Protein shakes have long been touted as a gym bag essential, consumed by gym-goers in an effort to boost muscle recovery and minimise post-workout muscle soreness, but they may not be the most effective way to relieve aching muscles, a new study suggests.

The researchers have found that neither whey-protein based shakes nor milk-based formulas enhanced the rate of muscle recovery following resistance training when compared to a carbohydrate only drink.

“While proteins and carbohydrates are essential for the effective repair of muscle fibres following intensive strength training, our research suggests that varying the form of protein immediately following training does not strongly influence the recovery response or reduce muscle pain,” said study lead by author Thomas Gee from the University of Lincoln in the UK.

The experiment involved 30 male participants, all of whom had at least a year’s resistance training experience.

Researchers asked participants to rate their levels of muscle soreness on a visual scale from ‘no muscle soreness’ (0) through to ‘muscle soreness as bad as it could be’ (200).

Participants also completed a series of strength and power assessments to test their muscle function.

The results showed a significant rise in the levels of muscle soreness across the three groups 24 hours and 48 hours after the initial resistance training session, with ratings for all groups rising to over 90, significantly higher than the group’s baseline ratings, which ranged from 19-26.

The study also showed reductions in muscle power and function.

The findings published in the journal Human Kinetics, suggest there was no difference in recovery response between the different formulas and no additional benefit of protein consumption on muscle recovery.

“The dependence on protein shakes is one of the fads that need to be dispelled, especially when one uses it as a post-workout concoction to combat muscle pain,” Ashutosh Jha, Consultant Orthopaedics, Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad, told IANS.