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5 Daily Recovery Supplements I Take to Return to Training Faster

best recovery supplements for endurance athletes

As an endurance athlete, half of the equation to building fitness is recovery. While sleep is paramount, there are certain recovery supplements that I take daily to help accelerate the muscle recovery process and return to training faster.

Currently, my pursuits are in long-distance gravel cycling. I compete at the professional and elite amateur levels, I try to get the most out of my aging, 37-year-old body. Right now, I am putting in between 12 and 20-hour training weeks on the bike. 

Though clean eating and proper nutrition are my top priority, I found certain recovery supplements to help immensely. Below I touch on each of these supplements and why they’re so effective.

1. Turmeric (Curcumin) Supplementation

Turmeric Supplement for Recovery

Turmeric (or more specifically, curcumin, its active compound) has long been studied for its benefits in supporting muscle recovery. Several studies suggest that turmeric and curcumin supplementation can reduce perceived muscle soreness and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise.[1]

Research shows that curcumin has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce muscle damage and soreness post-exercise. Some studies have reported that taking curcumin supplements before and after exercise can attenuate DOMS.[2]

At the time of writing this, I am mixing in a lot of strength work in the gym, combined with low-intensity zone 2 training. In short, I get the DOMS quite frequently. Turmeric helps tremendously in mitigating this sore feeling. It also has extraordinary cognitive benefits that are certainly noticeable.

Right now, I am trying out Rho’s Liposomal Curcumin & Resveratrol, which is a level-up from typical powder and pill-based turmeric supplements.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fish Oil Supplement for Recovery

Like curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids have serious benefits for endurance athletes, particularly around reduced muscle soreness and inflammation, improved muscle recovery, and neuroprotective qualities.[3]

Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation following exercise. But it takes more than just one or two fish oil pills to make a substantial difference.

One study found that 6g of fish oil (4200 mg of EPA and DHA) was the most effective at delaying perceived soreness and lowering markers of muscle damage. For most fish oil supplements, that can mean eating upwards of 8 or more soft gels, depending on how concentrated they are.[4]

That’s not out of the ordinary for high-level athletes. While I don’t always consume 6g worth, I will typically shoot for no less than 3g, except for big training days in which I’ll consume more.

Omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements rich in EPA and DHA come in many forms, ranging from soft gels to liquid. I am a fan of Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, as it’s highly concentrated.

3. Plant-based Protein Powder

Plant-based Protein Powder Best Recovery Supplements for Endurance Athletes

Because I don’t eat a lot of meat, I like to supplement my protein intake with a high-quality plant-based protein powder. But what qualifies as high-quality?

In short, I opt for products that have the following qualities:

  • Low-sugar protein powder without artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
  • A complete protein blend with not only all nine essential amino acids but also an abundance of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
  • Performance blends that contain recovery-enhancing ingredients like turmeric, tart cherry, and probiotics.
  • Primarily organic protein powders that contain non-GMO ingredients

Some plant-based protein powders, such as hemp protein powder, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and support muscle recovery after exercise.

Two products I regularly purchase are Garden of Life Sport Protein and Vega Sport Protein. These protein powders are rich in BCAAs and contain high-quality ingredients that promote muscle recovery and lower inflammation. 

See my post on the best vegan protein powders for athletic recovery for more insight.

4. Magnesium

Magnesium Supplement for Recovery

Magnesium is one of the most important and abundant minerals in the body, yet a vast majority of people (surveys show over 70%) are deficient in it. Athletes are particularly at risk of magnesium deficiency due to increased utilization during exercise,[5] so this one recovery supplement that I take daily.

A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that magnesium supplementation may improve exercise performance by enhancing glucose and muscle blood levels and reducing lactate accumulation in the muscle.[6] 

Another study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine looked at magnesium supplementation in professional cyclists. The study found magnesium to have a protective effect on overall muscle damage throughout a stage race.[7] 

These studies collectively demonstrate the range of benefits magnesium has as an athletic recovery supplement, including:

  • Muscle relaxation: Athletes can mitigate muscle cramps and spasms during rigorous exercise, as magnesium helps to regulate muscle and nerve function.
  • Energy production: Magnesium plays a vital role in energy production within the body, which is essential for muscle recovery.
  • Reduced inflammation and improved blood flow: Magnesium helps reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to the muscles, promoting faster recovery.
  • Improved sleep quality: Magnesium helps improve sleep quality, which is subsequently essential for muscle recovery and overall health.
  • Electrolyte balance: A key ingredient in many sports drinks, magnesium helps maintain electrolyte balance, which is important for proper muscle function and recovery.

