Many athletes and people who train take a post-workout shake immediately after a workout.
Getting optimal benefits from your exercise or training routine isn’t just a matter of putting the work in.
Between protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, and all sorts of other nutrients, it can be hard to tell what’s important when it comes to a post-workout supplement.
Fortunately for you, we’ve analyzed the best post-workout supplements on the market and ranked them right here.
1. Vintage Build
The clean, focused design of Vintage Build is a nice contrast against other post-workout supplements that throw just about everything short of the kitchen sink into their supplement.
The key ingredients here are branched chain amino acids, creatine, and L-glutamine for muscle recovery and immune function. Beyond this, the supplement is flavored and colored naturally with stevia and cherry coloring.
2. BSN Amino X
BSN Amino X is unique in that it’s formulated more towards speed, power, and endurance athletes than for pure strength athletes.
As the name suggests, you’ve got your usual branched chain and regular amino acids, but what makes BSN Amino X special is its inclusion of the buffering agents citrate and sodium bicarbonate.
These can be used by your bloodstream to fight off anaerobic fatigue in the short term, and restoring your body’s stores of these after an intense workout like HIIT training can help improve your performance the next time around.
3. Evlution Recover Mode
When it comes to post-workout supplements that take a comprehensive approach as opposed to a minimalist approach, nobody does it better than Evlution Recovery Mode.
It has everything you know you need in a post-workout supplement: branched chain amino acids, regular amino acids, and creatine.
In addition, it has all of the extras you like to see: beta-alanine to boost muscular carnosine content, a robust mix of electrolytes to replace what’s lost in sweat, L-glutamate for better muscle recovery and immune function, and BioPerine to boost absorption.
4. Sheer Strength Sheer Build
Sheer Build is a post-workout supplement that is very focused in its design philosophy.
Fundamentally, it aims to deliver a rapidly absorbed blend of branched chain amino acids for muscle recovery alongside creatine for strength gains.
There aren’t any frills, which is very good to see if you want a focused, no-BS post-workout supplement. The artificial coloring agents might put off some hardcore enthusiasts, but aside from that, it’s hard to find a fault with this supplement.
5. JYM Supplement Science POST
POST is JYM Supplement Science’s answer to the post workout supplement question. It’s a more comprehensive approach than many of its competitors; it has the basics, like branched chain and regular amino acids.
It also has some cutting edge ingredients like beta-alanine, which can boost your muscular carnosine content, and taurine for extra energy.
To boost absorption, it also includes the proprietary black pepper extract, BioPerine. If you want a complete post-workout supplement that’s optimized for both strength and power, this is an excellent choice.
6. Legion Recharge
Legion Recharge is a surprisingly simplistic post workout supplement. Among the active ingredients, all it delivers creatine, L-carnitine, and banaba leaf extract.
A super-simple supplement like this can be nice, but the disappointing thing about Legion Recharge is that there are a lot of unwanted extras like artificial flavoring and several different non-caloric sweeteners.
Despite this, it’s still pretty good for those in the minimalist supplement camp.
Powerbuild delivers a few branched-chain amino acids, beta-alanine for muscular power, and creatine for muscular strength.
It’s also got BioPerine, a.k.a. Black pepper extract, to boost your absorption of the amino acids in the supplement. It’s a little bloated with extras, which knocks it down a few spots in the rankings.
8. BioRhythm Afterglow
BioRhythm takes more of a comprehensive approach with Afterglow, its post workout supplement, but in this case, it tilts a little too much towards the “shotgun approach” of throwing everything into the supplement with hopes that something will actually work.
It does have most of the ingredients you’d want, like BCAAs and even some whole protein, but the extra vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts make it seem like there wasn’t a coherent design philosophy with this supplement.
9. Growth Surge
This post workout supplement is designed pretty much exclusively for strength athletes. It’s really more of a creatine supplement than anything else; it doesn’t even have a full complement of branched chain amino acids.
While it has BioPerine, there aren’t really enough ingredients for it to boost absorption and bioavailability, so it seems like an afterthought ingredient. On top of this, it’s bloated with artificial ingredients, making it very hard to recommend.
10. Progenex Recovery
Most post-workout supplements deliver their amino acids in a pure form, but Progenex Recovery, despite billing itself as a recovery supplement, is really more of a protein shake.
It does have branched chain amino acids, but only in the amounts present in whey protein isolate.
It’s flavored in a way that keeps artificial ingredients out and keeps the carb and sugar content down, but the lack of core post-workout ingredients like creatine and some kind of muscle power supplement make it hard to recommend Progenex Recovery.
Post workout supplement benefits and side effects
It’s not just your workout that counts. It’s how you recover from it. Boosting your workout recovery capabilities can help you adapt to your workouts better, and it can also allow you to push yourself harder with longer, more difficult training sessions, because your recovery capabilities are augmented.
