If you're like most people, you probably experience muscle soreness after a hard workout. While it's normal to feel some discomfort after a strenuous session at the gym, too much soreness can interfere with your daily routine and make it difficult to exercise again.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a condition that causes moderate to extreme muscle pain and stiffness and affects muscles after physical activity. It usually starts 12–24 hours following the exercise. The muscle soreness then peaks around 24–72 hours after training. Muscle soreness is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle tissue after overload. Many athletes love muscle soreness because it's a sign they worked out hard and that muscle growth might be happening. However, too much soreness will delay your ability to get back to your next training, slowing down your improvements in your fitness journey. While hypertrophy (muscle growth) is a good sign, having to recover for days in between sessions is a no-go. Thankfully, you can do several things to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery.
INCLUDE PROTEIN PRE-AND-POST WORKOUT
When you exercise, your muscle fibres become damaged. To help reduce and repair damage, it's important to include protein pre-and-post workout. Quality proteins provide the amino acids needed to repair muscle tissue. It also helps ease inflammation by reducing the release of inflammatory cytokines. Use the most bioavailable proteins for better recovery.
Regarding protein consumption, opinions and recommendations differ depending on your needs and weight, ranging from 0.5g to 2.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. A good rule of thumb is to consume quality protein with every meal, especially if you are training and want to gain muscles.
There are many sources of protein that you can add to your diet, including lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, and legumes. You can also get additional protein from quality protein powders to make sure you cover your needs. FLEXIBLE collagen supplement contains 9g of clean collagen protein per scoop, with no filler, added sugars or sweeteners.
CARBOHYDRATES AND OMEGA-THREE FATTY ACIDS
In addition to protein, carbohydrates and omega-three fatty acids are important for reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery. Carbohydrates help replenish glycogen stores, which are depleted during exercise. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, and it's used by the muscles for energy. Omega-three fatty acids may help reduce inflammation caused by strenuous training and DOMS after eccentric exercises. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
You can get healthy carbohydrates from whole grain bread and cereals, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, and various fruits. Good sources of omega-three fatty acids include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, flaxseed oil, chia seeds oil, and walnuts. You can also take supplements such as fish oil capsules or flaxseed oil capsules.
DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS
When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes like sodium and potassium. These electrolytes are needed for proper hydration and help keep muscles working properly. That's why it's essential to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise.
Dehydration will cause stiffness and delayed muscular recovery. Additionally, it causes muscle weakness. A poor water intake while exercising could also make DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) worse and your recovery time will become longer. (Read The Flexibility Diet)
It's when you sleep that the body most efficiently repairs muscle tissue. Sleep has two basic states—non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. NREM is subdivided into three stages based on a continuum from light sleep (Stage N1 and N2) to deep sleep (Stage N3). It has been hypothesised that sleep, especially slow-wave sleep (Stage N3), is vital for physical recovery due to its relationship with growth hormone release .
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
Deep tissue massage can help reduce muscle soreness by breaking up adhesions, or knots, in the muscles. It also helps improve circulation and reduces inflammation.
To get the most benefit from deep tissue massage, it should be done soon after exercise. If you wait too long, the muscles will already have started to repair themselves, and the massage will be less effective.
You can get a deep tissue massage from a professional or use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to self-massage. (Read 13 Tools Elite Athletes Use To Enhance Their Flexibility)
TAKE ICE BATHS OR USE CRYOTHERAPY
Ice baths or whole-body cryotherapy are two more effective ways to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery. They work by reducing inflammation and the release of inflammatory cytokines.
Recent meta-analysis results—comprised of a total of 59 studies involving 1,367 patients—examined the effect of cold and heat therapies on pain relief in patients with delayed onset muscle soreness . When the effectiveness of the intervention is considered, cryotherapy is a primary choice for pain relief over 48 hours after exercise.
Whole-body cryotherapy is done in a special chamber where you are exposed to extremely cold air for two to three minutes. The chamber is typically set at -110 to -140 degrees Celsius. Cold water immersion is a good alternative if you don't have access to cryotherapy.
Both ice baths and cryotherapy can be uncomfortable, but they are effective at reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery.
For more anti-inflammatory lifestyle hacks in the book ALMOST PERFECT.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Muscle soreness is a common side effect of exercise, but there are things you can do to reduce it and speed up recovery. Drink plenty of fluids, sleep more, enjoy deep tissue massage, and take ice baths or use whole-body cryotherapy. Most importantly, eat a healthy, balanced diet that contains plenty of protein, healthy fats (especially Omega-3), and complex carbohydrates.
If you follow these tips, you'll be able to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery so you can get back to your workout routine as quickly as possible. Happy training!