It’s not hard to find people who say that right after a workout is the most important nutritional “window” in your day, so finding the best post workout supplement is critical. That’s when your muscles have been beaten up an worked out, it’s when protein breakdown increases significantly, and it’s when you’re more sensitive to the anabolic hormone insulin.(1)(2)
Deciding on the best post workout supplement really depends on what the rest of your day looks like; after all, the most important thing when it comes to body composition and performance is your total calorie and macronutrient intake. If you’re not meeting your protein and carbohydrate requirements, a mass gainer would be a great option. If you’re just falling short in protein, a protein shake would be best. If you won’t be ingesting calories for a good few hours, some amino acids could be useful for minimizing muscle protein breakdown — and then there are some supplements that could be useful even if you are getting all your calories right.
Below are our picks for the best post workout supplements, and beneath that we’ll tell you the reasons why a certain product might be for you.
Best Post Workout Supplement Picks
- Best Post Workout Supplement – Transparent Labs Post
- Best Whey – MyProtein The Whey
- Best Mass Gainer – Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Best BCAA – Scivation Xtend BCAA
- Best EAA – Controlled Labs Ergogenic Essential Amino Acid Complex
Best Post Workout Supplement: Transparent Labs Post
Even if you’re hitting all your calories, protein, carbs, and fat in a day, this is the kind of supplement that can still be beneficial for workout recovery. Post has ingredients linked to reduced muscle soreness, better fat loss, and better recovery with regard to strength and endurance levels.
Transparent Labs Post Highlights
Post has no calories, so it’s not going to replace any you’ve burned, but it does deliver ingredients that may help with recovery. The betaine anhydrous and beta alanine have links to improving strength and endurance, respectively, for your next workout. There’s also tart cherry powder, which has strong links to reduced muscle soreness, and the l-carnitine l-tartrate may help to reduce muscle damage and improve muscle function.(3)(4)(5)
A no-calorie supplement to help reduce muscle soreness, improve recovery, boost strength, and more. Use the code BARBEND10 for 10% off!
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Post
- Post is ideal for those who have ensured they’re eating the right calories and macronutrients and still want an edge.
- This supplement is especially well designed for those who want to minimize muscle soreness.
- This product may be particularly beneficial for older athletes, as the carnitine has some links with longevity and we appear to produce less of it as we age.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Post
- There’s an argument to be made that if you’re following a well planned diet with sufficient levels of essential nutrients, and if you’re eating plenty of foods that help with nitric oxide production (like watermelon, leafy greens, and beets) and you don’t typically suffer from muscle soreness, then this product may not provide a huge benefit.
All in all, Transparent Labs is a company that makes well researched supplements, and Post is a good example of a zero-calorie product that could provide benefits even to those with well rounded diets.
Best Whey Protein: MyProtein The Whey
Many consider whey indispensable post-workout. There’s some evidence that it’s a good way to mitigate reductions in strength and speed post workout — as in, help you recover more quickly for the next session — and that it could improve muscle recovery as “more than just an issue of caloric replacement.”(6)(7) In other words, the body appears to quite like protein after you exercise and whey is a convenient, very absorbable form. Our favorite pick?
MyProtein The Whey Highlights
There are plenty of great whey proteins out there, but MyProtein’s take the top spot for a few reasons. It’s tasty, sure, but it also contains six digestive enzymes, including enzymes linked to improve absorption of proteins, carbs, fats, and lactose. Some evidence suggests that the addition of these enzymes might reduce indigestion and increase protein uptake.(8) Add that to the pretty great value and low carb and fat content, and you’ve got a great option.
Who Should Buy MyProtein The Whey
- If you find that your daily protein needs are hard to hit with whole foods alone, this can be a great addition.
- If lactose causes you indigestion, the inclusion of lactase in this product might make it a good pick for you.
Who Shouldn’t Buy MyProtein The Whey
- If you have concerns about artificial sweeteners, this product isn’t for you — it has both sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
- This is a pretty low carb whey protein, so if you’re more interested in a source of protein and carbs post workout, consider pairing this shake with a banana or going with a mass gainer shake.
