The 7 Best Post-Workout Supplements of 2020, According to a Dietitian

Achieve your goals with post-workout nutrition

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Our Top Picks
"A convenient, effective, and affordable supplement that promotes recovery post-workout."
Best Ready-to-Drink Protein Shake:
OWYN Plant-Based Protein Shake at Amazon
"A ready-to-drink protein shake that makes it easy to get high-quality nutrition anywhere and any time of day."
"An excellent way to boost protein intake after a workout."
"Helps to replenish water, electrolytes, and energy lost during exercise."
Best Creatine Supplement:
Thorne Research Creatine Powder at Amazon
"A great option to support energy, optimize muscle endurance, and promote muscle building."
"A high-quality, great-tasting BCAA powder."
Best BCAA Capsule:
Solgar BCAA Capsules at Amazon
"Kosher, certified gluten-free, and non-GMO with 1,200 milligrams of BCAAs per serving."

Refueling after a workout is critical for muscle recovery and performance. While there are tons of products on the market that claim to support and optimize your post-workout strategy, it’s essential to choose a safe and scientifically-proven recovery supplement. In a joint position statement, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine support replenishing glycogen and protein stores through carbohydrate and protein-rich foods or sports foods like bars, protein drinks, and electrolyte supplements after exercise. In terms of ergogenic aids, few products are evidence-backed; however, creatine and branched-chain amino acids may be effective.

Here, the best post-workout supplements.

Best Overall: Garden of Life Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein Chocolate Cacao

When it comes to post-workout recovery, an excellent protein powder-based drink does double duty, rehydrating and refueling your muscles with essential amino acids and quickly digested carbohydrates. Research published in 2017 shows that supplementation with whey protein may promote enhanced performance and recovery among resistance-trained individuals. For this reason, protein powder is a convenient, effective, and affordable supplement that promotes recovery post-workout.

Whey protein, such as Garden of Life's Organic Whey Protein, is a high-quality protein source and contains all essential amino acids, as well as some branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are building blocks for muscle growth. This Certified USDA Organic (rBST and rBGH-free), Non-GMO Project Verified product provides ample protein in addition to BCAAs and probiotics, for a good value. The budget-friendly powder comes in five flavors, including chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, lightly sweet, strawberry, and vanilla.

The Garden of Life whey is sourced from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows, and is American Humane Certified. Each serving provides 21 grams of protein, 2 grams of sugar, 120 calories, and 4.7 grams of BCAAs. The product also contains 2 billion CFU of probiotics.

Best Ready-to-Drink Protein Shake: OWYN Plant-Based Protein Shake

Getting adequate protein and carbohydrates after a workout can be a challenge if you don't have access to a kitchen or cafe; however, a ready-to-drink protein shake like OWYN makes it easy to get high-quality nutrition anywhere and any time of day. The delicious beverage requires no refrigeration before you open it, so it’s great to take on the go to work, while hiking, or anywhere you need to refuel along the way. It's a quick and easy post-workout recovery product with clean ingredients that appeal to a wide range of people, from vegan to omnivore and everywhere in between.

OWYN, short for Only What You Need, combines pea protein, organic pumpkin seed protein, and organic flax oil to create their proprietary protein blend. This ready-to-drink protein shake is 100 percent certified vegan and contains 20 grams of plant-based protein per serving. If you have allergies, OWYN is likely safe for you too as it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and tree nut-free. It comes in delicious flavors like Smooth Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Cookies N' Cream, and Cold Brew Coffee.

Best Protein Bar: Papa Steve's No Junk Raw Protein Bars

While it may not seem like a "supplement," a protein bar is an excellent way to boost protein intake after a workout. Looking for a bar with some extra oomph? Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars can be consumed as an on-the-go mini-meal or as a satisfying post-workout snack.

Depending on the flavor, these bars contain anywhere from 12 to 20 grams of protein from raw whey or vegan protein sources, over 50 percent of the recommended daily intake for fiber, and less than 10 grams of sugar. In fact, the sugar in each bar comes from raw dates and fruit.

Each bar is handmade in Southern California from non-GMO, wheat-free, and soy-free ingredients. They last for 45 days at room temperature, two to three months in the refrigerator, or up to six months in the freezer.

Best Electrolyte Powder: Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Drink Mix

Electrolyte-enhanced beverages, or sports drinks, help to replenish water, electrolytes, and energy lost during exercise. These drinks often contain potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, which help combat dehydration, prevent muscle cramping, and delay fatigue.

Ultima's Replenisher Electrolyte Powder provides all six electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus) with no artificial ingredients. This sugar-free, zero-calorie, and zero-carbohydrate beverage is sweetened with stevia. Ultima is made with real fruit flavors and comes in many delicious varieties, including Cherry Pomegranate, Blue Raspberry, Grape, and Orange. The flavors are not overly sweet and taste refreshing.

