If you lift weights, then you have probably had a workout where the soreness seemed to stretch for days. Intense leg workouts in particular are well known for causing walking issues for days after, hence all the meme’s out there citing the dreaded “leg day” (well leg days sucks for more than one reason). DOMS, or delayed muscle soreness, is the pain or discomfort felt in muscles after strenuous exercise. Many researchers have investigated ways to address this including stretching, cryotherapy, massage, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ultrasound, and carbohydrate supplementation, all with no effect on perceived soreness, performance, or markers in the blood indicative of muscle damage, such as creatine kinase.
The Method They Took
The purpose of this study was to determine if protein intake had a positive effect on muscle recovery. Nine recreationally active males were recruited, each attending the laboratory on two occasions. On each visit, subjects ran downhill, on a treadmill with a -10% gradient, for 30 minutes. Immediately following exercise, subjects either ingested 40 grams of protein with no carbohydrate component or ingested a flavored placebo solution. Subjects were asked to rate their soreness on a scale of 1 to 10 and blood was taken in order to determine creatine kinase levels. Maximum voluntary contraction was also measured, a measurement of the isometric force produced by the quadriceps.
The Method Explained
The study was a “double blind, randomized, cross-over design”, meaning the individuals did not know which solution they were consuming. Soreness levels and blood samples were taken prior to exercise and at 24, 48, and 72 hours after exercise. Again, soreness was rated on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 indicating no soreness present and 10 indicating extreme soreness. Creatine kinase was measured at each marker. Although still debated by a few scientists, excessive levels of creatine kinase in the blood are believed to indicate muscle damage. Maximum voluntary contraction was measured at all time points as well and can technically be considered measurement of the strength of the quadriceps.
Overall, participants experienced DOMS at each time marker, indicating that the downhill run was sufficient in eliciting muscle soreness. Creatine kinase levels peaked at 24 hours and progressively decreased over time. The study did not find any significant differences between conditions in creatine kinase concentrations or in soreness levels. However, maximum voluntary contractions declined significantly in the control group but remained significantly close to pre-exercise values at all time points.
While a significant difference was not seen in creatine kinase levels, or in the measure of perceived soreness, it is important to note that there was no change in strength for those individuals supplementing with protein. The control group saw significant decreases in strength at each time point. From this we can conclude that protein consumption following an exercise bout increases the recovery rate of the muscle used. So while the DOMS might continue, go ahead and drink your protein so you can continue to be strong for your next workout.