Whey is here to stay: it’s inexpensive, tasty, and very convenient. It’s hard for one whey to get an edge on another, but MyProtein’s addition of digestive enzymes puts it at the top of our list.
Best Mass Gainer: Transparent Labs Mass
If you’re working out and you want to build muscle, you need protein — but you need at least as much carbohydrate in your diet as well. Many on mass building diets eat at least two grams for every gram of protein, and this is where mass gainers can be very useful. Taken post workout, the protein helps to rebuild muscle and the carbs replete glycogen stores and prompt the release of insulin, an anabolic agent.
Transparent Labs Mass Highlights
This is a fantastic post workout supplement, especially for those who have trouble meeting their calorie goals. With a 1:2 ratio of protein and carbs it’s handy for moderate and high carb diets, plus one (740-calorie) serving provides a third of your daily fiber intake. The fats are also high quality: the whey comes from grass-fed New Zealand cows (grass fed dairy has higher levels of healthful fatty acids) and there are added MCTs, a type of fat that may improve gut health.(9)(10) Lastly, there’s what Transparent Labs might be best known for: no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. Use the code BARBEND10 for 10% off!
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass
- This product is superb for those who have trouble meeting their daily calorie or macronutrient goals.
- It’s also simply a useful supplement for those who find it time consuming to prepare high calorie meals several times per day.
- Mass is a great option for people who want to avoid artificial flavors or sweeteners.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Mass
- If you prefer mass gainers with a lot of added vitamins and minerals, you won’t find many here.
- If you have difficulty losing weight, and that’s one of your goals, then high calorie products like this may not be ideal.
A lot of mass gainers go overboard with carbs, but Transparent Labs did a solid job of keeping the ratio at 1:2 so it can fit into a variety of diets, even those who avoid artificial ingredients.
Best BCAA: Scivation Xtend
Branched chain amino acids are three building blocks of protein — leucine, isoleucine, and valine — that have a lot of links to muscle retention and recovery.(11)(12)(13) They contain next to no calories and are often taken between meals to prompt muscle protein synthesis (which basically means it helps with muscle retention) but taking them right after exercise may be useful for post workout muscle recovery, especially if you’ll be waiting a long time before eating your next meal.
Scivation Xtend Highlights
Scivation’s BCAAs are hugely popular, largely because of the larger scoop: most brands provide 5 grams at a time but Scivation’s seven is closer to the dosage suggested in research. The brand is also celebrated for its huge variety of flavors, including some that are flavored naturally. Finally, there’s more than just BCAAs: there are also electrolytes to help with hydration, a little citrulline to help with blood flow, and some Vitamin B6, which we may lose when we exercise and which has links to muscle retention.(14)
With a higher than usual dose and a wide variety of tasty flavors, Scivation deserves its reputation as one of the best BCAA products, period.
Who Should Buy Scivation Xtend
- This may be a useful supplement if you won’t be eating for a several hours post workout and you want you kickstart your muscles’ recovery.
- BCAAs are also a popular supplement for those who exercise on an empty stomach, as they may help with energy levels and performance.(15)(16)
Who Shouldn’t Buy Scivation Xtend
- People who are leery of artificial sweeteners may want to steer clear, although Scivation does have some BCAAs that are naturally flavored.
- Vegans; most BCAAs are actually derived from animal byproducts.
BCAAs are one of the most popular supplements on the market for before, during, or after a workout. Scivation’s is easily one of the most popular, and it’s not hard to see why.
Best EAA: Controlled Labs Purple Wraath, Ergogenic Essential Amino Acid Matrix
Essential amino acids compete with branched chain amino acids for a similar spot in the supplement world: they almost calorie-free and research suggests that they might help to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and improve recovery.(17)(18) A lot more research is needed, but some claim that using EAAs instead of BCAAs might producer greater muscle protein synthesis.(19)
Controlled Labs Purple Wraath, Ergogenic Essential Amino Acid Matrix
Purple Wraath’s EAAs stand out for their innovative flavors (who doesn’t want to try Freedom Pop flavor?), the tryptophan-free formula (which may have unwelcome sedative effects) and for the “PurplEndurance Complex.” This is a mixture of beta alanine, citrulline, and betaine that may help to boost power and endurance during workouts.
