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How effective are protein shakes for post-gym muscle pain?

A new study examines the usefulness of protein shakes for minimizing muscle soreness after the gym.

It’s no secret that getting enough protein is important.  Protein is essential to the structure of bones, muscles, skin, and blood.  Protein supplements, such as protein powders and shakes, have gotten increasingly popular over the years because they are a great way to get extra protein in the diet.

Some people who exercise regularly enjoy fitness drink protein shakes because protein can help repair damaged muscle tissue after a workout.  However, some researchers wonder if these protein shakes are really that important.  A British study at the University of Lincoln published in the Journal of Human Kinetics looked into the effects of protein shakes for post-gym muscle pain.

Thirty male participants who had at least one year of experience in resistance training were divided into three groups.  They performed a resistance training session consisting of four sets of eight repetitions of squats, bench press, deadlift, military press, and bench pull, all using 75% of their one-rep maximum weight.  Following the exercise session, one group drank a whey protein and dextrose drink, the second group drank a milk-based drink, and the third group drank a dextrose drink.  The drinks all contained around 530 kilocalories of energy, and the dextrose drink contained only carbohydrates while the other two drinks contained about 32 grams of protein and 98 grams of carbohydrates.

Participants then rated their levels of muscle soreness both 24 and 48 hours following the workout on a scale of 0 (no muscle soreness) to 200 (maximum muscle soreness).  They also performed a series of strength assessments to test muscle function.

All three groups reported an increase in muscle soreness post-workout; the mean level of muscle soreness for all groups was over 90, compared to around 20-25 before the exercise session.  All groups also showed a decrease in muscle strength following the workout.  However, there was no significant difference in muscle soreness and strength loss between the three groups.

These results suggest that there might have been no difference in muscle recovery between the three groups and potentially suggests that protein shakes are not as essential as they are advertised to be.  More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of protein shakes.

Written by Avery Bisbee

Gee, T. I., Woolrich, T. J., & Smith, M. F. (2019). Effectiveness of Whey Protein Hydrolysate and Milk-Based Formulated Drinks on Recovery of Strength and Power Following Acute Resistance Exercise. Journal of Human Kinetics68, 193–200. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2019-0066

(2019, September 2). Protein shakes may not be the answer for post-gym muscle pain. Retrieved from


Image by 5132824 from Pixabay



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