Try These Six Supplements to Optimize Your Workout Recovery


Is the all-too-familiar feeling of struggling to walk up the stairs or sit down at your desk after a tough workout preventing you from being consistent with exercise? You’re not alone, so many other people are also raising their hands to that question.


Proper nutrition is essential when it comes to workout recovery. Making sure you are getting enough protein and carbohydrates is the first order of business. Carbohydrates serve to refill your glycogen stores and fuel your muscleas, while eating enough protein provides your body with the critical amino acids responsible for muscle building. 


However, if you feel like you’ve got your diet down pat and are still experiencing the following, it may be time to consider supplementation to optimize your workout recovery:


  • Find yourself fatigued for days after a workout
  • Experience prolonged muscle soreness
  • Itching to hit new PR’s in the gym but progress is stagnant 
  • Looking to reduce inflammation after a strenuous workout
  • Want to enhance your muscle-building capability


Disclaimer: always consult with your doctor or primary care provider before adding any dietary supplements to your routine. 



One supplement to consider adding to your workout recovery routine is Leucine. This essential amino acid is used in the synthesis of proteins, especially muscle. 


The consensus on Leucine supplementation to enhance muscle protein synthesis is a bit mixed. 

The majority of studies suggest consuming leucine through supplementation, or by upping your complete protein intake through whole food sources, increases muscle protein synthesis[9.10]. Conversely, a few other research studies have found inconsistent results. 


In much of the research with inconsistent results about leucine supplementation’s effect on muscle protein synthesis, many of the study participants had pre-existing conditions that can negatively affect normal amino-acid and insulin signaling pathways responsible for muscle building. 


You may find many fitness gurus carrying around a supplement called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). This supplement promotes recovery from workouts by turning on the mTOR signaling pathway which regulates protein synthesis. 


Leucine is found in BCAAs and may be the main amino acid responsible for turning mTOR on. Leucine and other essential BCAAs can also be found in protein powders. The amino acid profile of protein powders can vary by source and brand so always check the label. 


Some say that exclusively taking leucine as opposed to all three BCAAs may provide more benefits when it comes to muscle growth. More research is needed to compare the effectiveness of taking a leucine supplement alone versus taking BCAAs. 


If you’re up in the air, consider which is more cost-effective for you. 


So with all the noise around leucine supplementation, how do you get the most out of it? Aim for the trifecta: pair resistance training with a diet rich in complete protein sources while complementing everything with leucine supplementation[11]


Here’s a list of whole food sources of complete proteins (containing all 9 essential amino acids):


  • Animal-based
    • Eggs
    • Poultry
    • Fish
    • Beef
    • Dairy products
  • Plant-based
    • Soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh)
    • Quinoa
    • Buckwheat
    • Hemp seeds



Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats. The three main omega-3s include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 


Foods high in omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, sardines, oysters, shrimp, grass-fed beef, algae, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp hearts. If you aren’t finding yourself frequently incorporating any of the above into your diet, supplementation may help bridge nutritional gaps. 


The scientific literature is rich in evidence of the various benefits of these fatty acids such as:


  • Reduction in cardiovascular disease[18]
  • Reduction in plasma triglycerides[4]
  • Improvement in depressive symptoms[3]
  • Prevention of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders[16]
  • Improvement in and protection of skin health[12]


In addition to the above, a lesser-known benefit of omega-3 supplementation is improved workout recovery. 


Due to their potent anti-inflammatory effects, omega-3s may reduce muscle soreness. Although more research is needed to determine the optimal dosage, 2,400 mg of EPA and 1,800 mg of DHA led to study participants feeling less sore following strenuous exercise[17]


Outside of quelching inflammation, omega-3s may hold the potential to increase muscle mass and function following exercise. In a small study, healthy men and women who received fish oil supplementation for six months showed increases in thigh muscle volume, hand grip strength, and one-repetition maximum (1-RM) muscle strength[15].



Considering its role in approximately 300 enzymatic functions in the body, magnesium is arguably one of the most important minerals to ensure you’re getting enough of. This is especially true if you spend quite a bit of time crushing it in the gym or with at-home workouts. 


Many of the enzymatic reactions magnesium is a cofactor for, involve the synthesis of proteins (including muscle) and supporting the structural function of mitochondria[8].


Aside from the part it plays in protein formation, magnesium can provide relief when it comes to muscle soreness. Magnesium allows muscles to fully relax and clear lactic acid thus enhancing your workout recovery. 


In a recent study, magnesium supplementation significantly reduced muscle soreness pain scale ratings compared to a placebo group which demonstrated no significant changes[13]


In this same study, magnesium decreased the production of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6). A little bit of inflammation, such as through IL-6 signaling, is necessary post-workout to stimulate muscle growth, but magnesium keeps things in check to prevent an inflammatory cytokine storm. 


Sleep is an essential recovery tool, and this critical mineral may also help you drift off into the abyss. Both magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate offer muscle and nervous system relaxation.


You can even experiment with a third form of magnesium known as magnesium sulfate. This form is often found in Epsom salt bath soaks. 


