A few of the best post-workout supplements including AG1, Transparent Labs Mass Gainer, and Thorne Creatine in front of free weights on a blue background.

Creatine and 10 Other Post-Workout Supplements That Deserve a Spot in Your Recovery Stack

Cut back on muscle soreness and boost gains.

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It’s an all too common scenario: You down your pre-workout, dial in your playlist, crush all your lifts, and obsessively start plotting your next workout on the way home. Two days later everything hurts. Muscle soreness after a workout is normal, but if it seems like you’re never not sore it might be time to zero in on the best post-workout supplements. 

A solid post-workout supplement routine can help provide the body with nutrients required to boost muscle recovery and repair, build muscle and restore function, and ensure all of that hard work you’ve been putting in at the gym doesn’t go to waste. But between protein powder, creatine, BCAA’s, electrolytes, and more, the options can be overwhelming.

What actually deserves a spot in your recovery stack? We tapped sports nutrition researchers, sports nutritionists, and certified personal trainers to find out.

About the Experts:

Dr. Adam Gonzalez, Ph.D., CSCS, CISSN, is the Chief Scientific Officer at SHIFTED. He has a passion for sports nutrition scientific research, with an emphasis on dietary supplements.

Melissa Boufounos, CHN, is a sports nutritionist and owner of MB Performance Nutrition who specializes in holistic nutrition.

Sarah Herrington, MS, CNC, CPT is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach with her MS in Clinical Nutrition from Sonoran University of Health Sciences. She’s a nutritionist at Brio-Medical.

11 Best Post-Workout Supplements

Everyone’s workout goals are different—which is why we’ve rounded up the most popular post-workout supplements and featured the best expert-backed pick in each category. Plus, we’ve broken down the benefits to help you decide if a supplement is right for you.

Don’t have time to dig through the full list? We got you. Here are our top picks:

How to Choose a Post-Workout Supplement

Transparency about ingredients and dosage on the label is critical, per Gonzalez. “Always choose a third-party tested supplement for quality and purity,” says Boufounos. The NSF Certified for Sport, Informed-Choice, or GMP logo on the product label is an added layer of comfort that what you see on the label is exactly what you’re getting. “Overall, be sure you are buying from a reputable brand,” adds Gonzalez.

Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Workout Supplements

You’ve got questions about post-workout supplements, we’ve got answers.

What is the best supplement for post-workout recovery?

After a workout, your priority should be to refuel, repair, and rehydrate, says Boufounos. “A high-quality protein powder can help enhance and aid recovery, especially if you won’t be eating a meal within an hour or two of finishing your workout,” she adds.

What’s a good post-workout supplement stack?

It depends on your goals. For muscle recovery, both Gonzalez and Boufounos post-workout supplement stacks prioritize protein which provides muscles with what they need to recover and grow, and tart cherry to reduce inflammation, boost muscle recovery, and improve sleep (13).

Gonzalez gets his protein from a mix of whey protein isolate and EAAs—which deliver amino acids to your muscles more quickly than whey, making them ideal for immediate recovery after a hard workout. He takes SHIFTED Recovery—a formula similar to Ladder Whey Protein—which contains whey protein, EAAs, and 500 mg of tart cherry powder, too.

On the other hand, Boufounos prefers a scoop of plant-based protein powder in a cup of soy milk (she has a dairy allergy) alongside a cup of tart cherry juice. “The tart cherry juice provides carbohydrates to refuel, the protein powder and soy milk provide protein to repair, and I’m rehydrating at the same time,” she explains.

What helps muscles recover faster?

“Supplements are just the sprinkles on the cake. You can’t expect a post-workout supplement to save a poor diet and lifestyle,” says Boufounos. To maximize recovery:

  • Refuel with carbohydrates and protein, and rehydrate immediately after a workout
  • Eat enough calories overall
  • Eat 20 to 30 grams of protein every three to four hours
  • Get your macro and micronutrients in order
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep every night
  • Follow a well-designed training program that includes rest days, deloads, and/or tapering
  • When in doubt about your food, work with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition
  • When in doubt about your workout, work with a personal trainer.
1. Park, S. et al. (2020). Anabolic Response to Essential Amino Acid Plus Whey Protein Composition is Greater Than Whey Protein Alone in Young Healthy Adults.
2. Levers, K. et al. (2015). Effects of Powdered Montmorency Tart Cherry Supplementation on an Acute Bout of Intense Lower Body Strength Exercise in Resistance Trained Males.
3. O’Connor, E. et al. (2022). Nutritional Compounds to Improve Post-Exercise Recovery.
4. Food & Drug Administration (2023). Aspartame and Other Sweeteners in Food.
5. Kersick, C. et al. (2022). ISSN Exercise and Sports Nutrition Review Update: Research and Recommendations.
6. Candow, D. et al. (2022). Creatine O’ Clock: Does Timing of Ingestion Really Influence Muscle Mass and Performance.
7. Plotkin, D. et al. (2021). Isolated Leucine and Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation for Enhancing Muscular Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review.
8. Ferrando, A. et al. (2023). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Effects of Essential Amino Acid Supplementation on Exercise and Performance.
9. Choi, D. et al. (2021). Effects of Electrolyte Supplements on Body Water Homeostasis and Exercise Performance During Exhaustive Exercise.
10. Fan, P. et al. (2021). Efficacy of Ingesting Oral Rehydration Solution After Exercise on Fluid Balance and Endurance Performance.
11. Nedeltcheva, A. et al. (2011). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity.
12. Vitale, K. et al. (2017). Tart Cherry Juice in Athletes: A Literature Review and Commentary.
13. Williams, J. et al. (2016). L-Theanine as a Functional Food Additive: Its Role in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
14. Bent, S. et al. (2006). Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
15. Sateia, M. et al. (2017). Clinical Practice Guideline for the Pharmacologic Treatment of Chronic Insomnia in Adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline.