Is it true that meatheads get their meaty heads solely by eating meat (or heads??). Or can meatheads also get meaty by eating vegetables and fruits and eggplant parmesan and stuff?
The answer is: of course. After all, giraffes are big and beefy, and they eat leaves.
So, no, a non-vegan sports supplement doesn’t possess any significant advantages over a vegan supplement. In fact, non-vegans may actually do better by supplementing a vegan stack, as they tend to come with not only healthier ingredients but fewer additives and all that other useless, unhealthy junk that tends to come jam-packed in sports supplements.
With that in mind, the best vegan post-workout supplement is likely the best post-workout supplement in general. Period. But before I address the question of the best vegan post-workout supplement, let me first answer the following question:
Why Take a Post-Workout Supplement?
Why not take a post-workout supplement? Unless, I guess, you don’t workout, in which case there’s no post-workout period with which to even take a post-workout supplement… However, I’m confident that’s not the case, because here you are, you big ol’ stud you.
In short, the reason most people seek a post-workout supplement is because they want to see better results for their exercise endeavors while also overcoming annoyances, such as muscular soreness and fatigue, that impair later workouts.
There are few things more annoying and hopeless, in that existentially dreadful Sisyphean sort of way, of working out day-in, day-out to see little to no results.
Post-workout supplements have certainly helped exercisers start seeing better results for their efforts, hence their increasing popularity, and they seem to work by delivering the following bio-benefits:
Replenished ATP Energy Reserves
High-intensity training breaks down muscle tissue, requiring rest and recovery to rebuild muscle tissue and increase strength. This is more or less the point of exercise, in addition to improving fat loss, weight management, athletic performance, and whatnot, depending on your particular exercise goals.
However, this all requires energy. And, funny enough, high-intensity training depletes the body’s natural energy reserves. So, what’s an exerciser to do?
Post-workout supplements help on this front by replenishing the body’s cellular energy reserves, namely ATP, which the body uses to build and sustain muscle repair, recovery, and growth. Without additional nutrient intake, overtraining may actually deteriorate muscle tissue, causing it to essentially eat itself as a calorie source. This is seen most apparently among long-distance runners.
Exercisers, namely bodybuilders, require exceptional nutrient and fuel levels to keep up with their exceptional energy demands, and post-workout supplements may help.
Improved Protein Synthesis
Amino acids build proteins, which go on to build muscle tissues (and enzymes and a bunch of other stuff, but we’re mainly concerned with muscle here). When we rest, the body signals for protein synthesis via several bio-pathways, hence the importance of sleep to recovering exercisers
An effective post-workout supplement further promotes muscle growth through various anabolic (muscle building) pathways, such as the promotion of growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), etc. This is key to muscle and strength gains, as well as catabolic (metabolic breakdown) fat loss.
Kind of a funny, interesting, and very much welcomed trade-off: anabolic muscle gains utilize energy for protein synthesis at the cost of stored energy (fat). You need to gain weight to lose weight, baby.
Reduced Oxidative Stress
Exercise promotes muscle growth and fat loss and, unfortunately, free radical damage. This becomes a problem under conditions of high-intensity training, which really puts the body to the test. Which is what you want to put the body towards! Because if you ace the test, then …well, that’s how you get the muscle growth and fat loss.
Except the problem with free radical damage, or oxidative stress, when we fail to address it is that it essentially acts as a catabolic force, deteriorating (or at least slowing down) muscle growth, thereby making your workouts less effective. Free radicals worsen muscle growth and repair, while also contributing to other health issues across the body.
Post-workout antioxidants may help combat oxidative stress by reducing free radicals associated with overtraining.
Excellent exercise results in sweating. If you’re not completely drenched and sweating all over the gym equipment and dumbbells and benches, then, well, what are you even doing??
Sweating is a sign of a great workout. But it also comes with not only water loss but salt (electrolyte) loss as well. And so you might think that drinking water is all that’s necessary to rehydrate, but you’d be wrong! Without electrolyte replenishment, the body’s incapable of sufficiently retaining water, allowing it to quickly enter and exit the body without doing all the great things that water does inside of us.
Electrolyte replenishment is key to water replenishment. And water is key to muscle growth and repair, so you’ll definitely want to stay hydrated following an intense workout.
Which is Better: Post-Workout vs. Protein Shake vs. BCAA?
Okay, so if I’m already taking a protein powder after I work out, why do I need a post-workout supplement? What does a post-workout do that a protein shake doesn’t, and vice versa? And what’s the deal with these BCAA supplements?
Good questions. Briefly, the key differences are:
- Post-Workout: a post-workout supplement primarily focuses on amplifying muscle growth via energy replenishment, protein synthesis promotion, and rehydration; it’s a replenishment supplement, more than anything.
- Protein Shake: exactly as it sounds, a protein shake supplies protein, the types of proteins required by the body to create muscle tissue; except many protein supplements supply proteins not at all required for muscle growth, nor is the digestive tract capable of absorbing them all.
- BCAA: branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements work under pre-, intra-, and post-workout contexts, used to extend muscle endurance, block muscle burnout, and reduce muscle soreness for a quicker, healthier recovery.
It’s entirely possible to take all three supplement types together. However, if you’re able to, I’d recommend getting your daily protein intake through diet and opt for a post-workout supplement for muscle gain enhancement. Possibly even a BCAA for additional ergogenic benefits.
And, if it’s difficult to attain enough daily protein, then consider a protein powder.
Best Vegan Post-Workout Supplement: Performance Lab Post
Here’s the problem with workout supplements: many boast a healthy, all-natural formula, yet they pack their (usually) powder servings with unnecessary additives, colorants, flavors, and other not-so-healthy, not-so-natural compounds. No doubt many vegans are quite aware of which additives and whatnot to avoid, but, even still, it’s helpful to know off the bat which vegan products are the real deal and which are low-key liars.
One of the best vegan post-workout supplements I enjoy, one that I absolutely view as the “real deal,” is Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout, a creatine-containing post-workout stack that uniquely comes in capsule servings, as opposed to the common powder format.
Inside and out, Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout is a clean, green supplement, one that uses the likes of easy-to-absorb creatine, pomegranate extract (yes, pomegranate), and coconut crystals. All vegan, eco-friendly, non-GMO ingredients that actually work – and that don’t taste like the underside of dirt (because, again: capsules).
To get a better sense of what this product’s about, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients:
Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout Ingredients
With its four-ingredient profile (I’m combining “Sodium” and “Himalayan Pink Salt” as one), the Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout formula targets only the bio-pathways essential to post-workout recovery, repair, and growth. Some post-workout stacks try to augment their formulas with gimmicky hybrid ingredients, but this stack stays focused on the prize.
Here’s a closer look at the ingredients:
Creatine (as Creapure® pH10), 1000mg
One of the most reliable ergogenic supplements, creatine is a highly popular cellular energy booster that’s used in both pre- and post-workout contexts. Really, it doesn’t matter too much when you take this ingredient (although some nutrient nit-pickers might disagree), so long as you take it daily to allow creatine to build up in the muscle.
I call thing ingredient an “energy booster” but it doesn’t work like a stimulant – e.g., like caffeine. When you take a serving of creatine you don’t suddenly notice a cognitive jolt in energy. Instead, creatine gradually concentrates in muscle tissue to maintain natural ATP energy levels for increased exercise endurance and repair. Essentially, creatine allows you to workout harder for longer without completely depleting your muscles.
As a post-workout supplement, creatine works by:
- Increasing ATP energy fuel for better muscle recovery, repair, and growth;
- Promoting stem cell and protein synthesis to create new muscle tissue;
- Modulating oxidative stress, inflammation, myostatin, and other catabolic factors;
- Boosting insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) concentration in muscle tissue for greater anabolic muscle metabolism.