The benefits of magnesium supplementation for workout recovery are observed under a dosage of at least 500 mg on a daily basis. 


Coenzyme Q-10 


Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) is abundant in almost every cell of the human body. Its concentration is highest in organ systems involved with a lot of metabolic processes. 


Roles of CoQ10 vary from energy production, immune system support, prevention of oxidative stress, insulin production, and immunoglobulin production[14]. You could say it is a superfood for your cells.


We often see it marketed for its benefits related to cardiovascular health. But, did you know this powerful antioxidant can be quite helpful in aiding workout recovery?


Like magnesium, CoQ10 works to scavenge free radicals and inflammatory cytokines produced during and after exercise. In one study, 14-day supplementation of CoQ10 resulted in decreased inflammatory blood markers including IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-ɑ), and C-reactive protein (CRP)[1]


CoQ10’s effects on workout recovery were observed at a dose of 5 mg a day. Because CoQ10 is a fat-soluble vitamin, it should be taken with food. 


CoQ10’s benefits can even extend beyond workout recovery. In one study, short-term supplementation of CoQ10 increased muscle CoQ10 concentration which led to increased time until exhaustion during strenuous exercise[7]


CoQ10 levels naturally decline with age so supplementation may be even more warranted in older individuals looking to improve exercise performance and recovery. 


Beet Root Juice Powder


“Eat your vegetables!” says every grandma ever. Grandma’s advice to eat more plants might extend beyond your plate, all the way to the weight rack!


Grandma may not have been referring specifically to beets, but consuming these roots is actually a well-researched tool to aid in muscle performance and recovery. 


Surprised? I was too. 


Beetroots are rich in nitric oxide which has many effects on the body and is involved in the following:


  • Vasodilation
  • Blood flow
  • Platelet function
  • Mitochondrial function
  • Oxygen and nutrient delivery[2]


Nitric oxide’s roles in the body most likely explain beetroot’s positive effects on exercise recovery and performance. A study found that beetroot juice powder significantly improved functional recovery in sprinters[5]. “Functional recovery” was measured using countermovement jumps (CMJ), reactive strength index (RI), and pain after muscle damage resulting from repeated sprint tests (RST). 


Although beetroot juice is rich in antioxidants which are proven to protect muscle cells from oxidative stress, this is not the mechanism proven beneficial for workout recovery.


More research is needed to examine other constituents of beets and their potential role in workout recovery. Some of the constituents of beets yet to be explored include their high concentrations of vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and betalainic compounds. 



Creatine is an amino acid found abundantly in the muscles and brain. Out of all the supplements mentioned, creatine may be the most extensively studied. 


This ergogenic aid has proven to do the following:


  • Increase lean muscle mass
  • Improve strength
  • Reduce muscle damage and inflammation
  • Speed up recovery following strenuous exercise
  • Support cellular energy production


People often pigeonhole themselves by thinking massive bodybuilders are the only ones who can benefit from creatine supplementation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 


Creatine consistently demonstrates its benefits on a variety of athletes. It can be used to supplement high-intensity activities, short-burst duration exercises, resistance strength training, and endurance sports. 


So if you’re a weight lifter, powerlifter, long-distance runner, sprinter, swimmer, professional athlete, or frequent gym goer …… listen up.


There is so much scientific literature on creatine’s extensive benefits on sports performance that it deserves a separate article. So, let’s just focus on recovery.


In many studies, creatine supplementation has shown its ability to reduce the post-exercise inflammatory response and remedy symptoms of muscle damage and soreness hours and even days following exercise[19].


Reduced creatine kinase levels were observed in a group of test subjects with exercise-induced damage supplementing with creatine. This reduction in inflammatory markers was seen all the way from 48 hours up to 7 days following exercise[6]


For context, high amounts of creatine kinase are released into the blood when muscle damage is present. 


Considering there is little evidence of concerning side effects, trialing with creatine supplementation under professional supervision is generally safe. The standard dosage is around 5 g. 


Important Takeaways: Supplements for Enhanced Workout Recovery



Being overwhelmed by fatigue and muscle soreness dampens your motivation to stay consistent in the gym. Incorporating supplements to optimize your workout recovery can be a piece of the puzzle to reaching your goals. 


When it comes to selecting supplements, consider your personal needs along with these questions:


  • What symptoms are you dealing with related to workout recovery? 
  • Which are most cost-effective?
  • What would be the easiest to incorporate?
  • Which are the least intimidating to you?
  • Which do you feel would bring the most benefit based on research?


The timing of taking certain supplements varies depending on the effect you are trying to produce. I encourage you to do your own research, read testimonials, or consult with a professional. 


Any of the mentioned supplements do not promise desired outcomes when it comes to workout recovery. Like any health intervention, individual results may vary. 


Again, please consult with a licensed health professional or your primary care provider before implementing any supplements into your daily routine. If your primary care provider has given you the thumbs up, try one supplement to start and observe how your body responds over time. 


It could be a game-changer for your workout recovery and beyond.