Top 5 Recovery Powders for Athletes

When it comes to recovery, protein is not the only gain in town.
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What comes to mind when you think of recovery nutrition? Likely it’s protein powder, and while we’re certainly not knocking the power of this training staple, there are tons of alternative products to consider when looking to enhance recovery. Here’s an expert-curated list of five supplemental powders and how they could take your recovery — and your results — to the next level.

Magnesium Powder 

Magnesium assists in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including bone tissue synthesis, heart health and brain function. “Magnesium also affects muscle function, including oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance,” says Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, sports dietician nutritionist who works with Life Extension and multiple pro sports teams in Atlanta. Magnesium also helps your parasympathetic nervous system to relax, giving you a feeling of calm and helping you get better sleep — which is when your body does the bulk of its recovering. Spano recommends active women supplement with about 600 milligrams of elemental magnesium daily — but don’t overdo it because taking too much magnesium can have a laxative effect.  

Mushroom powder in bowl

Mushroom powder helps balance hormones, and boosts oxygen delivery.

Mushroom Powder Blend

“These powders boost oxygen delivery and ATP synthesis,” says Jillian Michaels, health and wellness expert and creator of the My Fitness by Jillian Michaels app. “Plus, they are adaptogens that help balance your hormone levels and support the body’s recovery from both emotional and psychological stress.” The most common mushrooms found in recovery powders are reishi, cordyceps and chaga, which reduce stress and anxiety, increase ATP and decrease inflammation, respectively. Try adding the powder to your morning coffee or blending it into a postworkout shake.

Electrolyte (Hydration) Powder

“Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are the driving force behind the beat of the heart and proper functioning of nerves, muscles and cells,” says KC Craichy, founder and CEO of Living Fuel, sports-nutrition expert and nutrition adviser of the Titleist Performance Institute. An imbalance/depletion of electrolytes could lead to headaches, mental fog, muscle cramps, fatigue, injury and, in very extreme circumstances, death. Electrolyte powders replace the essential minerals lost when you sweat, and Craichy advises ingesting them both during and after training. “Recovery actually begins moments after exertion, not just at the end of your workout,” he says. Look for a formula that contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride and magnesium to cover all your bases.

Beetroot Powder

Beetroot contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help with delayed onset muscle soreness and recovery, according to Michaels. Studies also show that supplementation with beetroot juice, which is converted to nitric oxide in your body, may improve performance at high-intensity effort by dilating blood vessels and improving the delivery of oxygen throughout your body. What’s more, the antioxidants in beetroot have been shown to combat excess production of free radicals and control oxidative stress. Enjoy a beetroot powder mixed with water immediately after strenuous exercise, or use it as a supplement 45 to 90 minutes before your workout to boost athletic performance.

Greens Powder

Performance and recovery require lots of energy, and nutrient-dense greens, berries and their extracts can help facilitate energy production. “[Greens] literally store and deliver energy from the sun and contain numerous antioxidants and phytonutrients,” Craichy says. A quality greens blend includes a variety of compounds such as spirulina, chlorella, kale, kelp and wheatgrass, as well as antioxidants, enzymes and probiotics. “Greens powders also help increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and the synthesis of ATP,” Michaels explains. “This, in combination with antioxidants that counteract the byproducts of exercise, enables athletes to train longer and recover quicker.” Take your greens any time of day, either mixed into a smoothie or juice or just down it with plain water.