An effective workout isn’t exactly a pleasant stroll in the park, is it? No, more often than not, it’s a tough regimen that specifically designed to burn off calories and fat and to build up your muscles.
Workouts can be so brutal that you’ll probably end up with sore muscles.
Why Do We Have Sore Muscles After Workouts?
When you exercise your muscles, you actually create microscopic tears in the muscle tissues.
This isn’t really a bad thing; your muscles repair the tear, and with the protein, in your diet, the muscles become bigger after they’re repaired.
The problem is that while this happens a day or two following your strenuous workout, it feels painful as your muscles feel sore.
This happens so frequently that experts already have a technical name for it. They call it delayed-onset muscle soreness, though most of the time they just refer to it as “DOMS”.
The pain at least is a reminder that you need to rest and recover as your body repairs your muscles.
However, you do have some options so that you can reduce the level of your discomfort and you can even shorten the recovery period.
This will enable you to exercise again so you can achieve your fitness goals more quickly.
There are also ways for you to prevent muscle soreness in the first place, though this may not be possible all the time.
At the very least, you can minimize the resulting pain and also help ensure that the painful recovery period doesn’t last too long.
Discover powerful workout formulas that will help you get better results and avoid muscle soreness:
How to Prevent It from Happening:
As the old cliché goes, prevention is better than cure.
So you can minimize the severity of the muscle soreness after workout by practicing several sensible preventive measures:
1. Do Some Stretches First:
Stretching gives your body and your muscles a chance to prepare for the movements you’re going to make when you work out.
It’s a bit like powering up a machine so that the gears can gradually get to the desired working speed more smoothly.
Your stretches should start with routines that involve movement (dynamic stretches) then followed by stretches that you hold (static stretches).
For dynamic stretches, you can do some walking lunges gently and swing your legs.
2. Warm up Before any Strenuous Exertion:
Your muscles need to prepare for the workload you have planned for them, and this is a gradual process.
Your best bet is to some light cardio work such as jumping rope and jumping jacks to get your heart pumping and your muscles warmed up.
With a warm-up routine, you’re not just risking serious DOMS problems after your workout. You also increase the likelihood of getting injured during your workout.
You’re more likely to pull something, such as a muscle, a ligament, or a tendon. Such an injury can further slow down your progress as you need more time to recover.
3. Progress Slowly:
This means that if you’re a couch potato and a newbie to workouts, you can’t just train with the same intensity as life-long athletes. You need to gradually do better, instead of suddenly aiming for unrealistic standards.
So if you’re new to running, start first with a mild pace that’s just enough to get your heart going. Don’t go into hard sprints right away. With weightlifting, you also certainly don’t want to lift hundreds of pounds immediately.
Even if you’re at an advanced level, any unfamiliar exercise routine can “shock” your muscles so that the muscle soreness after workout sessions can be much greater.
So at the start of any new type of exercise, go at it on a “medium” setting. On a scale of 0 to 10 (with 0 as just lazing in bed watching TV to 10 as running hard to save your life), start with a 5 setting for the first 2 weeks or so.
You can then increase the setting gradually after each week, though you need to check the severity of your sore muscles.
You can progress just a little bit more each week if the sore muscles only feel a bit tight for a day or two after a workout.
4. Make Sure You’re Doing Your Exercises Correctly:
Improper exercise form is one of the most common reasons why people don’t achieve their fitness goals and why they also often end up with an injury.
The wrong form and posture can also result in prolonged and painful DOMS as well.
That’s why you’re better off watching video demonstrations of exercises, rather than relying on your comprehension of the written directions.
With a video, you can see what you need to do. Better yet, get a trainer to help you out with your form.
5. Don’t Forget to Hydrate Yourself:
Drinking is crucial before and during a prolonged workout if you want to avoid cramps during the session and reduce muscle soreness and inflammation afterward. For most people, water is the best drink option.
However, it’s also been shown that drinking 2 cups of coffee before you work out can also help.
Research into the subject has indicated that this can reduce your fatigue and muscle soreness levels by almost 50%.
A sports beverage with electrolytes may be a suitable addition to drinking water if you tend to perspire heavily. This sports beverage replaces the sodium and electrolytes you lose with your sweat.
Just don’t drink anything with too much sugar and calories—you’re just consuming the calories you’ve already shed with your exercise.
6. Get into an Ice Bath right After a Workout:
The locker rooms of pro sports and college teams all have ice baths in their premises, so that should give you a clue.
These pros make it their business to know what to do for sore muscles, and what they recommend for their athletes are all good enough for you too.
A 10-minute soak can do well enough to halt further damage to the muscles. More than a dozen trials have demonstrated that soaking in cold water reduces muscle soreness a lot better than just resting afterward and doing nothing.
You can also apply an ice bag to your sore muscles the next day. This will reduce the inflammation that’s the main cause of your muscle soreness.