Taking magnesium as a supplement for recovery is something you don’t want to go overboard. Research suggests taking between 500-700 mg of magnesium per day is safe and optimizes the benefits for muscle recovery.

While I’ll sometimes take it in pill form, my favorite is Natural Vitality’s Calm, a magnesium citrate supplement that comes in a drink mix powder. It tastes delicious and is a great beverage after workouts.

5. Vegan BCAAs

Vegan BCAA Powder Supplement for Recovery

Branched-chain amino acids–or leucine, isoleucine, and valine–are three important amino acids the body needs for proper muscle recovery.

Not only do BCAAs play a role in muscle protein synthesis, but ample consumption of these aminos can reduce exercise-induced muscle damage[8] as well as mitigate muscle soreness.[9]

BCAAs are rich in foods like eggs, meat, and dairy–mostly animal-based foods. In supplement form, BCAA powders are sourced from highly synthesized animal products, like fur, hair, nails, and other sketchy sources.

This is why I always opt for a vegan BCAA powder. Sure, my protein powder has BCAAs, which I like to consume right after a workout. However, consuming a BCAA powder before or during a workout can accelerate the recovery process. 

Vegan BCAA powders are mostly made from non-GMO corn. They’re significantly cleaner and are highly bioavailable and digestible compared to animal-based alternatives.

I like Kaged BCAA 2:1:1 powder because it’s purely vegan BCAAs and nothing else–no added flavors, sweeteners, etc. Just pure BCAAs that I can add to my drink mix while on the bike. 

What Recovery Supplements Do You Take?

Aside from a healthy diet, ample sleep, and plenty of stretching and mobility work, adding supplementation to your recovery routine can help immensely. 

These are just a handful of recovery supplements that work for me. If you use certain supplements to help boost your recovery process, I’d like to know about them. Drop a comment below or submit the contact form to share your recommendations.

Scientific References

  1. Yoon WY, Lee K, Kim J. Curcumin supplementation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): effects, mechanisms, and practical considerations. Phys Act Nutr. 2020 Sep;24(3):39-43. doi: 10.20463/pan.2020.0020. Epub 2020 Sep 30. PMID: 33108717; PMCID: PMC7669469.
  2. Campbell MS, Carlini NA, Fleenor BS. Influence of curcumin on performance and post-exercise recovery. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(7):1152-1162. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1754754. Epub 2020 Apr 22. PMID: 32319320.
  3. VanDusseldorp TA, Escobar KA, Johnson KE, Stratton MT, Moriarty T, Kerksick CM, Mangine GT, Holmes AJ, Lee M, Endito MR, Mermier CM. Impact of Varying Dosages of Fish Oil on Recovery and Soreness Following Eccentric Exercise. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 27;12(8):2246. doi: 10.3390/nu12082246. PMID: 32727162; PMCID: PMC7468920.
  4. VanDusseldorp TA, Escobar KA, Johnson KE, Stratton MT, Moriarty T, Kerksick CM, Mangine GT, Holmes AJ, Lee M, Endito MR, Mermier CM. Impact of Varying Dosages of Fish Oil on Recovery and Soreness Following Eccentric Exercise. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 27;12(8):2246. doi: 10.3390/nu12082246. PMID: 32727162; PMCID: PMC7468920.
  5. Pollock N, Chakraverty R, Taylor I, Killer SC. An 8-year Analysis of Magnesium Status in Elite International Track & Field Athletes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2020 Jul;39(5):443-449. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2019.1691953. Epub 2019 Dec 12. PMID: 31829845.
  6. Zhang Y, Xun P, Wang R, Mao L, He K. Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance? Nutrients. 2017 Aug 28;9(9):946. doi: 10.3390/nu9090946. PMID: 28846654; PMCID: PMC5622706.
  7. Córdova A, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Roche E, Caballero-García A, Fernandez-Lázaro D. Impact of Magnesium Supplementation in Muscle Damage of Professional Cyclists Competing in a Stage Race. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 16;11(8):1927. doi: 10.3390/nu11081927. PMID: 31426321; PMCID: PMC6723322.
Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler