Enter your muscle-shredding, hyper-intense weights workouts in the gym. You work hard in the gym or you better be because intensity is a critical factor to dictate your performance changes. Each repetition of every exercise you complete has two phases of contraction according to scientists; the concentric phase and the eccentric phase. Both phases are important, but the eccentric phase is associated with the greatest extent of damage to your muscles. Damage may sound like a bad plan and if taken to extreme levels, it can be, but within the confines of your normal workouts this damage is thought to be a critically important part of the overall changes which occur inside your muscle. In other words, the proper balance of eccentric work and damage is important.
Scientists recently examined the scientific impact of combining the powerful recovery capability of whey protein isolate in the face of muscle that was damaged using eccentric muscle contractions (Cooke, Rybalka et al. 2010). For this study, seventeen young males were placed into groups that were given different types of nutrition. One group received a whey protein isolate while the other group received a carbohydrate placebo. All participants were instructed to take small doses of their assigned group throughout each meal of the day. Specifically, a 30 gram dose was provided with breakfast, lunch, as a snack in the afternoon and after the evening meal as well as immediately after their workout. The goal was for the participants to consume approximately 0.7 grams of protein for every pound of body weight (1.5 grams of protein per kilogram) each day from just supplementation over a period of 14 days. The supplementation period began after they completed a damage inducing resistance exercise bout that consisted of 4 sets of 10 repetitions each at 120% maximal voluntary contraction on three different leg exercises. After the exercise bout, blood was removed and analyzed for changes in markers of muscle damage and strength changes were also determined.
The results were exciting! When whey protein isolate was provided, strength levels or force production was significantly higher following supplementation with whey protein isolate both three days and seven days after the exercise bout when compared to the changes in strength seen with carbohydrate. In addition, blood levels of the muscle damage markers tended to be lower in the whey protein isolate group when compared to carbohydrate indicating that the whey protein may help with reducing damage to your muscles. In addition to helping you build more muscle, a high quality whey protein isolate can also help support your strength levels for up to several days after an intense workout.
Cooke, M. B., E. Rybalka, et al. (2010). "Whey protein isolate attenuates strength decline after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals." J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7: 30.