I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of general aches and pains - perhaps they are the result of an intense workout or something less physical like stress. So, from addressing the source of your stress to stretching before and after exercise, there are many things we can do to help ease this discomfort in our muscles. However, here I look at what impact protein could have in addressing muscle pain, plus I offer some advice on where to find this essential nutrient.
A bit about protein
Whether you are suffering from sore muscles or not, it is crucial that your body receives a high, regular intake of protein. That’s because this nutrient is essential for a variety of things including strengthening bones and maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails. That’s not all though, protein is also needed to form enzymes and hormones so you can see why it’s pretty important!
Benefits of protein
It is common for fitness fanatics and even athletes to consume protein in the form of liquid after a training session and that’s because, as well as maintaining a variety of general bodily functions, protein can also have a beneficial effect on the muscles.
Protein is an important element in the growth, maintenance and repair of muscles but don’t just take my word for it, this is backed up by scientific research too! 1 One study found that consuming protein immediately after a workout led to less soreness in the days afterwards. This is to do with the fact that protein speeds up the healing of muscle fibre which, as it gets broken down during exercise, is usually at the root of the problem when it comes to muscle soreness.
So, protein helps sore muscles after exercise but could it help to address general muscle aches and pains too?
Well, as protein helps to repair and support your muscles, it seems the answer is yes. However, although you should be consuming plenty of protein anyway, it must be as a part of a balanced diet that also includes lots of carbohydrates, fats, as well as vitamins and minerals.
A protein-rich diet
Fortunately there are a variety of protein-rich foods that may help in your quest to address muscle soreness.
Chicken is rich in protein but do beware as some varieties can be heavily processed. Therefore, in order to get the best from it I’d recommend choosing a lean cut such as the breast and, where possible, opt for organic.
Soy and tofu
There are many sources of vegan protein including soy and tofu - generally the firmer the tofu, the higher the protein content. A 100g serving of tofu should contain around 8.2g of protein as well as vital nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and B1. However, there are other forms of soy too such as tempeh and natto which are made by fermenting soy beans. These might be nice to consider as an alternative to tofu to spice up your routine.
Beans and lentils
These also have a high protein content with just one cup of boiled black beans containing a whopping 15g of protein! Lentils aren’t far behind either though with 11g per cup. So, both are brilliant alternatives to meat and if you mix either with some rice, you will have a complete form of protein that’s on par with most meat dishes!
It’s estimated that 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains around 8.14g of protein, placing it on the same level as milk and tofu. Not only is quinoa a great, complete source of protein though, it’s also chockfull of other nutrients such as fibre, calcium, potassium and zinc.
Fish, including salmon, tuna and cod, are also naturally high in protein. Plus remember, oily fish such as salmon or tuna also tend to be high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D which help to maintain healthy brain function and bone structure.
One glass of whole milk contains approximately 8g of protein though it’s also high in phosphate and calcium, helping to support bone formation and dental health. Organic cow’s milk is the best option as it is thought to be lower in saturated fats than non-organic milk and will contain fewer chemicals.
Eggs help to increase your energy levels and support your muscles as they contain large amounts of protein alongside vitamins A, B, E and K.
There are many people who wish to top up their protein intake with a protein shake but do approach these with caution. First off, you will need to ensure that you are not getting too much protein by consuming a supplement alongside your regular diet. Then there is the task of choosing which protein supplement to try and again this needs to be approached with caution because many products will have added sugars and sweeteners in them.
My advice would be to pick a natural protein supplement such as SunWarrior’s Classic Protein. This is made from sprouted wholegrain brown rice meaning it is plant-based and therefore easily digested. Plus, if you prefer a flavoured protein supplement, there is the option of chocolate and vanilla too.