7. Get a Few Zzzzs:
About a couple of hours after your workout, a short nap can do wonders. Your body restores itself as you sleep, and it releases natural growth hormones that assist in muscle repair and growth.
8. Apply a Heating Pad a few Hours Later:
The pain you’ll feel is often caused by tight muscles. By applying heat, you loosen up those muscles and increase the blood flow, which then accelerates the muscle soreness recovery process. It’s really relaxing and it also offers mild pain relief as well.
9. Apply Arnica Cream:
There’s a version of Bengay based on the arnica plant that comes in cream or gel form. You can apply this to the painful swollen muscles and it can be just as effective in reducing the pain.
10. Get a Massage:
If you have the budget for this, you can get an expert to apply some deep-tissue massage after your workout.
This soothing treatment boosts the blood flow to your muscles, which then accelerates the elimination of the inflammatory substances that cause the soreness.
You can massage below and above the affected areas, and then you can gradually work your way into the sore parts of your muscles.
In some ways, this self-massage method is much better so that you can ease your way into the massage.
Sometimes the experts can be a little bit too hard when they apply pressure, and the thought of such pressure can make you cringe.
You can also use massage devices like a foam roller, Thera-Cane, or even just plain tennis balls. You only apply these devices to the sore spots, and you’ll eventually feel better. Some compression garments can also work as well, as they may contain gel inserts to soothe your aching muscles.
11. Light Activity:
You can use those same muscles the next day just a bit more lightly, and this type of activity can reduce the sore feeling.
If you’ve run hard previously, then perhaps you can take a stroll or take a gentle bike ride through town. Swimming can also help with sore muscle relief.
12. Avoid Alcohol:
A beer may be fine, but two bottles may be pushing it. Drink more than a couple, and you may be impeding your body’s efforts to recover from your strenuous activities.
Are Pain Killers Recommended for Sore Muscles?
The short answer here is NO, and like alcohol, they’re to be avoided whenever possible.
It is true that taking aspirin or ibuprofen can offer a notable reduction in the soreness you feel after your workout.
It’s probably okay if every once in a long while you take 2 tablets when you feel sore after workout sessions.
But it is also true that these things can also do more harm than good in the long run.
That’s why you really should reconsider it if you decide to take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin and ibuprofen.
The growing body of research on this topic raises questions regarding rather unsavory side effects.
The studies indicate that these drugs may inhibit protein synthesis (which is crucial for muscle repair and growth). It can lead to intestinal issues such as gut barrier dysfunction and exercise-induced small intestinal injury.
However, it’s a different matter if you are sore after workout sessions because of muscle strain instead of muscle soreness.
This is probably what you have when your discomfort doesn’t fade after a few days and instead lasts a week or more.
Your best option is to consult your doctor so that you can get the treatment you need, as your muscles have suffered greater injuries than just mere microscopic tears.
Post Workout Supplements and Foods for Muscle Recovery:
In addition to various post-workout activities for muscle soreness reduction after a workout, you can also take supplements or include various helpful foods in your diet to help your muscles recover more quickly.
The various foods that have a scientific basis for their supposed effectiveness include:
These fruits contain an enzyme called bromelain, and studies indicate that its inflammatory benefits are very similar to what you get with anti-inflammatory medicines.
It’s also possible for you to buy supplements with bromelain as its main active ingredient.
2. Tart Cherries:
You can eat cherries or make a juice. Either way, consuming the tart cherries as your post-workout recovery drink can reduce the pain and inflammation to ease your sore muscles.
The scientists believe that this benefit is due to the antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that the fruits contain.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
These are essential fatty acids that you can find in healthy food like salmon and tuna, organic meat products, and snacks like walnuts, flax, and avocado.
All these foods have natural anti-inflammatory properties that fight off the muscle soreness after a brutal workout.
4. Foods Rich in Vitamin C:
There seems to be no end in sight to the benefits of vitamin C, doesn’t it? Studies indicate that if your regular diet is rich in vitamin C, you’re generally less prone to severe muscle soreness.
So include a lot of fruits rich in vitamin C into your snack and dessert menu.
5. Potassium Rich Foods:
Bananas are of course the obvious source of this, but you can get potassium from kiwis. The kiwifruit may even be a better source, as it provides the same amount of potassium but with fewer calories, carbs, and sugar amounts.
By now, it should be quite evident to you that you don’t need to suffer whimpering in misery.
You have preventive measures and effective recovery methods you can try to make sure that the problem isn’t as painful and it doesn’t last as long.
Sore muscles after workouts may keep you from losing weight and gaining muscle, but it’s a problem that’s far from unsolvable! You can still progress with your workout results, avoid plateaus and really enjoy your gym sessions.
Check this article to discover the best pre, intra and post workout formulas that will boost your workout and help you recover quickly: