Is Protein Important Post-Workout?


Why are your muscles sore?

So, you’ve started strength training — you’re feeling sore and wondering if that’s a good thing. You’re also wondering if you need to pound some of that protein powder that’s sold in something that resembles a 55-gallon drum. To answer your question, let’s take a look at why your muscles are sore and what some extra protein can do.

During resistance training, micro-tears are created in the muscle. While this might sound like a bad thing, those tears allow the muscle to grow and become stronger. After an extended period of resistance training, you will experience (brace yourself, there is an exercise science word coming) muscle hypertrophy (growth) and increased muscle strength because of the micro-tears and subsequent muscle repair. Simply put, when the muscle is repaired, you are not just getting it back to where it was prior to exercise, you are making it slightly stronger and larger with each training session. However, the more of those micro-tears you have, the longer it takes to repair them and the sorer you’ll be. 

What can I do to feel better?

Muscle is made up of protein and water, and both are needed to repair the muscle damage. For this reason, nutritionists typically recommend consuming 15-20 grams of protein within 1-2 hours after exercise. If you don’t get those 15-20 grams of protein, the muscle will have to take it from somewhere else in the body or wait until protein is consumed later to perform the repairs. This is not ideal, because studies have shown that muscle is better at using protein during that 1-2 hour window. It is important to take advantage of this window, because not only will the muscle be repaired more efficiently (causing increased growth and strength), you will also experience less soreness.

In summary…

  • Soreness is a natural response to training. You should feel some soreness, but not be totally gassed and unable to function.
  • Consumption of protein after exercise increases muscle strength/size and decreases soreness.

So, how do I get my protein?

Now that you know the benefits of getting your protein after exercise, should you take a protein supplement? A protein supplement (powder or bar) can be a quick way to restore protein to your muscles, but be aware of the other ingredients — sugar, carbs, and fat. Don’t undo the good work you’ve done! When you can, go with healthy foods that can provide you with the protein your body needs. For example, a single serving of grilled chicken breast can have as much as 27 grams of protein.

And to take some of the guesswork out of it all, here are a few of our trainer’s favorite post-exercise snacks and supplements.