Proper recovery from workouts is imperative for improving muscle mass and strength. Using supplements to help improve that process can be advantageous.
Some supplements stand out from others in that they help reduce some of the negative effects of resistance training such as muscle damage and soreness, both of which can inhibit proper recovery.
In this article, I’ll discuss some popular supplements that may help you recover faster from the most intense workouts.
Whey Protein Enhances Recovery
Whey protein is arguably the most popular supplement in the health and fitness industry, and for good reason.
Whey protein is a strong initiator of the muscle building process called protein synthesis.
Whey protein seems to be beneficial for recovery due to a number of different mechanisms ranging from improvement in power and the ability to produce high levels of strength sooner, after workouts.
Additionally, it may even prevent DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness when taken prior to training.
One recent study revealed that when participants consumed whey protein after resistance testing, their peak isometric torque, a metric for muscular force, was fully recovered within 6 hours while the placebo group’s was not (3).
Additionally, a different study displayed a reduction in DOMS when whey was supplemented 30 minutes prior to and immediately after resistance training sessions (4).
Whey protein seems to a be a strong candidate for recovery due to its ability to prevent muscle soreness and replenish muscular force, allowing for more frequent and intense training sessions.
BCAA Reduce Muscle Soreness
BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are a very popular supplement touted to enhance recovery from training sessions.
As it turns out, supplementing with branched-chain amino acids can be advantageous for reducing fatigue both during and after workouts, in addition to reducing your perception of muscular soreness (5).
Reduction of both can be very beneficial for improving recovery and decreasing the time needed between exercise bouts.
One study indicated that high doses of BCAAs were able to reduce both mental and physical fatigue when elite athletes supplemented with them during a multi-day race.
A different study observed untrained females and found that supplementation of BCAAs resulted in reduced soreness compared to a carbohydrate drink alone when supplemented prior to exercise (6).
Further, the same subjects had no reduction in power output, while the placebo group displayed significant reductions.
Based on the evidence, BCAA supplementation is a strong candidate for reducing soreness and preventing mental and physical fatigue in response to intense exercise. I will note, if you currently have a very high protein intake then BCAA are less important. Remember, a lot of these studies are conducted on people with just an average protein intake.
Ashwagandha Also Reduces Muscle Damage
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that has gained popularity in recent years and it’s personally one of my favorite supplements in my popular Thyroid & Metabolism supplement!
It’s labeled as a type of supplement known as an adaptogen. Adaptogens seem to be able to reduce the impact of various different types of stress on the body, including the stress or resistance training.
Interestingly, one study indicated that supplementing with Ashwagandha was able to reduce the amount of creatine kinase in the blood of participants who were exposed to resistance training. This is in comparison to a placebo group (7).
Since increased creatine kinase levels in the blood are a marker of muscle damage, it seems that supplementation of Ashwagandha may be effective in preventing muscle damage, which can l=ead to less time required for recovery between sessions.
Additionally, another study revealed significant decreases in subjective pain and fatigue. In doing so, supplementation of Ashwagandha may reduce symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness and post exercise fatigue (8).
As a result, supplementation may allow you to train more intensely and more frequently, leading to greater muscle growth.
You can purchase Ashwagandha HERE
HMB May Reduce Muscle Damage
Muscle damage as a result of heavy resistance training can be debilitating and reduce the frequency of training.
As having a high frequency of exercise can be a key component in building muscle, mitigating muscle damage and soreness is of the utmost importance.
HMB is a controversial supplement with some mixed data. It is a metabolite of the branched-chain amino acid leucine and is a supplement that may help reduce this phenomenon, allowing you to train harder and more frequently for increased muscle growth.
In a recent study, participants with exercise experience were exposed to a very high volume and frequency training protocol, which under regular circumstances, would elicit a high amount of muscle damage for a normal person.
These participants were provided with either 3 grams per day of an HMB supplement or a placebo and instructed to consume daily.
The results revealed that participants who consumed HMB maintained lower levels of creatine kinase in the blood, a measure of muscle protein breakdown, than the participants who had consumed a placebo (1).
Additionally, a similar study that evaluated HMB’s effects in untrained individuals revealed very similar results. Participants were exposed to a resistance training protocol and were instructed to either consume an HMB supplement or placebo.
The data revealed that participants who consumed HMB also reported lower levels of creatine kinase in their blood as opposed to placebo indicating a protective effect (2).
While HMB probably won’t help you add pounds of muscle like the odd study shows, it may help reduce the incidence of muscle damage!
Remember, there are a lot of other important factors that dictate your recovery, such as overall diet, micronutrients, hormones, sleep, etc.
With that being said, supplements are an easy way to help you recover from intense workouts, allowing you to train again sooner and with more intensity.
Supplements such as HMB, ashwagandha, whey protein and BCAAs are all effective in reducing either the level of muscle damage from intense workouts, perceived soreness or both.
By using these supplements and reducing the negative effects of resistance training, you can train more frequently and more intensely in order to promote greater increases in strength and muscle growth.
1. Wilson, J. M., Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Walters, J. A., Baier, S. M., Fuller, J. C., … & Duncan, N. M. (2013). β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate free acid reduces markers of exercise-induced muscle damage and improves recovery in resistance-trained men. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(03), 538-544.
2. Gallagher, P. M., Carrithers, J. A., Godard, M. P., Schulze, K. E., & Trappe, S. W. (2000). β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate ingestion, part I: Effects on strength and fat free mass. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(12), 2109-2115.
3. Buckley, J. D., Thomson, R. L., Coates, A. M., Howe, P. R., DeNichilo, M. O., & Rowney, M. K. (2010). Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 13(1), 178-181.
4. Nosaka, K., Sacco, P., & Mawatari, K. (2006). Effects of amino acid supplementation on muscle soreness and damage. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 16(6), 620-635.
5. Portier, H., Chatard, J. C., Filaire, E., Jaunet-Devienne, M. F., Robert, A., & Guezennec, C. Y. (2008). Effects of branched-chain amino acids supplementation on physiological and psychological performance during an offshore sailing race. European journal of applied physiology, 104(5), 787-794.
6. Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 20(3), 236-244.
7. Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43.
8. Biswal, B. M., Sulaiman, S. A., Ismail, H. C., Zakaria, H., & Musa, K. I. (2013). Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on the development of chemotherapy-induced fatigue and quality of life in breast cancer patients. Integrative cancer therapies, 12(4), 312-322.