Are Protein Shakes Good for Recovery?
The secret to your fitness and strength workout gains lie in the recovery process.
When you perform a set of exercises, your muscle fibres break, which allows them to recover or develop stronger, sturdier, and bigger. Protein is the key constituent of skeletal muscles. Therefore, providing protein to your muscles means helping the natural recovery process speed up.
Protein shakes are popular among gym-goers as they boost the muscle repairing, muscle toning, and muscle building process. In this article, we have talked about protein shakes and their effectiveness regarding tissue repair.
What is a protein shake?
Let’s first talk about protein powders before discussing protein shakes.
Protein powder is a recovery supplement that mainly contains proteins. This protein can either be animal-derived or plant-derived. In addition to protein, most of the protein powders have carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Protein powders are considered a healthy source of protein that you can add to your diet to increase your protein intake. When you mix protein powders in water or milk, they form protein shakes. It is often recommended to consume these shakes after the workout so your tissues can get the nutrients that they need to repair fast.
Due to their increasing demand, companies are now also providing ready-made protein shakes, but they usually have higher sugar content. Therefore, it is important to check the list of ingredients before buying a protein powder or shake.
Why should you take protein shakes for recovery?
Protein shakes are mainly used to increase the intake of protein that muscles require to repair and build. You can get the same protein from natural food sources like milk, eggs, almonds, etc. However, it often becomes difficult to meet the required protein demand via natural sources because to meet the required need you will have to eat a large amount of food which might not be possible for some reasons. This is where protein shakes can be beneficial.
You should not replace your natural protein sources with a protein shake because it is not meant to be replaced rather be supplemented. Protein shakes help the body recover in the following ways.
Provides the body with the right proportion of carbs and protein
Most of the protein shakes have carbohydrates and proteins in a 2:1 ratio or sometimes 3:1 ratio. Supplementing your body with carbs as well as protein is very effective in increasing your energy level and muscle recovery.
Your body needs protein to rebuild muscle fibres that make up skeletal muscles. Protein shakes provide that protein, and it also increases the speed of the protein synthesis process; as a result, more protein is produced. 
Athletes and weight lifters often need more protein due to their increased muscle activity level. Research also shows that taking twice the recommended protein level can help them in different ways.  It often becomes difficult to take the recommended level only through diet. Protein powder manufacturers produce these powders by keeping in mind the body requirements of athletes. Therefore, drinking them after a workout can boost their protein levels as required.
These shakes are also a great source of carbohydrates. Your body needs carbs to generate energy which was initially consumed during a workout. So, increasing carb intake will boost the energy molecule levels, which will help you to stay energetic to perform different activities throughout the day.
This study shows that taking carbs + protein supplements early after exercise increases glycogen resynthesis (glycogen is a carbohydrate that converts to energy when needed).  Therefore, if you struggle with your carbs and protein levels, you should consider taking protein shakes.
Promotes tissue repair
Exercise and strength training result in muscle tissue damage. This damage must be healed fast so that you can perform your day to day tasks productively and energetically.
During the tissue repair process, your body produces new tissues by using proteins and other nutrients available in the body. If you are deficient in protein, then your body’s recovery process slows down. Therefore, it is very important to meet the increasing demand for protein when your body is repairing the damage.
Milk-based protein powders have whey protein. This protein is called “fast-acting” protein which means it gets absorbed in the body fast and starts performing its function right after the absorption. So, take it through protein shakes and enhance your body’s tissue repairing speed.
Reduces muscle soreness
When you perform different exercises, your muscles work harder than they are actually used to. It causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, which later causes muscle stiffness and soreness.
Several studies show that people who consume protein after performing strength exercises feel less muscle soreness, and they also recover fast.  Therefore, take protein shakes if you do not want to have sore muscles and low activity levels.
How to make a protein shake?
Making protein shakes with protein powder is very simple. All you need to do is mix the powder in milk or water. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to find the number of scoops you need to add to the water or milk.
Summary – Are protein shakes good for recovery?
There is no doubt that protein shakes are very beneficial for muscle recovery. Several studies prove that increasing the protein intake right after strength training boosts tissue repair, increases muscle strength, and helps muscles grow. However, you should carefully check the ingredient list of the protein powders or shakes. Some of them have a high sugar level and artificial additives that you may not want to add to your diet.
- Effect of timing of whey protein supplement on muscle damage markers after eccentric exercise (nih.gov)
- ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
- Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Whey protein hydrolysate supplementation accelerates recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in females - PubMed (nih.gov)