When it comes to your nutrient intake throughout the day, what you ingest right after your workout ranks among the most important nutritional choices you can make. Although overall caloric intake is king when it comes to gaining or losing weight, optimizing your post-workout nutrition could be the key to maximizing your recovery.
That said, with so many products available — each promising to help you run faster, grow more, or recover quicker — discerning which one to spend your money on can be daunting. If you’re really trying to put on weight, the right mass gainer could be a game changer. If you know you won’t be able to catch a meal right after you leave the gym, a BCAA powder might be perfect for you. We’ve unpacked some of the best post-workout supplements to help you find the missing piece in your nutritional puzzle.
Best Post-Workout Supplement Picks
- Best Post-Workout Supplement Overall: Transparent Labs Post
- Best Post-Workout for Muscle Recovery: Performance Lab Post
- Best Post-Workout Creatine: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
- Best Post-Workout Protein Powder: Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Isolate
- Best Post-Workout BCAA: Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
- Best Post-Workout EAA: Kion Aminos EAA
- Best Post-Workout Mass Gainer: Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Best Post-Workout Greens: Athletic Greens Ultimate Daily
Best Post-Workout Supplement Overall
Even if you’re hitting all your nutritional benchmarks every day, you can still get value out of a post-workout supplement that isn’t loaded with calories. This is where Post shines — each scoop has a negligible amount of calories but is packed to the brim with helpful micronutrients that aid in reducing soreness and increase the rate of muscle repair.
Transparent Labs Post
Like many of Transparent Labs’ products, Post is light on fluffy ingredients or synthetic additives and heavy on the nutrient content that actually matters. High doses of Beta Alanine and L-Glutamine, shown to influence strength recovery rates (1), ensure that you’re primed for your next workout. Additionally, L-Cartinine and the tart cherry powder show promise for reducing tissue inflammation and increasing recovery rates (2).
A no-calorie supplement to help reduce muscle soreness, improve recovery, boost strength, and more.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Post
- Athletes who have their primary diet in order but still want to go the extra mile for recovery.
- Those who train hard enough to experience regular soreness or noticeable muscular fatigue.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Post
- Buyers who are in the market for a supplement that satisfies one particular nutritional need.
- Folks who are on the hunt for a calorically dense product.
- Anyone who already has a balanced, comprehensive diet comprised of whole food sources — they may find some of the ingredients here redundant.
With a strong dose of Beta Alanine and L-Glutamine, this tart cherry powder will ensure solid muscle recovery with zero calories.
Best Post-Workout Supplement for Muscle Recovery
For the majority of gymgoers, bouncing back from grueling workouts is their number one priority when considering a post-workout supplement. Performance Lab Post delivers on that front with ingredients that are tailor-made for getting your muscles back in the game after a tough day at the gym.
Performance Lab Post
Performance Lab’s post-workout puts convenience at the forefront by offering Post in capsule form — but that does not mean it is light on nutrition. The inclusion of sodium and potassium to replenish what was lost while training, as well as Beta-Alanine and pomegranate extract, linked to expedited recovery rates and reduced inflammation in athletes, make an ideal remedy for muscular fatigue. (3)
A capsule-based post-workout supplement designed to protect against muscle breakdown while promoting faster recovery. Includes creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, l-glutamine, salt, and more,
Who Should Buy Performance Lab Post
- Lifters or cross-trainers that include a lot of resistance training in their exercise regimes.
- Anyone who feels particularly susceptible to muscular soreness following a workout.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Performance Lab Post
- Recreational fitness enthusiasts taking it easy in the gym may not need a supplement targeted at muscle recovery.
- Anyone who wants a recovery supplement that also comes with calories or macronutrients.
Performance Lab Post’s convenient capsule form makes it one of the easiest muscle recovery supplements to take — after all, who doesn’t have room for a capsule bottle in their gym bag?
Best Post-Workout Creatine
Creatine is one of the most widely-used supplements on the market due to its long list of scientifically-backed benefits, including increased strength, better blood flow to muscle tissue, and even improved cognition.Though timing your creatine intake isn’t particularly important in the grand scheme, the inclusion of HMB makes Transparent Labs a solid pick for those who prefer to do so after their session.
