While some people live for the day-after soreness that can accompany a hard training session, seeing it as a signifier of success, for others it can be an unwelcome disruption to their daily lives, or even an excuse to avoid workouts altogether. Although these symptoms of muscle fatigue – known in the fitness world as DOMS, or “delayed-onset muscle soreness” – vary in severity according to individuals’ genetic propensity to experience them, there are steps that anyone can take to help lessen the stiffness, pain and limited range of motion that often follow a new or advanced workout routine.
- Consider taking caffeine before or after a workout.
While this treatment should be avoided by those who are caffeine-sensitive, have heart issues or find themselves with a sour stomach after consuming coffee, caffeine can be an effective way to prevent DOMS, if taken before a workout. Studies have shown that, when compared with a control group that took a placebo, participants who consumed the equivalent of 2.5 cups of coffee before a workout were considerably less sore on the second and third day after, which suggests that caffeine causes muscles to recover more quickly. Caffeine can also be taken after a workout, including the day after, to reduce DOMS.
- Use a mentholated topical ointment, such as Tiger Balm, on sore muscles.
While most people’s instinct is to apply ice to sore muscles (which also works), research (and not just that performed by the companies that make these products) has shown that stronger, faster relief can be achieved through using products that contain menthol. This is because menthol, a natural plant byproduct, causes a cooling sensation that more effectively reduces sensations of pain than ice, with none of the numbness.
- Try a lightened-up version of your planned training prior to the real deal.
Diving right into a hard workout, even after stretching, can shock muscles in a manner that has been hypothesized to contribute to DOMS severity. Acclimating your muscles to what they’re about to encounter, however, may greatly lessen your pain later on. For example: If you’re in the weight room and planning on doing reps to exhaustion at a weight that is challenging to you, replicate your workout with a lower, set number of reps at a much lighter weight prior to your “real” training session.
- Eat and sleep right.
You’ve probably heard that abs – and overall fitness – are built in the kitchen as much as they are in the gym, but did you know that what you eat can affect muscle soreness, too? Eating protein 30 minutes after a workout can reduce soreness as it contains amino acids, which contribute to muscle rebuilding. Sleep, meanwhile, is undersold in importance when it comes to both workout effectiveness and muscle reparation (which go hand-in-hand); make sure to get the full amount recommended for adults, which can range from 6.5-8 hours a night, depending on age and other factors.
If you’re experiencing DOMS and seek a way to reduce the pain and discomfort, schedule a meeting with one of our Registered Dietitians, nurses or trainers, to which all Future Fitness Centers members have FREE access!