The soreness that you feel 8 to 24 hours after an intense workout is caused by a tearing of the muscle fibers. The fastest way to get muscles to heal is to have your body produce lots of insulin and also provide a supply of protein to repair the damaged tissue. We have known for a long time that insulin drives sugar into cells for energy. Now we know that it also drives protein building blocks called amino acids into the muscle cells to help them heal faster. A study from New Zealand shows that protein loading immediately after exercise helps cyclists recover faster so they can ride harder for several days after an intense workout (Physiologie Appliquée, Nutrition et Métabolisme, February 2008).
On the surface of muscle cell membranes are little hooks called insulin receptors. Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar and protein into cells, it must first attach to these receptors. Hard exercise markedly increases insulin's ability to attach to insulin receptors and therefore makes insulin more effective. However, this increased response of insulin to exercise lasts only during exercise and for perhaps half an hour after exercise. An hour after you finish exercising, you have lost this added sensitivity of insulin receptors to insulin. So to help muscles recover faster, you need to take a carbohydrate source during a hard workout and immediately after you finish. Any source of carbohydrates will be broken down into simple sugars that call out insulin. Then, as soon as possible after your workout, you should eat any source of protein to supply the amino acids needed to heal damaged muscle tissue.
Entrepreneurs will probably use this information to promote various protein drinks and supplements, but you will get the same results with any sugared drink and any food or drink that contains protein. Soda and cheese or your favorite sports drink and shrimp or nuts will work just fine. More