The Best Targeted Supplements for Post-Workout

Male athletes compete on the track in hurdles.

Recovery after physical activity is a crucial phase in the training program and significantly impacts overall athletic performance. However, this aspect is often overlooked.

Recovery is essential for muscle tissue repair and growth, preventing soreness, and replenishing macro and micronutrients.

The latter should occur through a balanced diet, complete with carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water. Still, it can be complemented with targeted nutraceutical products for the recovery phase that can aid overall sports performance.

In this article, we will explore the main features of some particularly effective supplements for post-workout recovery:

  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • BCAA, or Branched-Chain Amino Acids
  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Casein
  • L-Carnitine
  • L-Glutamine


Whey Protein

Whey protein contains all essential amino acids for muscle repair and represents the gold standard in sports nutrition.

Whey is the ideal protein to enhance muscle mass as it contains the most efficient amino acid profile available in a single protein source.

Moreover, whey protein is not only an excellent choice for promoting muscle growth and recovery but can also contribute to a healthy immune system.

This is thanks to the presence of immunoglobulins, proteins that specifically bind to microbes and help neutralize them, and lactoferrin, a protein that binds to iron with antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Whey proteins are divided into three main categories:

WPC – Whey Protein Concentrate

  • Protein content: 60% to 80%
  • Useful for weight loss due to its function in maintaining and increasing lean mass and muscle mass
  • Good digestibility with very rapid absorption times
  • Contains linoleic acid (CLA, which helps prevent obesity, diabetes, and hypertension)


WPI – Whey Protein Isolate

  • Protein content: 90%
  • Lactose-free
  • Free of carbohydrates and fats
  • Excellent digestibility (30-60 minutes)


WPH – Whey Protein Hydrolized

  • Protein content: 80% to 90%
  • Highly tolerated at the gastrointestinal level by sensitive individuals
  • Very high digestibility
  • Suitable for post-workout due to the rapid increase in amino acids in the bloodstream
  • Increases recovery speed after training if taken with the right amount of liquids and carbohydrates


MPC (Milk Protein Concentrate), or milk protein concentrate, should also be mentioned. These differ from whey proteins as they do not derive from whey but from bovine milk itself.

The protein content of MPC is 80%, and they are rich in calcium and vitamin D. The carbohydrate and fat content is low, but they contain lactose, so they are not suitable for those who are intolerant.

For a complete understanding of powdered proteins, we recommend reading the articles “Comparing Milk Proteins” and “When and How to Take Protein Powder” on our Magazine.

BCAA, Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine make up an amino acid pool also known as BCAA (branched-chain amino acids).

Among the main roles played by BCAA are muscle tissue reconstruction and the slowing down of the breakdown that occurs when muscles are under stress.

BCAA belongs to the group of essential amino acids and needs to be supplemented through nutrition.

Protein-rich foods that are abundant in BCAA include fish, meat, eggs, dairy, and, to a lesser extent, legumes and cereals.

However, those engaging in intense physical activity can turn to BCAA powder supplementation, which can be taken after workouts as part of a targeted sports nutrition plan.

Branched-chain amino acids are widely used by athletes because they are among the elements that make up muscle tissue the most, playing a metabolic role and acting as an anticatabolic remedy, preventing muscle mass from breaking down during physical exertion.

Here are the main functions of BCAA:

  • Promote muscle mass growth
  • Accelerate recovery times
  • Reduce damage caused by intense physical exertion to muscles
  • Provide energy substrate before athletic performance
  • Metabolic role
  • Anticatabolic remedy
  • Help reduce the sensation of fatigue and muscle tiredness


For an in-depth look, we recommend reading the article “Branched-Chain Amino Acids BCAA: What They Are and Why to Take Them” on our Magazine.

Creatine Monohydrate

Ideal for high-intensity anaerobic physical activity such as bodybuilding, creatine is an amino acid naturally present in our bodies. When taken after training, it helps muscles strengthen.

Creatine is synthesized in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, or it can be taken through diet, then captured and stored in muscle tissue.

Creatine is a source of energy for muscles and is used when intense and fast muscle contractions are performed.

The human body consumes its creatine reserves depending on body weight and the intensity of physical activity performed (about 30 mg per kg of body weight). Adequate nutrition, however, allows the recovery of the consumed quantity even in the case of very intense physical activity.

The type of creatine that, according to studies, provides the most benefits is creatine monohydrate.

In particular, the intake of creatine in powder form is recommended as it ensures better solubility.

To see the first results, creatine must be taken for a long period. Taking it immediately before workouts will not yield any visible results and will not improve performance.

On the contrary, it is recommended to take it after training, along with a complete meal of carbohydrates and proteins, to take advantage of the increased muscle insulin sensitivity that occurs after sports performance.

