5 best all-natural supplements for workout recovery
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Ready. Set. Recover.
Recovering from your workouts—especially if you’re just getting back into the game or trying something new—isn’t always easy. And, actually, it’s not really supposed to be. Occasional soreness, muscle aches, changes in your appetite, maybe some fatigue? These inconveniences are the price you pay as you rip apart muscle fibers so they can grow back stronger and more resilient (and bigger, of course). The saying “No pain, no gain” is cliché for a reason, but there are certainly some steps you can take to minimize your post-workout bounce back.
Studies show that certain supplements—like the ones mentioned below—may help you see results faster, while lowering you risk for injuries as you progress.
Of course you’ve heard of bone broth, as every health and wellness have been touting its amazing benefits for the past few years. Bone broth gets its healing power from the bones, marrow, skin, feet, tendons and ligaments of animals, and while those don’t sound like the tastiest parts of a chicken or cow, that’s exactly where nutrients like collagen, amino acids and trace minerals are found. By slow-simmering these throwaway animal parts, the water they are cooked in is transformed to a magical healing elixir that is known to heal a host of health conditions, including leaky gut. And while you may not equate a warm broth with a typical post-workout recovery meal, the truth is that the collagen it contains can help repair connective tissue, while the amino acids help build lean muscle mass.
Sounds good, but who has time to simmer a pot of broth for 24 hours, right? Well, now, you don’t have to. New products like bone broth protein are making it easier than ever to add some bone broth goodness to smoothies and shakes, sweet treats, savory foods like meatballs or whatever else you grab after a two-hour sweat session.
Today there are numerous plant-based protein powders hitting store shelves that tend to be easier to digest and adaptable to any dietary restrictions—but just as beneficial as their animal-based counterparts when it comes to supporting and building lean muscle mass.
Two noteworthy options in the plant-based protein category: hemp protein powder and pea protein powder. Hemp seeds have one of the highest concentrations of protein amongst all edible seeds, and they’re also rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Meanwhile, pea protein powder is considered to be one of the most hypoallergenic of all protein powders, while still packing a serious protein punch. It is also known to stabilize blood sugar, and because it contains no gluten or dairy, it’s also unlikely to cause symptoms that are common with other protein powders, like bloating and gas.
Although every formula is slightly different, green superfood blends usually contain a mix of digestive herbs or enzymes, probiotics and—thanks to ingredients like spirulina, acai, pomegranate, alfalfa and goji berry—a plethora of anti-aging antioxidants. We all know that it’s important to eat our greens, but most of us just aren’t getting enough. The good news for veggie slackers is that one serving of a powdered greens drink can supply the nutrient equivalent of eating 3-5 servings of produce.
So what, exactly, are the workout-related benefits of a concentrated dose of dried greens, herbs and berries? More energy, improved digestion, decreased inflammation and increased alkalinity (which supports detoxification) are just the beginning. For the most bang for your buck, look for a greens formula made with mostly raw and organic ingredients to ensure that delicate antioxidants haven’t been destroyed.
Most of us get a good deal of B vitamins from foods like meat, dairy and eggs, but many people have a hard time digesting at least a portion of what they consume. And the more active we are, the more we require B vitamins to help support processes like nutrient conversions, ATP (energy) production and cell repair.
Deficiencies in B vitamins, including vitamin B12 or B6, are tied to symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, joint pain and trouble breathing—not exactly helpful when you’re trying to go hard in the gym. Supplementing with a quality B vitamin complex formula—especially if you’re a vegetarian or have a digestive disorder that might hinder absorption—may help prevent these problems.
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5. Adaptogen Herbs
Elevated cortisol levels and chronic stress affect nearly every physiological system in the body—including the thyroid and adrenal glands, which govern things like energy expenditure, sleep quality, appetite and fat storage. Keeping this systems functioning optimally is of critical importance, especially when you’re inflicting trauma to the body through regular, intense workouts. Unfortunately, though, the stresses of life, coupled with a poor diet and lack of sleep, can undermine our best exercise efforts.
Adaptogen herbs including ashwaganda, astragalus, ginseng and holy basil are a group of natural plants that help support your body’s resilience against various forms of stress—thereby fighting fatigue and improving your mood, blood sugar stabilization and production of key hormones. The best part? They’ve been used safely for thousands of years in healing systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, so they don’t pose the same scary risks as some modern, synthetic products. Adaptogen herbs can help support your body’s ability to recover from your workouts, while preventing stress and other factors from derailing your efforts.