Protein Supplementation for Recovery

These days, protein supplementation has become synonymous with the “meat head”. For many weight lifting enthusiasts, particularly those looking to build muscle mass, protein shakes are about as important to them as the oxygen they are breathing in. Unlike the quackery advertisements for unproven products with lofty promises, there have been several peer-reviewed studies published that support the claim that protein supplementation can help build muscle mass.

So, what if your intention is not to gain muscle mass? For example, endurance athletes, such as cross-country runners, have no need for large amounts of muscle mass because that would weigh them down, thus resulting in slower times. Since these athletes have to devote hours and hours each week to build muscular endurance to maintain a fast pace over the course of a race, their muscles become damaged from all of that training, which results in soreness. If you have ever had a hard training session, only to wake up the following morning being so sore that going up and down stairs is a struggle, you can picture the difficulty of trying to train with soreness.

Since scientific studies have shown that protein supplementation can help to build muscle mass, can it help minimize muscle damage and speed up recovery? In 2014, Sports Medicine, a renowned journal for athletic performance professionals and physicians, conducted a systematic review about this subject. In their study, they found that the anabolic effect (muscle mass growth) resulted, but when looking at the muscle damaged by intense training, protein supplementation did not appear to have an effect in eliminating soreness and curing muscle damage. Additionally, these results appeared whether the athlete consumed the supplements before, during or after training.

Does this mean that protein has not benefit following a workout? Not necessarily because there is some evidence that it may reduce muscle soreness. Recently, studies about drinking chocolate milk have supported the idea that it can improve muscle recovery. As far as protein supplementation, there is not enough information to know exactly how much protein one ought to consume after a workout. Remember, there is such a thing as too much protein, which, when done often enough, can create problems for the kidneys.

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