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Treating post-workout soreness could require more than a protein shake

Researchers suggest a healthy diet is key to reducing muscle pain

Photo (c) AleksandarNakic - Getty Images
Regular gym-goers incorporate protein shakes into their workout routines as a way to fuel their bodies and ensure that they’re able to perform at their optimal fitness level. 

Now, a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Lincoln found that protein shakes may not provide as many benefits as intended. The team found that these popular drinks weren’t effective in helping fight off post-workout pain in many cases. 

“While proteins and carbohydrates are essential for the effective repair of muscle fibres following intensive strength training, our research suggests that varying the form of protein immediately following training does not strongly influence the recovery response or reduce muscle pain,” said researcher Dr. Thomas Gee. 

How does protein affect the body after a workout?

The researchers had 30 male participants involved in the study, all of whom had been engaging in resistance training for at least one year. The participants were divided into three groups based on varying post-workout drinks. 

One group was given a carb-based drink, one was given a whey protein-based drink, and the third group was given a milk-based protein drink, which participants consumed immediately following a high-intensity workout. 

The participants had their muscle function tested, and they also completed questionnaires gauging the severity of their pain, both 24 and 48 hours after completing the workout and consuming the shake. The researchers were most interested in seeing how participants’ pain levels and muscle response differed by consuming different after-workout beverages. 

Ultimately, responses showed that the participants were reacting the same to the workout regardless of which drink they had post-workout. Muscle performance was down among all participants immediately following the workout, which was also when they reported the highest levels of pain and soreness. The drink they consumed post-workout didn’t affect how quickly they bounced back from the pain, or the severity of the pain immediately following exercise. 

While protein may not be the answer to soothing sore muscles after a workout, the researchers do suggest that following a healthy diet could be the boost consumers need to feel their best following physical activity. 

“We would hypothesize that well balanced daily nutrition practices would influence recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness to a greater extent,” said Dr. Gee. 

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