Many different post workout supplements laid out on a table

Post-Workout Supplements Guide: The Facts and Uses

There is a time when your body craves nutrients the most – and that time is directly after a workout.

During your training sessions, you burn calories, put your muscle fibers through hell and sweat out a lot of nutrients in the process. Consequently, your body’s supply of essential micro and macronutrients gets depleted and if you don’t eat or otherwise supplement them right after a workout – you will significantly slow down and hamper your recovery and muscle development.

That’s exactly what post workout shakes and other muscle recovery supplements for men and women are for.

They provide your body with essential and vital nutrients like BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) and other amino acids, various vitamins and minerals, fast-acting carbs and sometimes creatine, as well as other things your body needs – all of which significantly improve you muscle recovery, repair and growth.

Post Workout Supplements have long been used by gym-goers and various professional bodybuilders and athletes for the phenomenal benefits that they provide and the greatly improved results in the gym that they bring.

Obviously, it’s much better to have a full, healthy and nutritional meal after a workout, but unfortunately the joke goes that only the rich and famous can afford to have their own cook and have their food ready and waiting for them to be eaten right after they finish up with their training session!

So for most of us, it’s much more convenient to use a recovery drink 15-30 minutes after a workout!

In order to find the right post-workout supplement for yourself, we strongly recommend that you to check out our Top 10 Best Post-Workout Supplements for Recovery article.

Post Workout Supplements: What Are They?

A container of post workout supplements on the side, spilling some of its contents near a scoop spoon

Post-Workout Supplements are products that help you recover after a workout and supply you with vital nutrients that you have depleted during your training session.

Here’s What Happens during a Workout:

During your exercise, you put your muscles through hell, and they develop micro-tears and lose a lot of nutrients, amino acids, and energy in the process.

These amino acids and nutrients help maintain your muscles during your session and keep them from breaking down and working sub-optimally.

Once they’re depleted, your muscles start to break down, meaning that in order for them to repair themselves much faster and grow much bigger – you need to replenish what you’ve lost!

After an intense session, your body’s protein breakdown increases drastically, while protein synthesis increases just slightly – which essentially primes your body to grow if you can flip those two around.

Your muscles also lose a lot of Glycogen, a multi-branched polysaccharide which is the principal storage form of glucose in your muscle cells – in other words – energy.

The Glycogen stores in your body are limited, so being able to replace it is a crucial part of recovery.

What you put into your body in the 45 minutes after a workout will determine whether you are going to pack on those extra pounds of muscle or whether all of that hard work in the gym lifting weights will ultimately go to waste.

That’s exactly the primary purpose of post workout drinks. They give you nutrients that help you do the following:

  • Increase Protein Synthesis
  • Decrease Muscle Breakdown
  • Replenish Your Muscle Glycogen Levels

They provide you with everything you need to help your body grow and recover during that critical stage when your body needs nutrients the most.

The Classification – Different Types of Post Workouts

There are several types of post-workout supplements on the market, but they all focus on one important ingredient – Protein and BCAAs.

Some others might contain Creatine, Beta-Alanine, Fast-Acting Carbs and various vitamins and nutrients to help with recovery.

There are essentially two different types.

Post Workouts for Mass Gain:

These types of products focus on providing you with a lot of protein, carbs and fat, to load your body up with nutrients and help you grow more mass.

Post Workouts for Weight Loss:

These types of products focus on BCAAs and other amino acids, vitamins and nutrients while cutting down all of the calories, essentially cutting protein and carbs out of the product.

Main Ingredients of Post-Workout Powders

Many Different Bodybuilding and Nutrition Supplements laid out on a table

BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) are the main ingredient of all post-workout supplements. They are naturally present in any form of Protein Supplement; however, they can be excluded from protein and provided separately, to cut down on calories.

BCAAs are absolutely indispensable to the building, repair and preservation of healthy muscles in your body. They are the building blocks of muscle, and you can find more information about them here: BCAA Supplements Guide.

Creatine is included in many post-workouts, but it is not essential. It is used by your body in various ways, all of which benefit muscle growth, strength, and endurance.

Its stores are depleted during an intense weightlifting session, and some bodybuilders prefer to supplement it right after a workout.

You can find more information about creatine in our Creatine Supplements Guide article.

Glutamine is also included in many post workout supplements to help speed up recovery and prevent overtraining.

It boosts your immune system, helps prevent exhaustion and provides several other benefits.

Beta-Alanine has been recently rising in popularity, and many post-workouts are starting to include this wonderful amino acid. Research suggests that it helps increase the levels of strength and size of your muscles, all while speeding up their recovery and repair.

Carbohydrates are also very beneficial after a workout. Specifically, fast-acting carbs ingested directly after a workout replenish your muscles’ glycogen levels and further help to boost the benefits of Creatine.

There may be other various ingredients like Vitamins and Micronutrients, as well as stimulants like caffeine or green tea extract (If your chosen product is also designed for weight-loss) that can be present in a post-workout supplement. However, the main and most important ingredient is and always has been Branched-Chain Amino Acids.

