muscles are all part of the process, especially with strength training. “No pain, no gain” as they say!

no pain no gain

How do muscle recovery supplements work?

In short, a muscle recovery supplement works by replenishing the muscles with amino acids. Or, contribute to the muscle repair process for a speedy recovery. In essence, these supplements are designed to reduce muscle soreness and enhance post-workout recovery.

There are several types of muscle recovery supplements, some of which you may be familiar with already. This includes whey protein, L-Glutamine or a BCAA supplement – which supports muscle protein synthesis – the body’s way of multiplying cells that help repair muscle. They are the building blocks for protein which then regenerates muscle cells.

What are the best muscle recovery supplements?

Contrary to popular belief, protein supplements for muscle recovery are not exactly the best option for muscle recovery. In a double-blind randomised study, a group of healthy men aged between 20 to 28 years old were randomly put into three groups: whey protein trial, carbohydrates trial, and the placebo trial.

They completed three trials over 3 days every two weeks. The results showed no significant change in mild pain for those in the whey protein group. This suggests that while protein supplements do contain essential amino acids, their benefit is more for muscle growth as opposed to a supplement for muscle recovery.

We’ve scoured the net and sifted through several scientific studies to share with you the six most surprising supplements for muscle recovery. This includes the well-established turmeric to the dark horse, CBD.

CBD Citric Beet Root Juice

1. Turmeric

Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties in natural medicine. But did you know that it’s one of the best muscle recovery supplements, too?

Studies show that turmeric is especially potent against soreness after muscle contraction and eccentric exercise. The magic part of this spice is curcumin, which is a compound derived from turmeric, supporting muscle and tissue repair. As well as reducing inflammation, it is also a powerful antioxidant, essential for heart health and boosting immune system function.

You can get turmeric pills to ingest or make a turmeric smoothie. Simply blend with bananas, coconut milk and black pepper (which brings out the turmeric), add a dash of water for your desired level of thickness, et voilà! Drink your way to muscle recovery.

2. Beetroot Juice

Oh yes, bet you weren’t expecting that! It turns out beetroot juice is both high in vitamins and can support your recovery process. Beet juice also contains iron, magnesium and potassium which are essential for happy and healthy bodies.

What you might not know is that Beetroot Juice contains Nitrate (or Nitric Oxide) which helps oxidise the blood and increase circulation. After a workout, beet juice is absorbed into the blood and ergo your muscles, to balance out the soreness and prevent fatigue.

3. Creatine

Creatine is often used by many fitspos in the industry because it’s actually a pretty incredible post-workout supplement. A blind study in 14 healthy men revealed that Creatine significantly reduced plasma cytokine flux which causes muscle soreness, compared to the group who only ate carbohydrates post-workout.

Quick science lesson: Cytokines are tiny proteins which support the function of your immune system and blood cells.

The above study looked at the effect of the creatine supplement on muscle recovery after eccentric exercise. It was highly effective in reducing acute muscle soreness when taken post-workout. So maybe there is some truth to what you see on social media…

CBD patches amd cream

4. CBD

CBD is a popular health supplement used by millions across the world. Originally noted for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties, CBD has also been tested as a muscle recovery supplement. A clinical review in 2021 of CBD for sports recovery found that overall, CBD does have impressive potential for muscle repair and reducing soreness.

A recent CBD trial examined the difference between the use of CBD compared to MCT oil (Medium-chain triglycerides) which is usually found in fats such as coconut or palm oil. The trial consisted of 23 trained participants. They completed a self-report on the level of soreness experienced across four 24-hour intervals post-exercise. Participants in the CBD group took 16.76mg of CBD.

The results showed that the rate of recovery was quicker for those in the CBD group compared to MCT oil. This means CBD is one of the best supplements to include in your regimen after intense exercise. You can try CBD muscle and joint pain cream or even CBD patches to localise the pain source and support muscle recovery.

We’ve also developed a formula which ties in turmeric and CBD in patches to rejuvenate sore muscles and reduce joint pain. Hitting those PBs in the gym will be even smoother next time!

5. Ginseng

Chinese medicine is renowned for its contribution to the human body. So it comes as no real surprise that Ginseng is one of the top muscle recovery supplements! It’s a herbal supplement that derives from the Panax plant, and is known for its adaptogenic properties, especially for stress management and fatigue.

Today, multiple studies have revealed that Ginseng is suitable to prevent muscle soreness after high-intensity exercise.

A double-blind study by Caldwell et al. was carried out to test the rate of recovery in groups that took Ginseng versus placebo. One group took a high dose of Ginseng (960 mg/day), the second group took a low dose (160mg/day) and the third group took a placebo.

The results showed that both high and low doses of Ginseng ingested post-exercise significantly reduced change in muscle soreness within 24 hours in both active men and women.

6. Chocolate Milk

Chocolate lovers will be pleased to know that they can continue munching their favourite snacks as a balanced diet. In fact, chocolate milk can even soothe sore muscles! A systematic review of 12 studies showed that chocolate milk was better, if not equal, to sports drinks.

To explain, chocolate milk contains all the essential nutrients you need to combat post-workout soreness: carbohydrates, proteins, fat, water and electrolytes. These studies showed that chocolate milk significantly reduces the concentration of lactic acid buildup in the blood – a component of sore muscles.

So after a tough workout, glug down some refreshing cold chocolate milk. This will tackle that muscle fatigue faster than a rugby scrum.

Re: turmeric and CBD which was already written. Can move this point under the turmeric heading if you wish.

The Take-Home

  • Supplements such as whey protein after workouts are better for muscle growth.
  • To reduce muscle soreness, try these scientifically-approved supplements for muscle recovery such as CBD, turmeric or chocolate milk.
  • These muscle recovery supplements are more natural than many over-the-counter remedies. The combination of CBD and turmeric especially will leave you feeling refreshed and less sore post-exercise, so you can thrive at the gym.