Chances are that it’s happened to you at least once – you have an incredible workout, you feel great immediately after, and then the next day, you get hit with incredible muscle soreness. Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, can really disrupt your next workout, but there are things you can do to avoid it. Below are five tips, in no particular order, to help serious athletes and casual exercisers alike feel their best after even the toughest workouts.
#1. Make Sure You Get Enough Protein
When you exercise, and particularly when you practice strength train, your muscle tissue accumulates many tiny tears. If you do something to repair these tears, your muscles will gradually become stronger. Also, depending only our diet and training focus, they may also become larger in what is known as muscle hypertrophy. Your body uses amino acids from dietary proteins to help rebuild the muscle fibers.
These little tears may be partially responsible for post-workout soreness, so it makes sense that you want to give your body the raw materials it needs to repair the tears to alleviate soreness quickly. In one study, cyclists who had a protein and carbohydrate mixed gel had significantly less muscle damage after exercise than a group who only had carbohydrate gel. The protein gel group also increased exercise endurance.
#2. Do Some Moderate Cardio After Exercise
Many coaches and athletes have long believed in the importance of the chill-down after rigorous exercise, and research backs them up. In one study, exercisers performed either moderate-intensity or low-intensity cardio after eccentric motion exercises designed to induce muscle soreness. The researchers found that the moderate-intensity group had significantly reduced muscle soreness compared to the low-intensity group.
Even if you’re exhausted after a heavy lifting session, it’s helpful to keep in mind that a few minutes on the stair climber or treadmill now may be able to save you from significant soreness tomorrow.
#3. Make Sure You’Re Well-Hydrated
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of adequate dietary protein for muscle repair (and how speeding up muscle repair can help reduce DOMS), but making sure you are well-hydrated can also reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Dehydration can impair the muscle repair process, leaving you sore for longer periods of time.
Plus, you will perform better if you are hydrated well, so be sure to drink enough water throughout the day, and not just immediately after your workout.
#4. Foam-Roll Sore Muscles
In an age of high-tech fitness gadgets, sometimes older, time-tested methods are still excellent choices. This is true of avoiding and treating muscle soreness. The foam roller has long been a favorite of athletes across many disciplines, and one study, in particular, illustrates its effectiveness at alleviating or preventing post-workout muscle soreness.
In this study, men completed a heavy squatting routine. Researchers told one group to do no foam-rolling at all. The other group was instructed to foam roll for 20 minutes immediately after the exercise, and then to repeat the foam rolling routine 24 hours after and 48 hours after. The study found that the foam-rolling group had significantly less muscle pain than the group who did not foam roll.
#5. Try Tart Cherries or Tart Cherry Juice
This may sound like an unusual method. Not many articles that focus on reducing muscle soreness mention it. Still, tart cherry has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In one study, researchers compared two groups of runners. One drank tart cherry juice seven days before a long-distance relay race. Meanwhile, the other group drank a cherry-flavored placebo drink. Both groups had some increase in pain after the race, but those drinking the tart cherry juice said they had a much smaller increase in pain than the placebo group.
This method is inexpensive and easy to try. You may want to drink cherry juice, or you could incorporate cherries as a regular part of your diet. The runners in the study were preparing for a major race. Still, cherries or cherry juice can help you deal with routine soreness and not only pain after major athletic events.
Summing It Up
In short, training can sometimes result in uncomfortable or even downright painful muscle soreness. You don’t have to simply deal with this soreness, though. Many of the above management methods are free or very inexpensive. Give one a try after your next workout, and chances are good that you’ll feel better the next day.
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