Because creatine concentrates in muscle tissue, creatine-saturated muscles tend to carry more water weight, dehydrating the rest of the body. So, when taking creatine, be sure to get the most out of it (i.e., burn that excess creatine via higher intensity training!) and drink more water to stay hydrated.
Pomegranate Extract (as P40p™), 500mg
This is a pretty unique post-workout ingredient: organic pomegranate extract (as P40p™) supplies a rich complex of polyphenols, a class of potent antioxidants that help modulate inflammation, muscular circulation, and free radical levels.
Exercise promotes muscle growth. A lot of exercise promotes muscle growth and oxidative stress, the latter of which impairs muscle growth and negatively affects the rest of the body. This is the problem with overtraining, which may lead to a counterproductive state of catabolic (muscle deteriorating) oxidative stress. Pomegranate extract’s polyphenols help mitigate the oxidative damages of overtraining while preserving the anabolic muscle-building effects of exercise.
Potency is key here. To achieve the natural equivalent of the P40p™ extract’s bio-activity, you’d need to eat five full pomegranates. By condensing the pomegranate’s polyphenols into an easy-to-absorb, water-soluble 500mg extract, Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout’s capsule-sized formula packs a powerful punch.
Himalayan Pink Salt, 350mg
Before sports drinks got a bad rap for their sugar content (to which many sports drinks have thankfully responded by delivering sugar-free options), the sports drink served as a go-to option for electrolyte-enhanced rehydration. Now, Himalayan pink salt suffices.
Exercise leads to sweating. And sweating leads to a loss of water and salt. The problem with addressing this solely by drinking water is that the salts actually help sustain water levels in the body. Without adequate salt (or electrolyte) levels, water quickly passes through the body, in one way and out the other, causing an annoying number of bathroom breaks.
By supplying sodium and naturally occurring trace minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, Himalayan pink salt works as a healthy, natural electrolyte replenishment option for better post-workout hydration.
Organic Coconut Water Crystals, 1250mg
Accompanying the Himalayan pink salt, Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout’s organic coconut water crystals further supports hydration with their electrolyte content, namely sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These coconut water crystals also replenish glycogen reserves in the body for natural muscle energy.
As one of the best natural foods for rehydration, coconuts have become somewhat of a trend item among the health hipsters. Coconut waters (many of which admittedly taste like backwash) have increasingly lined grocery store shelves, due to their rightfully earned reputation as natural sports drinks.
If the emphasis on hydration seems overstated, consider how dehydration significantly worsens muscle breakdown, impairs blood flow to the muscles, thereby decreasing delivery of oxygen and fuel to depleted muscle tissues, and even potentially limited muscle and strength growth. I often laugh at the muscly meatheads who carry around a gallon of water around the gym… until I realize that their meathead muscle is likely a result of that gallon of water.
Hydration is key, and coconut water crystals help, especially when combined with Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout’s Himalayan pink salt.
Other Ingredients: Vegan Plantcaps® Capsules
The best vegan post-workout supplement would not be the best vegan (emphasis on vegan) post-workout supplement if its “Other Ingredients” didn’t also uphold their formula’s vegan status.
Many healthy, all-natural supplements fail on this end, especially workout supplements that come in powder form and, thus, feel the need to mask the not-so-sugary natural flavors of their ingredients with super-sugary artificial flavors and colorants, and so on. Much of what we know about how these additives affect our health remains limited. However, there’s a natural resistance to these additives, as they’re rightfully viewed as unnecessary and possibly harmful to the formula’s bio-availability.
Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout leaves all of the usual junk additives (e.g., FD&C colorants, magnesium stearate, etc.) by the wayside, instead keeping it clean and simple with its plant-based Plantcaps® capsules. Nothing more, nothing less, allowing you to actually see the formula’s contents through the capsules.
Who Should Take a Vegan Post-Workout Supplement?
