Protein is necessary for muscle repair and growth. For this reason, many people consume protein supplements in the form of shakes along with their workout. However, the optimal time to have a protein shake is a hotly debated topic. A new study has revealed that protein shakes might not be the best drink to help in muscle recovery after an intense workout session. The study found that the traditional advice of drinking protein shakes after lifting weights at the gym is not quite fruitful. Following resistance training, muscles can feel sore for around 48 hours. There is also a measurable decline in muscle function. For instance, a study looking at rowers found that intense workout causes a reduction in muscle performance 24 hours later.
Two compounds that scientists know are important for this recovery are protein and carbohydrates. The body needs protein to build and repair muscles, and it needs carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels-the primary form of glucose storage in the body. After working out, people who go to the gym often consume protein- and carbohydrates based shakes. This can be for several reasons- to gain muscle mass in the long term and to help repair muscles and reduce pain in the short term.
A new study from the United Kingdom’s University of Lincoln suggests that protein shakes are no more effective at rebuilding muscle and boosting recovery than high-carbohydrate drinks, like sports drinks. Indeed, the British researchers say that neither whey protein-based shakes nor milk-based shakes enhanced muscle recovery or eased soreness compared to a carbohydrate only drink.
What is Protein?
Protein is a molecule made from chemicals called amino acids. Our bodies need these amino acids to function properly-they to carry oxygen through the blood, boost the immune system and, of course, build muscle. There are 20 different amino acids in all, nine of which the human body can’t produce. These are known as ‘essential’ amino acids and we need to get them from food.
How much Protein do you need?
The US Food and Nutrition Board’s current guidelines for the average adult is 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight. If you are looking to bulk up obviously-you’ll need to increase this number. But it is not as easy as simply stuffing your face. According to recent research, 2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight is your limit. So, if you weigh 100kg, you’d need to be eating the equivalent of seven chicken breasts every day. Although, this type of extreme eating is reserved for competitive bodybuilders. An achievable alternative for the first-timer is 1.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight.
What is the best post-workout recovery drink?
For the study, which was published in the Journal of Human Kinetics, researchers recruited 30 males between the age of 20 to 30. All participants had at least a year’s experience with resistance training prior to the study. The 30 participants were divided into three groups. Each group was assigned to consume either a whey hydrolysate drink, a milk drink, or a flavored carbohydrates drink after a prescribed intensive resistance training session. After the workout, the participants were re-tested and asked to rate their levels of muscle soreness on a scale from zero (‘no muscle soreness”) to 200 (“muscle soreness as nad as it could be”). The researchers also asked the participants to complete a series of strength and power assessment, including throwing a medicine ball while seated and jumping as high as possible from a squatted position. At the start of the study, all the participant’s rates their muscles soreness between 19 and 26, or quite low. Then, they reassessed those measurements 24 and 48 hours after the weight-lifting session. All participants rated their soreness above 90, which is quite high. In the physical assessment, the participants showed reductions in muscle power and function. However, there was no difference in recovery response and soreness scores between the three different groups. That means, the study’s authors concluded, that there is no additional benefit in consuming protein shakes or drinks for the sake of muscle recovery.
Conclusion: At this stage, it is not clear whether protein shakes can speed up recovery and reduce muscle pain after exercise. Until scientists carry out more research on a much larger scale.