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You might think your workout in the gym to get bigger and stronger, but that is not where those things take place. In fact, when you walk out after completing your last set, you are actually in a catabolic state. That makes you weaker and more prone to losing muscle. All of which makes getting your hands on the best muscle recovery products the most important thing you can do after your workout is over.
Research confirms that the 45 minutes after a workout are the most critical for refuelling your muscles with the nutrients they need to recover and then thrive. Miss out on this post-workout window by missing out on this post-workout window by not taking the proper ingredients, you will severely compromise your ability to recover and make gains in both strength and muscle mass.
In this article, we will break down the essential ingredients you can get during this 45 minute window.
Whey is the fastest digesting protein that exists. As a result it is able to get its fast acting amino acids into your muscle cells quicker than anything else. This allows those amino acids to kick-start recovery and fuel muscle growth while the muscles are primed.
Whey protein is the richest source of the most critical aminos of them all - the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAAs - leucine, valine and isoleucine - provide instant energy and kickstart the muscle growth process. Of the three, leucine is the most potent. As a result you should take your BCAAs in the ratio of 2:1:1 relative to Leucine: Valine:Isoleucine.
Whey protein also boosts your body’s insulin levels, further promoting muscle growth and helping to drive glucose and amino acids into the muscle fiber in order to assist recovery and repair. In addition, whey has been shown to increase nitric oxide levels, which can increase blood flow to recovering muscle by supplying the nutrients they need after the workout.
The best type of whey protein powder is a hydrolyzed version, or whey peptides and whey isolate. These versions give you higher pure protein content and faster digestion.
Dosage - take 20-30 grams of whey protein immediately after your workout. Choose a whey that contains whey protein hydrolysates (whey protein broken down into smaller fragments for even faster digestion) or whey protein isolate.
Whey protein is the number one choice when you need fast protein into your muscle cells. However, the research shows that if whey is backed up with casein protein, which is a very slow release version of the macronutrient, your muscle growth will be enhanced. Casein provides a slow and steady supply of aminos to the muscles over a long period of time. As a result, muscle protein synthesis will be turned on for longer and there will be less muscle breakdown. Taking creatine in the evening will ensure that you get a steady release of protein into the cells while you are sleeping - the prime muscle growth period.
You should choose a casein product that includes micellar casein. This is the natural form of casein that digests the most slowly (though it doesn’t mix as well as caseinate).
Milk protein is 80% casein, which is maintained in its natural form. Research out of Baylor University in Texas indicates that in order to tip the balance in your favor, you should supplement with both whey and casein protein after your workout. The study participants who used a whey/casein blend protein shake after their workouts for 10 weeks gained significantly more muscle mass than those who had only a whey protein shake.
Dosage; Choose a casein product that contains micellar casein, which is the slowest digesting protein on the market. Add 20-40 grams of casein to your post-workout shake. If your protein powder does not contain 5-10 grams of BCAAs in the 2:1:1 ratio described above, you should purchase your BCAAs separately and add them to your shake to be taken immediately after the workout.
Creatine is far and away the most effective supplement when it comes to getting bigger and stronger. One of the best times that you can take creatine is directly after your workout when your muscle fibers are primed for nutrient uptake. Creatine requires insulin for optimal muscle uptake. Since whey protein boosts insulin levels (so do high glycemic carbs which we will get to shortly), the combination straight after your workout will put you into an anabolic state very quickly.
Dosage; take 5 grams of creatine with your protein shake directly after your workout.
When you work out you are burning up glycogen. This is the form of carbohydrate found in your muscle cells and your liver. Pounding out set after set rapidly depletes your glycogen levels. When your glycogen levels are low, your ability to build muscle and get stronger will be impaired.
Immediately after the workout, your primary need is high glycemic, fast acting glucose. The best types of fast digesting carbs are dextrose, glucose, and maltodextrin. These fast digesting carbs will also spike your insulin levels. Insulin is highly anabolic, so carbohydrate powders can promote muscle gain and recovery without fat accumulation when taken immediately after training.
Restocking muscle glycogen levels will also help muscle growth by pulling water into the muscle cell. This causes the muscle cells to swell, keeping them looking fuller and larger for longer. The greater amount of fluid that this puts inside the muscle cell causes the fibers to stretch, which also turns on muscle protein synthesis.
There are three main forms of high glycemic carbs:
Dosage: A good post-workout shake contains about a 1:2 ratio of protein to high-glycemic carbs. Add 40-100 grams of carb powder to your post-workout shake.
Taking beta-alanine post workout when your insulin levels are high will drive it very quickly into your muscle tissue. Once there it will combine with the amino acid histidine to form carnosine. Carnosine helps to buffer the acidity level inside muscle fibers to allow them to contract with more strength for longer periods.
Research shows that beta-alanine increases muscle strength, power and endurance. Taking it in conjunction with creatine has been shown to further boost muscle growth over and above that provided by creatine by itself.
Dosage: Take 2-4 grams with your post workout shake.
Glutamine will help you to replenish muscle glycogen after your workout. It will help more of the carbs you are taking in post workout to get into the muscle fibre where they are stored as glycogen. In addition, glutamine boosts growth hormone levels. This will greatly boost your muscle and strength gains. Taking glutamine after your training will also boost your immunity. When you train hard, you can compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds other illnesses.
Dosage; Add 5-10 grams of glutamine to your post workout shake.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is manufactured by the body. It is contained in every cell and helps to turn glucose into energy. ALA has a similar effect as insulin in that it bolsters the uptake of amino acids and creatine within the muscle cell. In a recent study subjects who took ALA along with creatine and a high glycemic carb had greater increases in muscle creatinine levels than those who took just creatine and a high glycemic carb.
Dosage; take 300-500 mg along with creatine, protein and high glycemic carbs post workout.
The Best Muscle Recovery Products of 2018
Best Whey Protein
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Best Post Workout Carb Formula
Note: Add a scoop to dextrose to your post workout protein shake to provide the vital glucose and amino acids that you need for muscle recovery and growth.
Note: Add 5 grams of creatine monohydrate to your post workout whey protein shake.
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