Muscle soreness, also referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is actually a good thing! It is a sign that your muscles worked hard and with proper recovery, they will get stronger. DOMS is due to microscopic tears in your muscles and the symptoms will usually peak between 24 to 48 hours post-workout. However, you might have felt muscle soreness for a longer period of time, like up to a week and that was way too intense.
I remember coming back from a 3-week trip to Italy and going back to the gym the next day for an intense squat workout. Right after the workout, I had a hard time climbing up the stairs. No muscle soreness yet, but my legs felt sooo heavy! The next morning when I woke up, as soon as my feet hit the floor, I felt intense pain and stiffness in my legs. I looked like an old out of shape man trying to go down the stair. It got even worst when I tried to sit in my car and go to work. The seat never felt so low as I screamed sitting down in my car.
So, here are 5 ways to reduce muscle soreness and avoid looking like I did!
1. Start gently
The best way to reduce muscle soreness is to start a new exercise or a new training gently and increase gradually the intensity. By intensity, I mean more reps, more weights… well anything that will make the exercise harder. That way, you allow your muscle to adapt and become stronger gradually and therefore you reduce DOMS. If you don’t feel anything 24 to 48 hours after your workout, then it’s time to increase intensity or even switch things ups. Try a new exercise or training to challenge your muscles and get stronger.
2. Hydration is Key
When well-hydrated, your body can have as much as 60% of water. One of the key roles of water in the body is to help deliver nutrients to your cells (let’s say for example amino acids and oxygen to your muscle so they can recover) and it also helps get rid of waste products (let’s say for example hydrogen ions and lactic acid). So, drinking water during and after your workout may help you recover your broken-down muscles faster and feel less soreness the day after. Don’t forget that when you sweat you don’t only lose water, but electrolytes too. Therefore, any kind of sports drink or powder that contains electrolytes would be a good idea to use, plus they taste really good (in my opinion water tends to get boring really fast!).
3. Help Your Recovery with Proteins and BCAAs
Proteins are important for your muscles because they provide the amino acids needed to repair the microscopic tears you made during your training. Basically, your body takes the proteins you ingest and breaks them down into amino acids to rebuild the proteins he needs. Aiming for 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilo or 0.6 to 0.9 grams per pound each day if you train regularly is a good target. You should split your proteins intakes between 3 to 5 servings to let your body the time it needs to process them. If you take too many proteins in one serving, the excess will most likely be stored in your body in the form of fat! In other words, you will lose all the excess proteins and won’t be able to use them at all.
BCAAs (branched chained amino acids) are also important because they represent more than 35% of your muscle mass. There are 3 amino acids that are included in this category: leucine, valine, and isoleucine. They are essentials amino acids, which means that your body needs them, but cannot synthesize them, you need to get them through what you eat. Leucine is even more important because it has been shown to stimulate protein synthesis when ingested, which would suggest that it would help recover your muscle and therefore reduce muscle soreness.
4. Keep Moving
Even if your muscles are sore, doing some light exercise will help blood circulation deliver the nutrients and oxygen needed for repair. The key here is light, you don’t want to induce more microscopic tears in your muscles before they are restored. If your muscles feel sore at first, just give them time to warm up and the soreness should go away. Of course, it will come back when they cool down, but the increased blood circulation induced during this light training session should help reduce muscle soreness.
5. A Good Night Sleep
Sleep is so important in general and as a bonus, it may also help reduce muscle soreness. According to this study, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep would be a catalyst for anabolic hormones that promote the synthesis of protein. Therefore, a good night’s sleep of at least 7 hours should help reduce DOMS. On its own, it might not seem to have an immediate effect on muscle soreness, but when combined with all of the previous tips, it should help speed up recovery.
You are ready now! Hit the gym, go for a run, enjoy your favorite sport or activity, and apply those principles to reduce muscle soreness. Be smart, stay healthy!