Benefits of Protein for Recovery and Muscle Growth
Scott Morgan MD
This post was last updated on February 10, 2023
The benefits of protein for muscle growth is commonly known in many circles. Weight lifters have been ingesting a high protein diet for as long as most people can remember. The idea that protein is required to repair and rebuild muscle tissue is nothing new, but it can still seem a little confusing. On the surface it seems simple. Just find a food with protein and you’re good to go, right? When we start digging deeper it’s a lot more complex. When determining what types of protein are most beneficial, quantity and timing is where the water starts to get murky.
Understanding Muscle Anatomy and Function
To understand the benefits of protein we need to understand muscle anatomy and function. We commonly hear about muscle fibers, so let’s start there. Getting into the micro anatomy of muscle fibers we find that they are made of two main parts called actin and myosin. The actin acts like a rope while the myosin has heads that act like hands. These hands pull across the actin rope causing mini contractions. When this happens millions of times at once we get a muscle contraction which allows us the ability to move our body. The actin and myosin contraction requires an energy source called ATP.
Interesting fact: Rigor mortis muscle tightness is caused by the lack of ATP production after death. This doesn’t happen immediately because the body is still using the residual ATP stores.
This information is important because actin and myosin are proteins. Meaning that some of the most basic building blocks of our muscle are proteins. This is why ingesting protein is so important for strength, repair and size of muscles. The larger the muscle the more protein is required. If you’re wondering why we need protein when our muscles are already made of protein let me enlighten you. Any physical activity will cause muscle breakdown. This muscle damage is increased with the length and intensity of the activity. Running a marathon is going to cause a lot more damage than a 5K, which is why runners feel increasingly sore after a longer run.
Benefits of Protein After Exercise
The benefits of protein after exercise are multifactorial. The most obvious benefit is rebuilding muscle. The purpose of exercise is to increase health, get stronger and often improve competitive performance. Post workout protein can increase strength and muscle mass, which helps achieve the goal you set out for.
Another benefit is decreasing inflammation. Inflammation is often thought to be a negative process. While too much inflammation can be harmful it does have some usefulness. Inflammation is the body’s response to an injury and starts the repair process. We want some inflammation to reconstruct our muscles, but too much can cause pain or even some tissue damage.
Post workout protein can also help prevent cramping. Anyone who has had muscle cramps from a workout knows they can be miserable. There are many causes of post workout cramping, but one of the main causes is overuse for your current fitness level. Ingesting protein can help prevent or lessen the intensity of these cramps. This allows you to continue training sooner to reach your desired goals.
Are All Proteins Created Equal?
Not all proteins are created equal. It’s important to have many different types of protein in your diet. They all have different benefits that provide a complete and balanced diet. Some proteins are more beneficial and easier to eat after a workout.
Important factors to consider when choosing a post workout protein:
The type of protein is important for many reasons. They have different benefits and added ingredients that we may not want. For example a steak is packed with protein but it also has saturated fat. Eating steak for all of your protein needs can lead to heart disease later in life. A high fat recovery protein can cause digestive discomfort immediately after a workout. Also proteins that are high in fat or fiber can slow down digestion and gut absorption. This is important for timing, which is discussed below. Pea and whey proteins are easy to digest and have been shown to benefit muscle repair and decrease inflammation.
When Should You Consume Protein After a Workout?
Timing of protein after a workout is important, but it can depend on a few factors. Much of this depends on the intensity of the workout, your pre/during workout nutrition consumption as well as the type of protein. The best window for ingesting post workout protein is between 15 minutes and 2 hours. A more intense workout and less nutrition before or during your workout means that your protein consumption is likely to be more beneficial if it’s closer to 30 minutes. As mentioned above the type of protein can affect timing. Drinking a protein isolate can increase absorption and muscle repair while food high in fat and fiber can slow down absorption. Pea protein isolate is created from removing the pea’s outer shell and milling it into flour. This helps to separate out the protein leading to faster absorption rate.
How Can The Form of Protein Benefit You?
The form of protein can affect the benefits of protein. Easily digested forms such as isolates are going to speed up bioavailability. Having a protein readily available is much easier when using a powder form. A scoop can easily be carried in a container to the gym, trail or parking lot. Many protein sources are more difficult to transport because they require refrigeration or need to be heated. Also powder forms are light weight and don’t require much space. Having the ability to ingesting protein before a drive home can initiate muscle repair immediately and prevent some post workout cramps. A shaker bottle is a convenient way to mix up protein on the go.
Benefits of protein include post workout muscle repair. Protein is key for post workout muscle repair. Muscles are made of protein and exercise causes muscle damage. Dietary protein is required for improved recovery and performance. It’s important to have a diet that consists of different types of protein but some are better for post workout recovery including protein isolates. Taking in a simple form of protein within 15-30 minutes of completing a workout can increase muscle repair, decrease inflammation and prevent cramps. Protein powders such as pea protein isolate are easy to carry and digest, contain little to no fat or fiber. This speeds up post workout recovery which makes working out more enjoyable.
Yes we’re a physician and pharmacist but any information in these blogs is for educational purposes and is not considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health please contact your personal physician.
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Wow! Very interesting and informative! Also beautifully written and easy to understand. I hope this will help many people!!!
Thank you so much for the feedback. We’re so glad you have enjoyed our Elite Recovery Protein. We do have an affiliate program where you can earn store credit by sharing a discount code with your friends. Check our rewards tab to apply.
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