Does protein powder help with muscle soreness?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is a pretty standard feature of any workout routine. But, especially if you just started working out or are beginning a new routine, your DOMS can be so severe that it even limits your ability to move around throughout the day. Which is a problem.


So, people are always looking for new ways to help relieve this soreness that sets in the day after your workout. One of the things that many have tried is the simple, common protein powder. But, does it really work?


What Is DOMS?


To fully understand this discussion, though, we need to be clear on exactly what DOMS is and what causes it.


As mentioned – and as the name describes – DOMS is a muscular soreness that starts well after your workout is over, generally within 24 to 48 hours. Although the exact mechanisms at work here aren’t fully understood the evidence seems pretty strong that DOMS is caused by microscopic tears in your muscle fibers that occur during exercise.


Person picking up dumbbells from a weight rack in a gym setting


As a result of this trauma, your body starts a whole chain of events designed to both increase the strength of the affected muscle and to limit the impact of the damage. Any one of a number of these responses could be responsible for DOMS.


Can Protein Powder Help?


So, how does this help us when it comes to deciding the usefulness of protein powder in treating DOMS?


Because it shows us that deeply tied up with that irritating soreness is the biological process that makes muscle grow; a complex rebuilding work. And, just like any other renovation, this process requires all the proper raw materials. When it comes to muscle growth and repair, amino acids – carried in by proteins – are exactly what’s needed.


One pound tub of Naked Whey in a gym bag


In theory, then, protein powders should be able to limit severity of DOMS by speeding up recovery. But does that hold up under scientific scrutiny? Yes, actually, it seems like it does.


A unique triplet of amino acids, called Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), have shown a lot of promise in both improving muscle recovery and encourage growth. Namely, these amino acids are isoleucine, leucine, and valine. One study even found that taking a BCAA supplement before working out noticeably limited DOMS later on.


Fortunately, these helpful little amino acids are found in protein powder, as well. So, according to the evidence, protein powder might be able to reduce the severity of DOMS. This may be because protein powder allows your muscles to recover faster or through some other mechanism. Either way, it works.