Unlike other powders, which can be chalky, Ultima mixes well and dissolves completely to become a smooth, hydrating drink. The versatile product can be used for many diets, such as vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly, paleo-friendly, and peanut-free. For those who are sensitive to caffeine, it’s also caffeine-free.

Best Creatine Supplement: Thorne Research Creatine Powder

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for athletes and is widely studied. Research suggests that combining creatine supplementation with resistance and weight training increases muscle strength and lean tissue mass. Thorne's Creatine Powder is a great option to support energy, optimize muscle endurance, and promote muscle building. The product is made up of Creapure, an easily mixed, highly researched form of creatine. This form is a micronized variety of creatine monohydrate that is colorless, odorless, and dissolves easily. Each scoop provides 5 grams of Creatine Monohydrate.

The product is NSF Certified for Sport, so athletes can rest assured that the supplement has been tested and certified for quality, purity, and safety. This certification mark provides quality assurance that the product is free of banned substances, the contents match what is on the label, there are no unsafe levels of contaminants. It also signifies that the manufacturing facility is GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) registered and is frequently audited for quality and safety. The supplement is also allergy-friendly, as it's free from major allergens including gluten, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, soy, fish, and shellfish.

Best BCAA Powder: Thorne Research Amino Complex

Research shows BCAAs may help build muscle size and support recovery when used with a resistance training program. If you're looking for a high-quality, great-tasting BCAA powder, Thorne's Amino Complex is a top choice. The delicious berry-flavored powder is sweetened with stevia and uses no artificial flavors. Each scoop contains eleven amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids (which includes the three BCAAs) as well as cysteine and tyrosine. These two amino acids are known as conditionally essential amino acids, which are needed in higher quantities during times of physical stress, such as exercise recovery.

The powder is free of gluten, dairy, and soy. The product is NSF Certified for Sport, meaning that it is tested to be sure it is free of banned substances and compliant with label claims.

Best BCAA Capsule: Solgar BCAA Plus Vegetable Capsules

The International Society of Sports Nutrition supports the use of branched-chain amino acids as a means to meet the increased protein needs of athletes but recommends choosing whole food options as the primary protein source. When you don't have access to high-quality proteins, a capsule may be the most convenient option. Fortunately, BCAAs also come in capsule form, like this one from Solgar.

Solgar's BCAA capsules are kosher, certified gluten-free, and non-GMO with 1,200 milligrams of BCAAs per serving. They're also free of soy, dairy, yeast, sugar, and sodium, as well as artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and colors. These easy-to-swallow veggie capsules contain leucine, valine, and isoleucine. The "free-form" amino acids in Solgar's formulation are pre-digested and ready to be used by the body. In addition to being in optimally absorbed form, each serving contains 20 milligrams of vitamin B6, a vitamin that supports the metabolism of amino acids.

Final Verdict

For an affordable, easy, protein-packed, post-workout drink, choose a protein powder like Garden of Life's Organic Whey Protein Powder.

What to Look for in a Post-Workout Supplement

Goal: When choosing a post-workout supplement, it's essential to consider your goal. If you're looking to rehydrate and replace electrolytes, an electrolyte powder may be best for you. If overall recovery and refueling is the aim, then a protein shake made from a high-quality protein powder should suffice. For more muscle-building recovery, BCAAs or creatine may be most beneficial.

Form: Post-workout supplements come in many forms, including powders, liquids, and capsules. If you aren't a fan of swallowing pills, powder or liquid may be best for you. Capsules may be better if you're looking for a more convenient and portable supplement.

Quality & Ingredients: Always consider the quality of the supplement you are choosing and what is in it. There are many post-workout supplements on the market that contain potentially dangerous ingredients that may do more harm than good. Choose a supplement that is safe and evidence-based. Speak with your health care provider to ensure that any supplement you take works for your individual needs.



What Experts Say

"High intensity and long workouts (more than 60 to 90 minutes) tap into your glycogen (energy) stores, break down muscle tissue, and stimulate muscles to adapt, while recovery through adequate rest and nutrition facilitates muscle recovery and growth, decreases risk of injury and illness, and prepares your body to crush your next workout. Nutritionally, the recovery process involves consuming carbs for glycogen re-stocking, protein for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue, and fluids and electrolytes lost to sweat for rehydration."—Claire Shorenstein, MS, RD, CDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I am not always comfortable recommending post-workout supplements. After spending time reviewing the most current clinical research and looking at multiple products, however, I came up with a list of products that I would recommend to someone looking to add a recovery product into their routine. — Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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