Big, strong muscles are made in the gym, right?
Sort of. Before you go crazy and call all your gym-going buddies liars, let’s consider really quickly what you are doing when you are at the gym. At the most basic level, you are creating small tears in your muscles. Lifting weights and the small tears it creates will initially leave you worse off. Consider how you feel immediately after a workout, not only are you more tired but your muscles can’t push as hard as they did when you started. This is stage one of progress in lifting weights. This is the part everyone loves to focus on and rightly so, you can’t expect to get stronger without pushing yourself.
However, there's a second stage we like to ignore - recovery. What is recovery? Recovery involves everything you do outside of the gym. Your lifestyle, job, family, and friends have a huge impact on recovery. Recovery is critically important. You see, our muscles are worked in the gym, but in order to get stronger, the muscles need to heal. Recovery primarily happens through proper sleep, nutrition, stress management, water intake, and rest days. There are plenty - and I mean plenty - of tools out there that tell you they will improve your recovery. Tools like massage guns, compression technology, and many supplements promise greater recovery; however, until you nail down the basics these things have little benefit.
While many supplements overpromise and underdeliver, there are a few that I believe can help you in your recovery process.
Let’s look at them:
#1) Protein Powder
Our bodies rely on protein to rebuild our muscles, so one of the best ways to ensure your recovery is optimized is to eat enough protein. It is typically recommended that you consume between .8-1.2g/lb of body weight. If you do the math there, that is a lot. For simplicity's sake, if you are a 150-pound male, you are looking at about 150 grams of protein daily. This is absolutely doable, but not easy. It requires some planning for sure - so check out our weekly meal prep recipes for help planning!
While we want the majority of our protein to come from food - think meat, dairy, nuts, or some vegetables - consuming protein powder can be a good way to supplement additional protein in your diet. Not only does protein help your muscles repair, but it also helps you stay full longer which can be quite helpful if you are trying to lose fat.
Look for a powder with limited ingredients and no artificial sweeteners. Whey protein is my favorite, but if dairy isn’t for you there are many great plant-based options as well.
Typically you don’t want to consume more than two shakes a day, with one probably being ideal.
Click here for more information on all things protein powder.
Creatine is one of the most effective and well-researched supplements on the market. The positive effects of creatine can include the ability to train harder - especially in sprints or strength training - improved body composition, and even brain health.
Creatine can help in many ways with recovery, one of which is thought to be decreasing the amount of soreness following a workout. Don’t let soreness be the reason you miss a workout.
Creatine is also one of the most inexpensive supplements on the market.
Typically, individuals take 3-5g per day.
Okay, so this one may not necessarily be recovery, but I’ll tie it back in. Imagine you didn’t get perfect sleep and you have to work out early before work because otherwise, you won’t have time. In this moment, your recovery hasn’t been perfect, but caffeine can be a great way to get that kickstart.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend becoming reliant on caffeine - you should be able to work out without it. But, in certain situations, it can be a great idea to give you that little extra boost. I had a nutritionist tell me one day that caffeine is not energy it is only a stimulant, food is energy especially carbs. So be sure to eat and hydrate and you can use caffeine as the little extra bump.
So while caffeine may not be a superhero supplement for recovery, it can help you get the most out of your workout especially if you weren’t able to recover as well as you would have liked.
Most energy drinks and pre-workouts are filled with harmful ingredients. It is probably best to get your caffeine from coffee or caffeine pills.
Remember, supplements are just that - supplements. All three of these supplements can be helpful in your recovery process, but if you aren’t sleeping well, eating the right foods, managing stress, hydrating, and taking proper rest, these supplements will just be icing on a stale cake.
As always we are here for you and would love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out with any questions or leave us a comment below. Here’s to crushing your recovery!
Pickering, Craig. “Creatine: Not Just for Muscle.” SimpliFaster, 17 Apr. 2020, https://simplifaster.com/articles/creatine-optimizing-sports-performance/.