The emphasis on muscle repair and growth shouldn’t limit interest in post-workout supplements to quote-unquote “bodybuilders.” This isn’t necessary a “bulking” supplement in that it’ll cause you to grow boulder shoulders and a grotesquely bulging frame against your liking.
That’s simply not how this all works.
Muscle repair and growth is important even to exercisers looking to lose weight or slim down. In fact, the additional muscle mass raises one’s resting metabolism, making fat loss that much easier. So, with that in mind, Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout is an exercise health stack that’s appropriate in all fitness contexts, whether you’re looking to gain muscle mass, lose weight via fat loss, or improve athletic performance.
When should I take Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout?
The directions on the label recommend, “Take 4-6 capsules immediately following your workout with at least 16 oz of water. Drink more water, up to 32 oz, with Performance Lab® Sport Post-Workout depending on the intensity of your workout and amount of fluids lost during exercise. For best results use consistently.”
Of course, you can’t exactly monitor how much fluids lost during exercise. (Or maybe you can, but that’s kind of weird.) So, my suggestion is to play it safe and drink more water while taking sports supplements anyways. Odds are you could use the extra water intake.
And if not, then, well, that’s what peeing’s for!
Do I need to cycle creatine?
I’ve taken other creatine supplements in much larger dosages continually for months without any serious side effects. However, while taking these other (in my opinion) overdosed creatine supplements, I developed tendonitis in my elbow, most likely due to creatine’s dehydration effects. Granted, I can’t be 100% certain this was creatine’s fault… but the tendonitis did go away shortly after ceasing my creatine use.
Having said that, I haven’t had any of those issues with long-term supplementation of Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout. In fact, that might be my favorite aspect of this formula: how it uses a modest amount of potent, easy-to-absorb creatine instead of a butt-load of the cheap, hard-to-absorb stuff. I’ve experienced no issues with dehydration (again, props to Performance Lab’s electrolyte enhancement) nor upset stomach, which does happen with cheap creatine sources.
Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout’s creatine content is safe and well-tolerated that can be taken daily without need of an on/off cycling schedule.
The BIG Performance Lab SPORT Pre-, Intra-, and Post-Workout Supplement Stack
For the COMPLETE workout enhancement experience, Performance Lab supplies several more ergogenic supplements that can be stacked with Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout. Altogether, the total pre-, intra-, and post-workout stack by Performance Lab includes:
- Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout: a non-stimulant muscle energizer and N.O. booster for better muscular pump and endurance; this stack enhances exercise stamina with all-natural ergogenics that are safe and well-tolerated for long-term use. Read our full review of Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout.
- Performance Lab SPORT BCAA: taken pre- and post-workout, and even intra-workout, branched-chain amino acids assist with on-the-spot muscle maintenance and development to help prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue. Read out full review of Performance Lab SPORT BCAA.
- Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout: for post-workout replenishment, the Post-Workout stack in question accompanies the Pre-Workout and BCAA formulas by promoting better post-exercise recovery and rehydration, a key concern for the creatine using exerciser. Read our full review of Performance Lab SPORT Post.
Depending on your particular exercise goals, Performance Lab also supplies a testosterone booster supplement and a fat burner stack. The diversity here is impressive, as it allows Performance Lab buyers to mix-and-match stacks to their liking – and without compromising their vegan diet.
Pre-workout supplements improve exercise performance, whereas post-workout supplements enhance exercise recovery, which also improves exercise performance in a bigger picture sort of way. More often than not, it seems we favor pre-workout stacks, perhaps because they provide more acutely noticeable benefits and are great for them, but post-workout stacks also provide a key piece to the puzzle.
Whether you’re just getting into the gym or have been exercising for years, Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout is one of your best vegan post-workout supplement options for taking your fitness to the next level.
Not all post-workout supplements are equal. Many often misuse the label to sneak in a cheap, ineffective formula hyped up by obscure, nice-sounding health benefits. Don’t fall for it. Instead, choose wisely and pick a post-workout stack that’s simple and straightforward in design, as well as green inside and out.