A flavorful product that delivers a variety of amino acids, plus some extra ingredients for performance.
Who Should Buy Controlled Labs Ergogenic Essential Amino Acid Matrix
- People who would rather hedge their bets and supplement with a variety of essential amino acids to promote muscle repair post workout.
- Athletes who wait several hours after exercising to eat may benefit from this supplement.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Controlled Labs Ergogenic Essential Amino Acid Matrix
- Anyone who avoids artificial sweeteners would want to avoid this product.
- If you don’t love the “tingly” feeling that beta-alanine can produce, steer clear.
Picking between EAAs and BCAAs is tough because there simply isn’t that much research comparing the two. But as mentioned above, if you want to hedge your bets then Controlled Labs has produced a game changing supplement that can work both before and after a workout.
How We Decide The Best
So how does one come up with a list of the best post workout supplements?
By that we mean we took into account the variety of ways athletes like you approach their nutrition. Do you get all of your calories, macros, and micros on point every day? Then a zero-calorie product like Transparent Labs may be ideal. Do you struggle to reach your protein and carb goals? Grab a mass gainer. This list includes many types of products so you can find out what works best for you.
We have no interest in promoting hocus pocus or unsupported science. There are endless shelves of supplements that claim to meaningfully boost testosterone levels or torch belly fat, but they didn’t make it onto our list because these aren’t realistic results. We made sure to cite over a dozen studies you can read yourself in order to support our claims.
We made sure to mention when supplements had artificial sweeteners and when they didn’t, plus there are extra ingredients like digestive enzymes, fatty acids, and more that wind up in post workout supplements. We weighed the pros and cons — glutamine, for example, is often added but likely has no meaningful effect.
We’ve tried enough of these products that we know when they’re worth the money spent on them. This list only promotes supplements that aren’t needlessly expensive.
Before Buying Post Workout Supplements, Consider
You want to be fit, healthy, and strong, so you’re ready to buy some supplements. It’s a tale as old as time, but before you click “purchase,” keep these tips in mind.
Know Your Calories
You can’t out-supplement a bad diet. If you want to get strong and healthy, it’s critical that you consume enough calories to support your activity level and your goals, be it weight loss or muscle gain. This macros calculator can help you land on your number.
Ingredients like beta-alanine and carnitine do indeed have compelling links to improved performance and recovery, but note that the benefits are still relatively small: beta-alanine is one of the most popular supplements on Earth, but research suggests a benefit of maybe 1 or 2 percent to your endurance.(20) That’s very significant for an elite athlete, just know that you won’t take these products and then your entire life will change. Keep your diet and workouts consistent above all else.
Know Your Goals
We arranged this list in such a way that you can take the right post workout supplement for you. If you have trouble hitting your calories, grab a mass gainer, if you just have trouble hitting your protein, try a protein shake, and so on.
No matter what your goal is, there’s a supplement here for you, regardless of your lifestyle and your goals. Keeping an eye on your diet outside of your supplements is what will make the biggest difference to your performance, but as you can see, many studies have concluded that these products can give you an edge. Just make sure to speak with a physician before making any significant changes to your diet and supplement regimen.
Featured image via Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best post workout supplement?
It depends on your goals, but Transparent Labs Post is a great option because it contains components linked to reduced muscle soreness and improved muscle recovery. These effects are brought about by ingredients like l-carnitine l-tartrate and tart cherry powder.
What is the best post workout meal?
An ideal post workout meal would contain at least 25 grams of protein, which helps to stimulate muscle repair, and at least as many grams of carbohydrates, which restore energy and help to produce insulin, an anabolic hormone. It’s also helpful to include some fruit or vegetables, as the antioxidants and micronutrients can help to reduce inflammation and speed recovery.
Is there a post workout anabolic window?
There is evidence that the muscles are the most receptive to amino acids following a workout, however this is likely only important for elite athletes. For the average person and for all practical purposes, the “post workout window” isn’t relevant. How much one eats — their calories and macronutrients — are vastly more important than when one eats.
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