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Though creatine is offered in some form by almost every nutritional company out there, Transparent Labs goes the extra mile by including β-Hydroxy β-methylbutyric acid (HMB) into the mix. HMB shows promising indicators when it comes to recovery rates and future performance, particularly with aerobic exercise (4).
We like that this product includes hydroxymethyl butyrate, the main metabolite in leucine that prevents muscle protein breakdown. Plus, the blue raspberry flavor is tasty, and the blend contains no artificial sweeteners.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
- Buyers interested in a creatine supplement that isn’t full of additives or spare calories.
- Those who mix resistance training and cardio and want to cover both their bases with one recovery product.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
- Anyone with financial constraints who only wants to pay for creatine monohydrate itself.
- People trying to gain weight that want a post-workout supplement with more nutritional value.
This creatine is sure to boost blood flow and improve cognition — and though you don’t have to take it after your workout to reap the benefits, with Transparent Labs’ inclusion of HMB, it is a great time to do so.
Best Post-Workout Protein Powder
When considering post-workout nutrition, many think of protein powders first and foremost. A good whey or casein supplement can ensure you bounce back from a heavy day of squatting at the gym. Transparent Labs stands above the crowd with its Grass-Fed Whey Isolate, providing the optimal nutrition needed to get back into fighting shape.
Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate
A well-made whey isolate contains almost entirely protein by weight and has been separated from much of the fat and carbohydrate found in whey concentrate or casein products. Transparent Labs is heavy on protein and light on just about everything else, with 28 grams of protein and less than one gram of carbs or dietary fat. This is a viable go-to for anyone seeking a pure, reliable whey powder.
This transparent ingredient list includes a dose of calcium, iron, and potassium with 28 grams of protein, all from a company that goes out of its way to provide clear sourcing.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey
- Buyers looking for a protein supplement that isn’t bogged down by spare carbs or fat.
- Anyone who prioritizes sourcing and compositional purity.
- Those in the market for a whey that comes in a variety of unique flavors.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey
- Consumers that prefer a calorically dense protein powder.
- Anyone looking for a cost-effective protein powder — whey isolates tend to be more expensive than basic protein powders.
Without all the extra carbs and fat you may find in a whey concentrate or casein powder, you’re getting 90 percent protein by weight that will work straight toward your recovery.
Best Post-Workout BCAA
While a solid whey powder all but ensures you get most of what you need in terms of post-workout macronutrients, there is definitely a good case to be made for including a BCAA supplement as well. Not every whey powder available will contain all the amino acids your body requires, but dedicated supplementation from something like Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine can help make sure all your bases are covered.
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) help facilitate muscle protein synthesis both during and after strenuous activity, but aren’t necessarily present in sufficient quantities in certain whole food sources or protein powders. Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine packs in ample amounts of all the essential aminos, which, collectively, have been shown to increase glucose uptake in muscle tissue (5), as well as promote fat oxidation during fasted exercise (6).
This glutamine supplement is gluten-free, non-GMO, and free of artificial preservatives. Each container provides 30 servings that contain 5000 milligrams of L-Glutamine and 1,535 milligrams of Vitamin C.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
- Anyone concerned with making sure their post-workout protein intake is as comprehensive as possible.
- Vegetarian or vegan practitioners whose protein sources may not contain sufficient amounts of BCAAs.
- Athletes who want to get more out of their fasted training sessions.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
- Anyone that already takes a supplement with sufficient BCAA content on a daily basis.
- People who regularly eat high-quality fish, poultry, or red meat who may not need additional BCAA supplementation.
While many protein powders do offer a dose of amino acids, Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine hones in on BCAAs to make sure you have all the nourishment you need for post workout muscle protein synthesis.
Best Post-Workout EAA
Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are aptly named, since they are highly important for tissue repair but must be ingested from food or external supplements. Since it can be difficult to ensure you’re checking every box with your regular diet, Kion Aminos Essential can help fill your EAA gaps.
Kion Aminos Essential
Kion brings a buffet to the table with its Aminos Essential, including all nine of the major acids in abundance. These nine amino acids can help with tissue repair, nutrient delivery, and reducing soreness post-workout. This product is also sugar free and vegan-friendly, making it an attractive option for just about anyone.
