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My Favorite Post-Workout Supplements to Speed Muscle Recovery

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As a post-menopausal woman, my goal when it comes to fitness is to simply keep my “skin in the game” by staying consistent with exercise and recreational activities yet staying safe and injury free. Whether enjoying a weekend hike, doing strength training or an intense Crossfit class, here are my favorite companion supplements that I take to help me keep my energetic edge and ensure a quick recovery.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are made up of three amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—that are used directly by your muscles as energy during exercise. But BCAAs don’t just help muscle while you’re working out. One study found that, compared to a placebo, consuming 10g of BCAAs twice a day prior to exercise reduced muscle soreness by 30%, decreased the markers of muscle damage by 22%, and improved muscle performance during recovery. The problem is, they can be depleted quickly so it’s smart to consume a BCAA powder mixed with water while you are working out.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is often used to help exercisers reduce body fat. In one study, women taking a daily dose of CLA for 16 weeks had a 4% drop in total body fat mass and a 7% reduction in lower body fat than those taking a placebo. Another trial found that CLA enhanced weight and fat loss compared to a placebo.

Curcumin has a long history of use for pain, which makes it the perfect way to safely and naturally ease exercise-induced, delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a tough workout. According to one small clinical trial published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, taking curcumin for two days before and three days after a dynamic leg workout significantly reduced DOMS. Plus, it gave those taking the supplement a slight boost in performance during their next workout. Other research reports that curcumin also reduces the inflammation and muscle damage triggered by those killer workouts. But, to maximize these benefits, make sure to use a bioavailable form of curcumin like BCM-95.

Ribose is a naturally-occurring sugar that acts as a precursor for ATP synthesis. ATP is the form of energy your cells use. With more energy, you can work out harder, longer, and more often, making it an ideal supplement if you like to do explosive movements like burpees, or participate in high-energy workouts like kickboxing, spin, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) . One study in the American Journal of Physiology found that supplementing with ribose after one week of HIIT workouts led to an enhanced re-synthesis of ATP. For an instant energy boost, simply add a scoop of ribose to eight ounces of juice or water.

Magnesium is essential for healthy muscle function and acts as a natural muscle relaxant. But this vital mineral is easily depleted, especially if you sweat profusely, eat a diet filled with refined foods, drink alcohol, or use diuretics. Even a moderate magnesium depletion can have ill effects on nerve transmission—and that can lead to disturbances in the way your muscles contract and relax. That’s why one common sign that you need more magnesium is muscle cramps. Magnesium may also improve performance, especially as you age. This was shown in a group of 124 women participating in a weekly exercise class. The women taking magnesium were stronger and had better endurance than the women taking a placebo.

While there’s no magic bullet, combining these supplements with a consistent exercise routine can help give you the edge you need to keep in and stay in the game of life! And that can translate to more energy, better health and a happy you!

References

Davis JM. Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007;292(6):R2168-73.

Hellsten Y. Effect of d-ribose supplementation on resynthesis of adenine nucleotides after intense intermittent training in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004;286.1.

Howatson G. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched-chain amino acis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):20.

McFarlin BK. Reduced inflammatory and muscle damage biomarkers following oral supplementation with bioavailable curcumin. BBA Clin. 2016;5:72-8.

Nicol LM. Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Eur J Appli Physiol. 2015;115(8):1769-77.

Veronese N. Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(3):974-81.

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