Exercise may be the trigger, but recovery is the builder, or restorer. How the body reacts to worn muscles, depleted nutrients and energy, rising inflammation, and various bodily damage is what determines the benefits of exercise, “gains" if you will.
A number of dietary ingredients can help protect muscles from oxidation and inflammation, promote muscle growth, replenish nutrients, build up energy reserves and soothe aching joints from various levels of exercise. The research on these compounds is growing and offers formulators a good dose of science to strengthen sports recovery end products.
For post-exercise muscle development, amino acids and proteins help to mend damaged proteins and stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is vital to build stronger muscle. For instance, the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, isoleucine and valine—offer such mechanisms as well as reduced muscle soreness.
Inflammation can damage both muscles and joints, but there is a roster of natural compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that can help balance inflammation to help the body repair itself without entering a chronically inflamed state. Botanical ingredients such as curcumin and tart cherry are among the researched compounds benefiting muscle health.
Some compounds like tart cherries and omega-3 fatty acids address both inflammation and oxidation, both which can be setbacks to recovery if left unbalanced and unmanaged. Glutathione is another key antioxidant that has demonstrated recovery benefits in published research.
Inflammation around worn cartilage and tendons can leave post-workout joints sore, especially the knees. Unique ingredients such as specialty collagens and eggshell membrane can help active consumers soothe such aches and pains and quicken readiness for the next workout.
A large part of recovering from exercise is replenishing energy for the next workout and for all the life activities between workouts. While many people turn to caffeine for a jolt, there are many natural compounds that play a role in actual energy production, which occurs on a cellular level and involves breaking bonds on the molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The more quickly these bonds can be restored, the more quickly energy can be produced. Ingredients including ribose, carnitine, creatine and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) each has either a structural or transport role in ATP production and cycling. Specialty carbs and amino acids have also been found to facilitate energy production processes by improving delivery of nutrients to muscles and organs, in some cases by increasing blood flow.
For more a detailed look at the research on sports recovery ingredients, check out the article “Rebuild, Restore, Recover," found in special INSIDER Digital Magazine on Sports Nutrition Recovery.