Recovery is an essential component to getting results from your time spent crushing it in the gym.
The problem that most individuals have is taking their foot off the proverbial gas pedal and giving their bodies enough time and nutrition to recover adequately.
Remember, hard training provides muscle growth stimulus, but your body doesn't grow in the gym. It grows as a result of being in the gym. It is the minutes, hours, and days after a hard training session that your body recovers, repairs, and grows.
To help drive home the importance of recovery, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you recover faster and a list of the best workout recovery supplements to achieve your goals safely.
Let’s get started!
How Protein Enhances Workout Recovery
Proper protein intake is vital to recovery.
The reason for this is pretty simple -- muscle tissue is made of protein, which is made of amino acids. Intense exercise causes muscle damage and protein breakdown.
Now, our bodies can create some amino acids, but nine amino acids cannot synthesize and must obtain them from the diet.
Thus, these amino acids are termed -- essential amino acids, meaning without adequate amounts of them, muscle recovery, growth, and overall health and wellness will be severely impaired.
To ensure that you’re getting enough essential amino acids each day, you need to make sure you’re consuming enough high-quality, complete protein sources.
Complete protein sources supply sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids (including the three BCAAs) to support protein synthesis and recovery maximally.
One of the best workout recovery protein sources is whey protein.
Derived from cow's milk, whey protein is rich in leucine (the anabolic trigger of protein synthesis), fast-digesting, and low calories. Furthermore, research shows that whey protein supplementation following intense exercise facilitates recovery by increasing protein synthesis and reducing muscle damage. <1,2>
When consumed before training, whey protein supplements have been noted to increase protein synthesis and muscle regeneration. <3>
Collectively, this makes whey protein a no-brainer for those looking to improve recovery and results from training.
Our preferred whey protein is Steel Whey™ -- a delicious-tasting, easy-to-mix protein powder that uses only WPC-80 (the highest quality whey protein concentrate there is).
How Does Creatine Improve Muscle Recovery?
Creatine is synonymous with athletic performance and muscle growth.
But, you might also be interested to learn that creatine also improves muscle recovery.
First and foremost, creatine helps replenish ATP stores in muscle, which can be exhausted relatively quickly during high-intensity exercise (resistance training, sprinting, etc.).
But that's not all.
Other research has noted that.
Researchers believe this may be due to creatine enhancing one or more of the key phases involved in the recovery response to exercise-induced damage, such as increasing protein synthesis and/or reducing protein degradation. <4>
Previous studies have also found that creatine supplementation may reduce muscle damage and inflammation following running. <5>
Creatine may also help accelerate recovery following an injury. Research conducted in healthy subjects indicates that creatine supplementation significantly improves the recovery of knee extensor muscle function after injury. <4>
Perhaps the best feature of creatine is that it has been extensively studied and shown to be not only effective across a wide range of populations but it's also incredibly safe.
For your creatine needs, we recommend SteelFit® Pure Steel Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate.
Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate has been investigated in over 50 clinical trials and has been proven to support ATP production, elevate performance, enhance strength, boost cognitive function, and improve muscle recovery.*
Best Supplement to Increase Recovery Time
At the outset of this guide, we detailed how important consuming enough high-quality protein is each day to workout recovery.
Protein contains important amino acids like the essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine).
The BCAAs might be the most important amino acids of them, especially leucine, as they are responsible for activating mTOR -- the biological pathway that triggers protein synthesis. The three BCAAs also account for roughly 35% of your muscle mass, which is part of the reason why they are so important.
Leucine has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis on its own. <6>
Isoleucine can also trigger protein synthesis, though not to the degree that its "big brother" leucine can. Furthermore, isoleucine can increase glucose uptake as well as glucose use during high-intensity exercise .<7>
Valine plays a key role in energy conversion and enhances glycogen synthesis in skeletal muscle, thereby preventing catabolism. <7>
Moreover, the body can convert BCAAs into glucose, pyruvate, and various other intermediates to increase carbohydrate availability and protect muscles against exercise-induced catabolism (muscle protein breakdown).
Lastly, research has shown that BCAA supplementation may: <8>
- Reduce protein breakdown
- Decrease skeletal muscle damage in response to resistance training
- Reduce feelings of soreness
- Mitigate central fatigue
- Encourage recovery of muscle function following intense exercise.
- Lower plasma creatine kinase (CK) -- an important marker of muscle damage
Due to the importance BCAAs play in protein synthesis and recovery, we created a workout supplement to increase recovery time in Steel Fuel®.
Steel Fuel® supplies 5 grams of 2:1:1 BCAA alongside essential minerals and electrolytes to support hydration, performance, and recovery. Steel Fuel® comes in 5 refreshing flavors and can be consumed any time of day to support protein synthesis and workout recovery.
Best Supplement for Joint Pain
Recovery is just muscle tissue. It also involves the structures surrounding and attached to muscle, including your joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue.
Intense training places extra stress on these structures, and not allowing for adequate recovery can significantly impair performance while increasing injury risk.
Another important point to keep in mind is that these "supporting players' ' recover slower than muscle tissue. So, while your muscles may feel recovered rather quickly, it may take an extra day or two for the joints, ligaments, and connective tissue to fully repair.
That’s why we created our joint recovery supplement Steel Releaf™.
Steel Releaf™ is a topical, liquid formula combining the benefits of natural Ayurvedic ingredients (like Boswellia serrata and turmeric) alongside 300mg of hemp-derived isolate to provide rapid, long-lasting relief and joint support.
- Buckley JD, Thomson RL, Coates AM, Howe PR, DeNichilo MO, Rowney MK. Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2010;13:178–181.
- Cooke MB, Rybalka E, Stathis CG, Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7:30.
- Witard OC, Tieland M, Beelen M, Tipton KD, van Loon LJ, Koopman R. Resistance exercise increases postprandial muscle protein synthesis in humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41:144–154.
- Cooke, M.B., Rybalka, E., Williams, A.D. et al. Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 6, 13 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-6-13
- Santos RV, Bassit RA, Caperuto EC, Costa Rosa LF: The effect of creatine supplementation upon inflammatory and muscle soreness markers after a 30 km race. Life Sci. 2004, 75 (16): 1917-1924. 10.1016/j.lfs.2003.11.036.
- Laplante M, Sabatini DM. mTOR signaling at a glance. J Cell Sci. 2009;122(Pt 20):3589-3594. doi:122/20/3589
- Doi M, et al. Isoleucine, a potent plasma glucose-lowering amino acid, stimulates glucose uptake in C2C12 myotubes . Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2003) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14651987
- Howatson G., Hoad M., Goodall S., Tallent J., Bell P.G., French D.N. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2012;9:20. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-20