This randomized trial compared pea protein, whey protein, and water-only supplementation on muscle damage, inflammation, delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), and physical fitness test performance during a 5-day period after a 90-min eccentric exercise bout in non-athletic non-obese males (n = 92, ages 18-55 years). The two protein sources (0.9 g protein/kg divided into three doses/day) were administered under double blind procedures. The eccentric exercise protocol induced significant muscle damage and soreness, and reduced bench press and 30-s Wingate performance. Whey protein supplementation significantly attenuated post-exercise blood levels for biomarkers of muscle damage compared to water-only, with large effect sizes for creatine kinase and myoglobin during the fourth and fifth days of recovery (Cohen's d > 0.80); pea protein versus water supplementation had an intermediate non-significant effect (Cohen's d < 0.50); and no significant differences between whey and pea protein were found. Whey and pea protein compared to water supplementation had no significant effects on post-exercise DOMS and the fitness tests. In conclusion, high intake of whey protein for 5 days after intensive eccentric exercise mitigated the efflux of muscle damage biomarkers, with the intake of pea protein having an intermediate effect.
Keywords: creatine kinase; exercise; inflammation; muscle damage; myoglobin; protein.