Delayed onset muscle soreness (more commonly known as DOMS) is one of those big turn-offs that sometimes be the deciding factor on whether or not you’re going to workout tomorrow morning.
Some pain after exercising is, of course, completely normal. The stress you place your muscles under during an (effective) workout causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. DOMS is a side-effect, of sorts, of your muscles trying to repair themselves.
DOMS usually begin to set in between 24-72 hours after exercise. Some people love it – a physical and constant reminder of how hard they worked the day before. But if you’re not such a massive fan of that achy, stiff feeling, here are some of the best ways to prevent DOMS before they completely take over.
1) Warm Up & Cool Down
Possibly the most important components of a workout – and yet also periodically the most neglected; warming up and cooling down are crucial for safe fitness practice. Warming up prepares the body for exercise; synovial fluid is secreted to lubricate the joints, the heart rate rises and blood flow increases to the muscles which are being used. Cooling down helps the body to safely return to a resting state, helping to gradually remove any unwanted byproducts of training, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. This all helps to minimize the impact of the stress that occurs during training. The muscles become more more elastic, flexible and resilient. They become more effective during your workout, and more efficient at recovery afterwards.
2) Eat Right
Everyone knows that diet and fitness go hand in hand, but there’s more to the food-part than just “losing weight” or “gaining muscle” through calorie control. Protein, obviously, is essential for growth and repair – so eating plenty of lean meat, fish or eggs can soothe the post-workout pains. Carbohydrates will give tired muscles an energy boost, whilst eating plenty of superfoods, such as purple berries, will help to remove the free radicals that are produced in the muscles during exercise. Ginger, berries, greens and fish all have known anti-inflammatory properties for when your DOMS are really flaring up.
3) Get your Sleep
The majority of your body’s repair and recovery occurs whilst you sleep. Many of the body’s chemicals – growth hormones for example- are produced and released during the deep-sleep phases. It’s important to get a good 7-8 hours a night to alleviate DOMS and encourage your muscles to grow.
4) Boost your BCAA’s
Usually in capsule or powder form, BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) speed up protein synthesis (help muscle growth, essentially). They do this by preventing the breakdown of tissue. This can happen if you train hard and don’t have the fat or energy stores to keep you going; you’re body starts eating into the muscles for energy and they break down. It’s called going catabolic. Sounds kinda like a horror movie, but BCAA’s stop this from happening, and the repair that they help to build will also reduce the nasty side effects of DOMS.