Kion Aminos EAA helps fill your dietary gaps with all nine essential amino acids.
Who Should Buy Kion Aminos Essential
- Anyone concerned that they may not be getting enough high quality protein from their standard diet.
- Keto or paleo enthusiasts who want to avoid synthetic additives.
- Dietary perfectionists who want to make sure they’re getting everything they need on a daily basis.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Kion Aminos Essential
- Consumers that already have a protein supplement that contains all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities.
- Those on a robust dietary plan with a lot of varied, whole-food protein sources.
For heavy lifters who are extra concerned with tissue repair, Kion Aminos Essential is a great option for ensuring you receive a solid dose of the nine essential amino acids that assist with the recovery process and decrease soreness.
Best Post-Workout Mass Gainer
Mass gainers are second to none when it comes to convenient calorie consumption. If you’re trying to gain weight fast but find it difficult to eat enough complete meals in a day, a good mass gainer can get you where you need to be nutritionally. While many common mass gainers can try to pack too much into their tubs, this pick does not fall into that category.
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer delivers 730 calories, 53 grams of protein, and 109 grams of carbohydrate per serving without excessive sweeteners, dyes, or dairy products. On top of that, its oat and sweet potato powders pack in 6g of fiber for satiety. Overall, this mass gainer is a simple, clean, and effective way to secure some extra calories.
With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. It's a clean mass gainer that focuses on simplicity over added bells and whistles.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Trainees looking to pack on pounds of lean muscle or move up a weight class in their sport.
- Anyone who values purity and wants their protein sources to be 100 percent grass-fed.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
- Those who need a truly mountainous amount of calories in their mass gainer — there are more calorically-dense options out there.
- Buyers looking for a specific flavor — options for this mass gainer are limited.
If you aren’t getting enough calories or nutrients in your diet throughout the day, this mass gainer will fill the gaps, and help you gain weight more efficiently.
Best Post-Workout Greens Powder
Most of us were probably forced to eat vegetables at dinner growing up, and at the time, we probably didn’t enjoy it. If you still don’t — but understand that the benefits of including veggies in your diet are functionally endless — picking up a greens powder like Athletic Greens is an ideal solution.
Athletic Greens Ultimate Daily
The Ultimate Daily comes with a ridiculously comprehensive list of seventy-five total assorted micronutrients fit for both general health and athletic performance. Staples like Vitamins C & B12 help boost immunity, Bromelain comes in clutch for reducing the risk of cardiovascular ailments (7), and ingredients like ashwagandha root powder may help lower stress hormone levels (8), which can improve muscle recovery.
Who Should Buy Athletic Greens Ultimate Daily
- Athletes who want to ensure all aspects of their health are bolstered by a dietary supplement.
- Anyone following a restrictive or specialized diet that may not include many whole vegetables on a regular basis.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Athletic Greens Ultimate Daily
- Those strictly adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet who already include a high volume of whole food greens daily.
While this supplement can be taken morning, noon, or night, its ashwagandha root powder can help lower stress hormones and improve muscle recovery after your workout.
How We Decide
With a seemingly infinite amount of products on the market today, how exactly did we arrive at a list of the best post-workout supplements? Here are the three main things we considered before pulling together our favorite buys.
We’ve taken into account the variety of ways athletes like to approach their nutritional needs. If you’re meticulous about your calorie and macronutrient intake, a zero-calorie option from Transparent Labs may be ideal. If you’re always on the go and don’t have the time for a home-cooked meal, grabbing a mass gainer could provide the extra calories your body needs to pack on a few pounds. The selections here are versatile enough that you’re almost guaranteed to find something that suits your particular training goals..
The supplement industry is rife with bad faith advertising and loose interpretations of data. Since we have no interest in making recommendations that can’t stand on their own merit, we’ve vetted and cross-referenced these products with the literature itself to ensure that none of the companies featured on this list are dishing out hollow promises.
We made sure to mention when supplements had artificial sweeteners and when they didn’t. Some products also contain extra ingredients like digestive enzymes, fatty acids, and more that can boost post-workout recovery.
It is a common practice in the supplement industry, however, to load up a product with these extra ingredients as a means of justifying a higher price tag. Since post-workout supplements can be especially prone to this, we’ve gone out of our way to avoid making recommendations that come with too many frilly extras.