The benefits that creatine brings to the body are many and are supported by numerous scientific studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Among the main ones, the following can be listed:

  • Muscle growth
  • Increase in power and maximum strength
  • Increase in endurance
  • Reduction of recovery times
  • Reduction of the feeling of fatigue
  • Antioxidant, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective activity


Most studies have focused on the role of creatine in subjects practicing high-intensity sports such as football or weightlifting. It is not considered useful for those engaged in endurance sports such as marathons or walking.

Like many natural substances, creatine can have side effects if not taken properly, so it is essential to always consult a doctor before using it.


Casein is the main protein in fresh milk and constitutes about 80% of its protein content.

Particularly rich in essential amino acids, casein is known for its ability to release amino acids gradually into the body, offering prolonged support during physical activity.

Casein is naturally present in cow, sheep, or goat milk and its derivatives. Particularly good sources of casein are yogurt and fresh cheeses with low fat content (but not ricotta because it is the only cheese devoid of it).

However, for those who engage in sports and desire a concentrated and targeted intake, powdered casein is a practical solution that can be easily incorporated into their dietary regimen in the required amount.

Among the major benefits of casein are the gradual release of energy and support for muscle growth.

Casein provides a slow and steady release of amino acids, providing long-term energy, perfect for overnight recovery and prolonged activities such as power sports (throws, jumps, and short-distance running like the 100 meters).

Additionally, thanks to its amino acid profile, casein contributes to protein synthesis and muscle recovery, promoting the growth and maintenance of lean mass.

Casein can be consumed through protein shakes, to be taken after training, for dinner, or before bedtime, to provide the body with a constant protein supply during the night.


Commonly known as carnitine, this amino acid derivative is effective in burning fats for energy and is also involved in cardiac, muscular, and cerebral functions. When taken post-workout, it helps preserve muscles.

From a chemical standpoint, L-Carnitine is a substance present in animal tissues, including humans. Carnitine is synthesized by the body itself and derives from two essential amino acids, methionine and lysine.

The main function of carnitine is to transport fatty acids to cells, specifically to mitochondria, where they are converted into energy.

When used as a supplement in sports, carnitine has various properties:

  • Helps improve athletic performance
  • Facilitates weight loss
  • Promotes fat burning during sports activities
  • Contributes to muscle recovery after intense physical exertion
  • Aids in the restoration of muscle tissue in case of injuries
  • Increases physical endurance
  • Delays the onset of fatigue
  • Helps maintain physical energy during intense physical activity


Carnitine is naturally found in many protein-rich foods such as meat, dairy, but also in some vegetables, such as avocado and soy derivatives like tempeh.

Those following a targeted sports nutrition plan may resort to carnitine supplements, but always under the supervision of a dietitian or a doctor, as it can have side effects and interact with some medications.


L-Glutamine, more commonly known as glutamine, is the most abundant amino acid in the human body. Despite being a non-essential amino acid (NEAA), it can become essential in certain conditions of intense stress, trauma, serious illnesses like tumors, or in cases of extreme physical exertion.

Under normal conditions, glutamine can be supplemented through the diet. Foods rich in glutamine include dairy, eggs, fish, and meat, as well as some vegetables.

From a biological standpoint, glutamine performs crucial functions for the body, including:

  • Strengthening the immune defenses
  • Promoting recovery from injuries and lesions
  • Reducing joint pains
  • Supporting intestinal health


In a strictly sports context, glutamine can be supplemented to support the body when subjected to particularly intense physical activity. Since strenuous physical activity can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections.

Other properties recognized in the sports field for glutamine include:

  • Aids in recovery after athletic performance
  • Promotes hydration and increased muscle mass
  • Reduces the risks of overtraining syndrome linked to extreme physical exertion
  • Detoxifying action (especially from ammonia)
  • Antioxidant action (contributes to the synthesis of glutathione, a potent antioxidant)


Glutamine is a common ingredient in energy drinks and should be taken both before and after training.

It should be noted that glutamine is particularly sensitive to heat, water, and pH variations. Additionally, it is not easily absorbed.

Therefore, it is crucial to always consult a doctor who can determine the correct dosage before integrating it into your dietary plan.

Last but not least, it is useful to know that electrolytes also need to be replenished, both during and after workouts. These micronutrients, mainly composed of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are lost from our body through sweat.

Electrolytes are essential for cardiac, pulmonary, and metabolic processes, and it is therefore important to replenish them after workouts.

In conclusion, for those engaged in sports, it is essential to remember that intense physical activity cannot do without a dietary plan tailored to one’s needs and rest after workouts.

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