Muscle Recovery - Meat vs Plants

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 06, 2012 at 4:16 PM

I have been experimenting with a few different styles of eating over the years. I ate a vegan diet for 6 years and two years ago went to a raw food plant based diet. About a month and a half ago I experimented with a fruit based (with lots of greens) diet.

At the same time that I started the fruit or 80/10/10 diet, I also started at a CrossFit gym, going 4-5 days a week. A couple days ago I started on a Paleo diet to find out if some health issues would subside (arthritis, hormone imbalance, sluggish thyroid).

What I have noticed in just two days of eating meat again (which has been YUMMY!) is that I've had muscle soreness following my CrossFit workout yesterday that I never experienced the entire time I was eating a plant based diet. I'm sore for the first time since starting. I didn't work harder, faster or better (at this point). The only difference is diet.

I came across this article by Brendan Brazier the other day and wanted to get some opinions on this. I guess what I'm getting to is, is it really a negative to experience muscle soreness in the days after workouts?

Does this mean that recovery times are actually slower when including animal protein/fats or is it simply a different reaction in the body - maybe even a more beneficial reaction. This article makes muscle soreness/slower recovery out to be a negative result of eating animal products but doesn't address the possibility that it SHOULD be that way.

Are we meant to workout more often or is this the body's natural way of pacing our activity naturally? http://q.equinox.com/articles/2012/02/brendan-brazier-vegan-performance



on March 06, 2012
at 05:14 PM

Edited formatting for readability.



on March 06, 2012
at 05:12 PM

Edited the formatting for readability. Interesting question. I can't imagine NOT being sore on a plant based diet. Anecdotally, I can usually remedy soreness by eating some extra meat on recovery days.

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2 Answers


on March 06, 2012
at 06:35 PM

This is entirely theoretical as I don't know you or your body composition. I don't want to make a huge assumption:

Soreness is often caused when your muscles are expanding. It is possible that your now gaining more muscle than you did on your high veggie diet. This could explain the difference that your seeing as muscles need to break down/ than repair themselves into larger muscles. This is very common knowledge in the weight lifting community. To never feel any soreness at all, might be a sign that you werent growing as much muscle before


on March 06, 2012
at 05:11 PM

Alright so let me preface this by saying that I'm not an expert on these subjects, but I can share what I do know, and some thoughts that I have on this. My first thought here on the soreness is that it's completely natural, and I don't know anyone who has never experienced this before. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is very normal in people who eat both a meat-based diet, and those that eat a plant-based diet.
You state that you've only been doing CrossFit for 6 weeks, which can say a couple of things. First, whenever you start an exercise program with movements that you've never done before, there is a period of neurological adaptation that must take place. basically this means that your body ad mind have to learn how to innervate muscle fibers and in what order, etc... It's why someone new to the squat can DOUBLE their 1RM in a couple of months, but then their progress slows. At first you're very inefficient at lifting. So you get the job done, but you're not getting any MUSCULAR adaptation. The length of time that you've been doing this seems to fit with the length of time that neuromuscular adaptation takes. So that's my first thought. You may just have not been able to push yourself very hard at first, and now that you're more comfortable, you are pushing your muscles harder, stepping out of your comfort zone, etc... This can also lead to DOMS.

As far as the article goes, it sounds to me like he's talking about animal protein ISOLATES that are found in shakes, not the animal protein itself. And while it's true that protein shakes can be pro-inflammatory, it doesn't make any argument against MEAT being pro-inflammatory. If inflammation is what you're trying to avoid, then we all know here that sticking as true to paleo as possible is the key. I personally am VERY paleo most of the time, but my protein shake post-WOD is one of my exceptions, and I don't ever feel bad or inflamed from it. Now, that's just me.

So that's my two cents, take it for whatever you want. I think that if you keep with the paleo-crossfit thang for a while, you'll notice that the soreness won't be as bad (except after a tabata air squat; it's ALWAYS bad after a tabata air squat!). I rarely get sore after strength days, it's usually after a high repetition body-weight workout, and it's usually the negative that does it (the going down portion of the squat, etc...).

Anyway, stick with it and keep us posted on your progress!


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