Ways to Relieve Muscle Soreness — Technique and Nutrition During and After a Workout

Getting to the gym is hard enough, and getting back gets even harder if you need to cope with extreme muscle soreness. This can make it hard to complete regular tasks, let alone complete another rigorous workout. Use these post-workout tips to minimize your soreness so that you can get back to the gym.

Stay hydrated

It’s paramount that you keep your body hydrated all the time, and this is especially true when it comes time to work out. If you begin the workout dehydrated, it will only worsen your performance during the workout and how well your body recovers after. On the days you plan to work out, keep the water flowing all day. Bring water to your workout, take breaks to sip it every few minutes, and drink plenty after you finish. Staying hydrated before, during, and after each workout is the best way to aid your body’s recovery.

Wear compression gear

Your muscles need support during a workout, but it’s also true that they need some help afterward. Compression gear—with its many benefits—can help in both regards. Many athletes, trainers, and gym members wear compression gear after each workout, as it alleviates muscle soreness and eases swelling.

Stretch and use a foam roller post-workout

After you complete a workout, and the damage to your muscles is done, your body starts the healing process. Post-workout, your body is warm and prepared for an intense stretch. But you don’t want to go too far out of your comfort zone—you should listen to your body’s signals. If you stretch too much, or overexert your body, you could injure yourself. Doing a more intense stretch after exercise helps your body increase flexibility and relieve soreness by minimizing tension in your muscles.

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Post-Workout Fuel

Another way to avoid or reduce muscle soreness is to fuel up quickly after a strenuous workout. The exact cause of muscle soreness has not been proven. However, a meal high in carbohydrates within 15-20 minutes of the end of a workout might be good practice to help your muscles restore glycogen more quickly. Rapid high carb fueling immediately followed by quality protein fueling may help muscle stabilization and repair processes associated with the adaptation involved with muscle building (and avoidance of DOMS (see below) and muscle soreness from the next bout of exercise). Follow the high carbohydrate fuel with a high protein mix, so amino acids are readily available to repair muscles. Avoid high fat meals immediately after a workout because fat slow absorption of carbohydrates and amino acids from protein. If you don’t have time to consume a high carbohydrate fuel followed by a high protein fuel, consume fuel that contains a mix of carbohydrate and protein. Just make sure the total fat content is 0 grams or at least less than or equal to 2-5 grams within the first 20-30 minutes post workout.

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While all these methods may not rid you of muscle soreness entirely, they may help minimize and prevent major soreness, which makes it easier for you to get back to the gym quicker!

Keep in mind if you totally overdo a workout, there is no way to avoid muscle soreness, especially if the workout is your first workout after a long period of inactivity. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the pain and stiffness felt in muscles several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise. Often, DOMS does not bring on pain until 24 hours after a first-time strenuous workout. Following little or no pain and stiffness for the first 18-24 hours, the pain and stiffness may develop and increase over a 24-72 hour period that is delayed from the immediate post-workout period.

In a book by Ken Nosaka, he explains that muscle soreness is associated predominantly with exercise involving eccentric contractions, compared to exercise involving isometric contractions or concentric contractions.

Eccentric (lengthening) contractions of the muscle involves the muscle applying a contraction force while it is overcome and lengthening. Isometric (static) contractions involve the muscle applying a contraction force against an immovable object. Concentric (shortening) contractions involve the muscle and skeletal lever overcoming an object or load so that the muscle shortens while it contracts. In the study, isometric contractions caused much less soreness, and concentric (shortening) contractions caused none.

Nosaka, Ken (2008). “Muscle Soreness and Damage and the Repeated-Bout Effect”. In Tiidus, Peter M (ed.). Skeletal muscle damage and repair. Human Kinetics. pp. 59–76. ISBN 978-0-7360-5867-4.

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