Is your workout routine causing you pain? Read on for 7 tips to manage, help avoid and reduce muscle soreness after working out.
Why do Muscles Get Sore?
Muscle soreness from working out (also called delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS) is a sign that you damaged muscle tissues. Believe it or not this damage is a natural part of building larger muscles. When the micro tears occur your body repairs and builds stronger and bigger muscles but also triggers inflammation to that site which makes you feel sore.
Fluid also accumulates in the muscles leading to that feeling of tightness and pain the day after an intense workout. If you are doing a new workout routine or lifting heavier weights than normal you’ll likely trigger higher amounts of damage, which means more soreness. There are ways to manage DOMS and to help ease the inflammation and tightness you experience 24-72 hours after your workout. These 7 tips will help:
Drinking water while working out seems like a no-brainer — after all, staying hydrated is probably already part of your workout routine. Did you know, however, that drinking water actually helps with muscle recovery. Water keeps fluids moving through your body which can help reduce inflammation, flush out waste and get important nutrients to your muscles.
Make sure that you don’t wait until you’re thirsty to grab a drink. When your body sends the cue that you need a drink it’s a sign that you’re already a little hydrated. When you’re working out you are sweating and sweating is one way your body loses water so keep the water bottle handy and stay on top of the fluids before, during and after your workout.
2. Get Adequate Post-Recovery Meal
When it comes to reducing muscle soreness, not all foods are created equal. You’ll want to make sure that you eat a high quality snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing your exercise.
Like water helps clean out the bad and and reduce inflammation, the food you eat also plays a role in getting the nutrients your muscles need so they can repair and grow stronger.
A protein packed meal — 20-40 grams of protein– with carbs, also 20-40 grams, is recommended to follow a 30 minute intense workout or a long workout (60 minutes or longer).
The protein you eat provides the amino acids your muscles use for rebuilding and the carbs replenish the fuel stores that were used during your workout. Keep up the healthy eating and adequate amounts of protein and you’ll notice a decrease in the time your muscles need to recover and a general decrease in muscle soreness.
Certain foods also have inflammation reducing properties known as antioxidants. Foods that have had success in reducing inflammation include watermelon, tart cherry juice, pineapple and ginger.
3. Keep Exercising to Reduce Muscle Soreness
The temptation to take a day off after leg day leaves you sore is pretty great. While your muscles do need a bit of a break to help in recovery it is not recommended to skip your next day of working out. Try a day of cardio and hit up the hills or the treadmill to gently workout those muscles that were pushed to the max the previous day. Other gentle activities to keep your muscles active but not aching include yoga, walking, swimming or biking. Just avoid another consecutive day of intense training on that same muscle group. A gentle workout will keep your blood moving and delivering oxygen and nutrients to repair your muscles more quickly.
4. Try an Epsom Salt Bath
After an intense workout you can ease your muscles by ending your day with an epsom salt bath. There are studies that have linked soaking in epsom salts with reduced muscle pain and inflammation. In the hot water the salts break down to magnesium and sulfate so the idea is that soaking in the bath allows your body to soak in the magnesium and sulfate through your skin, helping to relax muscles and stiff joints.
5. Use a Foam Roller
Foam rollers, lacrosse balls and massage sticks are all used in a technique known as self-myofascial release (SMR) that helps release muscle tension and the buildup of fluids that accumulate are exercise. It is recommended to use the foam roller right after workout to increase circulation which helps your body deliver nutrients and oxygen more effectively to the area you have worked out. Doing SMR after an exercise has been shown to reduce swelling and tenderness and it’s a relaxing way to end a workout too.
6. Avoid NSAIDS
While the temptation might be to take a pain killer to reduce muscle soreness and the pain you’re feeling, experts actually do not recommend that. Anti-inflammatory drugs (called NSAIDs) such as Advil and Aleve do release pain but might prevent your muscles from growing back bigger and stronger.
7. Cool Down
While stretching before or after a workout hasn’t proven to do anything to help with helping reduce muscle soreness, a good cool down period could help. Cooling down helps your breathing and heart rate return to normal and, bonus, helps remove any lactic acid that’s built up during your workout. Less lactic acid can help delaying the onset of muscle soreness. A simple cool down could be walking or biking for 5-10 minutes.
In the end, no pain no gain is kind of true. Even experienced athletes experience muscle soreness, it’s a sign that your muscles are breaking down and growing stronger. Extreme pain however is not necessary and these 7 tips will help improve your circulation and clear out the lactic acid and will go a long way to help reduce muscle soreness after a workout.