Many athletes believe that they can grow larger muscles by taking protein supplements rather than by eating protein in ordinary foods. However, protein powders come from food, and extracts cannot be more efficient than the foods from which they are extracted.
All athletes train by stressing and recovering. They take a hard workout, damage their muscles, feel sore the next morning, and then take easy workouts until the muscles heal and the soreness goes away. The athlete who can recover the fastest can do the most intense workouts. Eating a high carbohydrate-high protein meal within a half hour after finishing an intense workout raises insulin levels and hastens recovery ( Journal of Applied Physiology, May 2009). Another breakthrough study reported in the same issue shows that taking the high protein-carbohydrate meal before lifting weights does not hasten recovery.
Carbohydrate in the meal causes a high rise in blood sugar that causes the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin drives the protein building blocks (amino acids) in the meal into muscle cells to hasten healing from intense workouts. Muscles are extraordinarily sensitive to insulin during exercise and for up to a half hour after finishing exercise, so the fastest way to recover is to eat a protein- and carbohydrate-rich meal during the last part of your workout or within half an hour after you finish.
You can use either plant or animal sources of protein; both contain all of the essential amino acids necessary for cell growth.
There is also good data that creatine loading helps muscles recover faster. You get creatine from fish, poultry or meat, or creatine supplements. Your body can also make creatine from three amino acids found in both plants and animals: methionine, arginine and glycine. However, you get higher blood levels from supplements or animal protein sources. We do not know if taking the larger amounts of creatine in supplements is better than the amount found in meat, poultry or seafood.