You put yourself through a tough workout (like one with me ;) ). Maybe you're sore immediately after you get done, maybe then worst of it hits 1-2 days later. What can we do?
First, let’s talk about types.
Acute muscle soreness: It isn’t very cute (pun intended), but this happens during or immediately after exercise. It’s more of a burning sensation, and caused by lactic acid buildup in the muscles. This generally goes away quickly following the session. HOWEVER, you may still have this immediate burning sensation even after adapting to a new exercise routine.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): The soreness that comes 1-2 days following exercise. This comes from the damage you cause to your muscles through intense exercise. DOMS will improve as time passes and your body adapts to the workouts. This is where we will focus today.
10 Ways to Help Reduce Soreness:
HYDRATE. It sounds obvious, but water keeps things moving (literally) through our system. It helps ease inflammation, deliver nutrients to muscles, and flush out waste products.
MASSAGE. Go see a massage therapist, use a massage gun (I have the HyperVolt and LOVE it), or massage your own quads, calves, biceps, etc. Massages reduce inflammation, reduce muscle tightness and blood flow, and help stimulate cell function and repair. Plus, they feel great.
FOAM ROLL. Roll immediately after workout instead of waiting until you’re sore. Foam rolling helps increase circulation to the affected area. This allows oxygen and nutrients to flow more easily, reduce inflammation and tenderness, and reduce the chances of DOMS.
Part 1: Pre workout nutrition. Your body needs energy to properly get through a workout. If you are not giving your body an adequate amount of calories (fuel), on a daily basis, it will begin to search for other energy stores, primarily muscle. This is what is known as a catabolic state, which can be incredibly taxing on the body, and a primary cause of fatigue. In addition to energy stores that are (hopefully) full from your regular meals, consider adding a small snack with carbs + protein 30-60 minutes prior to exercise to give your body an immediate energy source to draw from.
Part 2: Post workout nutrition. Muscles need fuel to repair - so feed them. Have a post workout snack with protein + carbs to help your muscles jump start their recovery. Protein provides the amino acids that rebuild your muscles, while carbs replenish the fuel stores used during your workout. General rule of thumb on protein intake: 1.4 to 2 g of protein per kg of bodyweight daily.
SLEEP. Adequate amounts of REM and deep sleep ensure your muscles have adequate time to repair damaged tissue and recover. There is a surge of blood flow during deep sleep cycles that helps your tissues grow and develop.
EXERCISE CONSISTENTLY. Muscle soreness helps your body adapt to exercise. Once your body is used to the stress of a certain activity, soreness will reduce greatly.
REST DAYS. Notice the point above says consistently, not constantly. A whole blog post will follow on this, but for now - avoid working the same muscle groups back to back days if working at an intense level. Constant stress on your body will keep your muscles in a state of constant breakdown and never give them a chance to repair and come back stronger. This doesn’t mean sit on your couch all day - active recovery is a term for a reason. Light resistance training, go for a walk or bike ride - get blood moving to your sore muscles to bring them the oxygen + nutrients needed for repair.
ANTI INFLAMMATORY FOODS.
Turmeric, fatty fish/fish oil, ginger, green tea, berries, cherries, extra virgin olive oil, leafy greens, and whole grains are among some of the best foods that contain inflammation fighting properties. Implement into both your post workout snack or meal as well as your normal diet.
EPSOM SALT BATH. When dissolved in water, Epsom salts break down into Magnesium Sulphate. Magnesium can help promote blood flow, reduce inflammation, and aid muscle and nerve function. Sulphates help to flush toxins and improve the absorption of nutrients. Plus, they feel great and help release mental stress as well as physical!
ICE BATH/CRYOTHERAPY. Literally the opposite of the point above, both heat and cold therapy have been used for hundreds of years to help the body recover. Ice baths reduce inflammation, soothe sore muscles, and help promote blood flow as blood vessels constrict in the cold and then dilate once warm again, helping to flush out metabolic waste.