Benefits

A Beautiful young and sporty couple posing with weights after a workout

There are numerous benefits of a post workouts supplement:

  • Improve Recovery, Immune Function, Bone Mass and ability to Utilize Body Fat
  • Reduce Soreness, Recovery Time, Muscle Breakdown and Risk of Dehydration
  • Increase Muscle Growth, Endurance, Hydration and Energy Levels
  • Convenience and Cost-Effectiveness

The main benefit is, of course, convenience. You won’t have to scramble to prepare food, and there will be no hassle obtaining just the right nutrients that your body needs directly after a training session. It’s also comparatively cheap.

Precautions and Side Effects

Most people will not experience any side effects at all when consuming this type of supplement.

However, as with any supplement on the market, excessive over-consumption may lead to several side effects, depending on which ingredients the product contains, such as Creatine or any stimulant.

BCAAs are the main ingredient, and they are proven to be entirely safe for healthy adults. However, over-consumption of Creatine may lead to dehydration, bloating, cramps and weight-gain in water weight.

So be careful when mixing a lot of different supplements together.

How to Use Them

There are a few things you should know about taking muscle recovery supplements.

When to Take:

Research suggests that there’s a 45-minute window after a workout when your muscles are especially primed for taking higher amounts of nutrients.

Most authorities in the industry suggest that you take these products during the 15-45 minute window, for maximum effect and absorption.

If you somehow miss this window, you should still take the workout supplement if you can’t prepare a meal. Even though the benefits will be diminished, it’s still crucial that you replenish all the lost nutrients and amino acids.

How Much:

We always recommend that you follow the designated dosage on the manufacturer’s label – it’s there for a reason!

If you’re using BCAAs, staying in the range of 5-10 grams is preferred. If you’re using a protein post workout shake, then 25-50g is usually the most you need.

Creatine intake should not exceed 5 grams.

Women can safely take the same type of supplements, but should generally take around 20% lower dosages.

Extra: Several Good Meal Ideas to Eat after Workout

Young Bodybuilder Sitting in the Kitchen with two plates of healthy food in front

Even though supplements are extremely convenient, there’s still no better substitute for a well-balanced and healthy post workout meal.

However, it’s typically easier to lose weight and shred fat if you use supplements because you won’t have to worry about calories all that much.

So if you have a chance to eat a meal during the 45-minute window, here are some great post workout meal ideas.

Fat Loss Post-Workout Meals:

The general rule, especially for endomorphs is around 30-50 grams of protein along with 10-20 grams of carbs and 1-10 grams of fats.

Lean Beef, Chicken or Turkey Breasts, Salmon or Tuna Fish with a leafy green salad on the side is an ideal post-workout meal for those who want to pack on lean muscle and shred fat.

A meal like that will provide a lot of protein, all the essential amino acids and vital nutrients and vitamins from the salad.

A quick and great alternative is full fat Greek Yoghurt and Cottage Cheese, along with honey, jams, berries and even ice-cream.

Muscle and Mass Growth Meals:

The key is to increase the calorie intake from high-quality foods. The general rule is around 20-40 grams of protein along with 50-80 grams of carbs and 15-30 grams of fat.

All of the above meals work, with added brown rice, sweet potatoes or other slow and fast-digesting carb side-dishes, with gravy or various sauces.

A dish with tuna, rice, avocadoes and kidney beans is ideal for packing a calorie punch and replenishing all the vital nutrients.

A quick and great alternative is full fat Green Yoghurt and Cottage Cheese, along with honey, jams, berries and even ice-cream.

Eggs are also perfect for those who want to increase mass!

For people on the go – a mixture of dried fruits and nuts is an incredibly good alternative, as nuts provide you with a ton of calories from proteins and fats, while dried fruits give you a large number of fast and slow-digesting carbs.

Also, peanut-butter can be your secret weapon as it contains a massive amount of calories from protein and fats, and it can easily be added to tasty carbs like whole-grain bread.

Vegan Post-Workout Meals:

For our vegan friends, the main focus should be on fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies along with protein sources like nuts, chick peas, lentils and beans.

You can make a great recovery drink by mixing up bananas, avocadoes, green spinach, and honey. We also recommend adding a scoop of hemp protein to that!

There are several great recipes for post workout meals specifically for vegans that you can find here: post workout meals for vegans.

To recap, your primary focus should obviously be on high-quality protein, and the rest should ultimately depend on your training goals. If you want to lose a lot of fat, you should generally try to limit carbs and fats during your post workout meals.

If your goal is to put on mass – a lot of carbs and fat are essential!

Conclusion

Post-Workout Supplementation has long been considered as one of the most crucial parts of weight training. It helps you achieve your goals much faster and prevents you from spending precious time training in vain.

If you train without adequately replenishing your nutrient levels, you may as well be wasting your time in the gym, because your muscles are going to stay at the same levels due to protein breakdown.

To build muscle, you have to have the proper building blocks – in this case, it’s protein and BCAAs.

A balanced and healthy meal is the first ideal choice. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to prepare and consume such a meal in the short 45-minute window that comes after a workout.

If you can manage to eat in that time, we always recommend it over a supplement. However, if like most people you don’t have the time or the inclination to speed home and prepare such a meal, and don’t want to go to a restaurant or a fast food joint after training – a suitably chosen supplement can be a life-saver!

So what do you guys and gals think about post workouts? Write and share your most delicious and effective meal ideas in the comments below and let us discuss which ones are best!

Stay strong and train hard!