What to Consider Before Buying
When it comes to post-workout fuel, you can pack in a lot of nutrients with just a few products. But before you swipe the card on a bunch of new supplements, take a moment to consider all the factors involved.
Manage Your Expectations
Perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind while shopping for supplements is that all companies are making a targeted effort to pitch their products to you, the consumer. This sometimes means advertising lofty promises and exaggerated benefits.
While the claims made by the selections in this article are widely backed by scientific literature, nothing is a cure-all or a magic bullet. Make sure you’re reading the ingredients and doing your own research as well before making a final decision.
Don’t Major in the Minors
It can be easy to get caught up in the flashy spectacle of supplements and lose track of the meat and potatoes of a proper diet. Ensuring your caloric needs are laced up and your rest patterns are properly managed are the major keys to reaping the benefits of your workouts long term. Supplements can help shore up weaknesses or account for limitations, but try to avoid leaning on them too much.
The Right Tool for the Job
It’s important to be conscious of your individual needs when it comes to nutritional supplementation. If you’re steadily gaining weight from your primary diet, you probably don’t need to add a mass gainer supplement. If you’ve been a devoted practitioner of veganism and still crush it in the gym, you may not need a greens powder.
It is always wise to take stock of where you stand in terms of managing your wellness and performance before grabbing a new supplement, so you don’t end up spending money where you don’t need to.
While all of these options superbly satisfy their respective niches, it is important to remember that no individual supplement can make up for things like sloppy training, a careless diet, or poor sleep. More isn’t always more when it comes to supplementation, and overstuffing your cabinet can definitely have diminishing returns.
That said, if you know where your interests lie and are in the market for something that properly augments your existing diet while also speeding up the recovery process, you can certainly find the right tool for the job, and may even start bouncing back from your workouts faster than you were before.
Is there really a post-workout anabolic window?
Yes and no. While the body is more primed for nutrient uptake and protein synthesis following a bout of resistance training or intense cardio, it is not a tightly-defined timeline. While chugging a shake or getting a meal in shortly after training is ideal, the difference between half an hour and two hours afterwards is negligible.
Do I need a post-workout supplement if I eat after training?
If the whole food you consume after you leave the gym is well balanced and full of the right nutrition, you don’t technically need additional supplementation. However, getting quality protein, amino acids, and good carbohydrates all in one meal is easier said than done, so a pill or powder could be beneficial.
Is protein wasted if I eat too much of it at once?
This is somewhat contentious in the literature, but broadly speaking, not really. It is possible that if you consume a truly enormous amount of protein-dense food all at once, your body may not be able to fully utilize it before it is passed. But in practical terms, this shouldn’t be a relevant concern for most people.
- Legault, Z., Bagnall, N., & Kimmerly, D. S. (2015). The Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric Exercise. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 25(5), 417–426.
- Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Rubin MR, Gómez AL, Ratamess NA, Gaynor P. (2002) L-Carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favorably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. Feb;282(2):E474-82. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00277.2001. PMID: 11788381.
- Ammar, A., Bailey, S., Chtourou, H., Trabelsi, K., Turki, M., Hökelmann, A., & Souissi, N. (2018). Effects of pomegranate supplementation on exercise performance and post-exercise recovery in healthy adults: A systematic review. British Journal of Nutrition, 120(11), 1201-1216. doi:10.1017/S0007114518002696
- Lamboley, C. R., Royer, D., & Dionne, I. J. (2007). Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate on aerobic-performance components and body composition in college students. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 17(1), 56–69.
- Doi, M., Yamaoka, I., Fukunaga, T., & Nakayama, M. (2003). Isoleucine, a potent plasma glucose-lowering amino acid, stimulates glucose uptake in C2C12 myotubes. Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 312(4), 1111–1117.
- Achten, J., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2004). Optimizing fat oxidation through exercise and diet. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 20(7-8), 716–727.
- Pavan, R., Jain, S., Shraddha, & Kumar, A. (2012). Properties and therapeutic application of bromelain: a review. Biotechnology research international, 2012, 976203.
- Lopresti, A. L., Smith, S. J., Malvi, H., & Kodgule, R. (2019). An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 98(37), e17186.