With the right post workout supplement, you’ll be able to leverage both of these abilities to improve your fitness.
There are a few key ingredients to be on the lookout for in a post workout supplement, and whether you are training strength, power, speed, or endurance is going to influence which is most important to you.
One ingredient that should be in pretty much any post workout supplement is branched chain amino acids.
Branched chain amino acids are known to prevent muscle damage during exercise as well as enhance muscle recovery following exercise. The mechanism by which this happens was detailed in a 2006 scientific paper in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers in Japan (1).
In it, the researchers demonstrated that post-workout muscle soreness was lower in a group of people who performed squat exercises when they were given a branched chain amino acid supplement.
Branched chain amino acids, according to the authors, prevent the breakdown of skeletal muscle during exercise, because the body is able to use the supplemental branched chain amino acids instead of the branched chain amino acids that make up your muscles.
Leucine, one specific branched chain amino acid, also seems to boost rates of muscle protein synthesis following exercise. This suggests that branched chain amino acid supplements which deliver leucine will increase your body’s ability to adapt to your training.
This is good for two reasons: first, it means that you will gain more benefits from the same workout, and second, it means you can actually push yourself harder in training without fear of overtraining or exceeding your body’s recovery capabilities.
For these reasons, it should be obvious why you want branched chain amino acids in your post workout supplement.
If you are a power athlete engaging in sports or training that lasts for very short bursts of time (less than ten seconds or so), getting some creatine in your post-workout supplement is likely to be helpful.
Creatine is one of the best supplements for increasing your raw strength, and there’s plenty of evidence for its efficacy. A 2003 paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated the effectiveness of creatine supplementation (2).
In it, the authors reviewed several different papers on the use of creatine for strength increases. They found a difference in strength increase of 8% in subjects who received a creatine supplement compared to those who received a placebo.
Both groups tend to improve, of course, after strength training, but people given a creatine supplement tend to improve more.
Athletes who do longer bouts of high-intensity exercise which lasts for at least 60 seconds may seek out post-workout supplements that include compounds that can boost your anaerobic power, like beta-alanine.
Beta-alanine works to increase the ability of your muscles to continue working when there is a lot of acidity being generated from tough, anaerobic workouts.
Beta-alanine functions as a precursor to a compound called L-carnitine, which buffers acidity during high intensity exercise. If you can buffer more acidity during exercise, you can maintain higher levels of workout intensity for a longer time.
A review article published in 2014 reviewed the efficacy of beta-alanine supplementation and found moderately strong evidence that it had a direct performance-enhancing effect in high-power physical exercise tasks (3). The advantage is largest for “power sports” that require bursts of intense energy expenditure for at least 60 seconds, though not long, low-intensity efforts like marathon running or hiking.
The key components of a standard post workout supplement are pretty safe. Branched chain amino acids are found in countless foods, so even if you overdo it on the dosage, it’s hard to encounter real problems.
Likewise for creatine. One of the reasons why it has become such a popular supplement in its own right is its excellent safety profile.
Even long-term studies on creatine use have found no adverse effects, according to a 2002 study on long-term use of creatine in college football players (4).
When you start pushing the boundaries with muscular power boosting supplements like beta-alanine, you may start to see some adverse effects associated with higher doses in the short term.
The most salient of these is flushing, a rush of blood and a feeling of warmth in your face or extremities (5). This occurs when some people take high doses of beta alanine, but does not appear to cause any long-term problems.
Branched chain amino acids are widely studied, but there is a lot of variation in the dosage that athletes are given.
Typical research protocols call for anywhere from three to 18 grams of branched chain amino acids per day.
The most common dosage range is between six and nine grams per day, though larger athletes with more muscle mass may want to veer towards the high end of the dosage range.
When it comes to creatine, the optimal dosage for the first few weeks of a new supplementation routine should be high: 20-25 grams per day, to boost your muscular creatine content (6).After this, you can move to a maintenance phase with a lower dose of 5 grams per day.
Beta-alanine should be dosed between 2 and 6 grams per day (7). Ideally, you’d use a progressive strategy, taking more after the first few weeks to further increase your muscular carnosine content.
The dose should be split up into smaller pieces to be taken throughout the day if you want to avoid flushing.
When you choose the right post workout supplement, you stand a good chance of boosting your body’s ability to recover.
This means that you’ll get a greater benefit from a given workout, and it also means you can push a little harder in your toughest and most challenging workouts because you know that your body’s ability to recover is elevated.
Pretty much all athletes should be on the lookout for branched chain amino acids in their post workout supplement.
Athletes focused on raw strength and short-term power (less than ten seconds of effort) should look for creatine as well.
Athletes who need to be able to produce power for anywhere from 60 seconds to several minutes should try to find a post workout supplement that also includes a muscular power booster like beta alanine if they want to fuel up their muscles for optimal performance.