Muscle soreness is one of the less pleasant side effects of sports. Depending on the type and intensity of the workout, the problem can range from barely noticeable to extremely painful. Why do our muscles get this phenomenon in the first place and what helps against sore muscles, read on.
Table of Contents
- Why does muscle soreness occur
- What helps against sore muscles
Why does muscle soreness occur
Muscle soreness after a workout signals that you have damaged your muscle tissue. When this damage, or micro-strain, occurs, the body initiates the repair process by causing inflammation in the injured area.
Fluid accumulates in the muscles, putting additional pressure on the damaged areas, resulting in the familiar feeling of tightness and soreness that usually occurs 12 to 24 hours after a workout
While some damage is done with any workout, certain types of workouts are notorious for a higher level of damage, and therefore, muscle soreness. In particular, a workout that is new to you, that is more intense than usual, or that involves a lot of eccentric movements is likely to cause more damage and soreness than other types of workouts.
If you increase the volume or intensity of your workout, it can lead to muscle soreness. What helps with sore muscles, find out here!
What helps against sore muscles
While there are no instant solutions-your muscles simply need time to heal-there are some strategies you can use to help ease soreness and promote recovery.
During and after your workout: drink
It may sound obvious, but staying hydrated is an important aspect of muscle recovery. Water keeps the fluid balance moving, which relieves inflammation, flushes out waste products and provides nutrients to the muscles.
The problem is that it can be difficult to determine if and when you are dehydrated, since you are likely dehydrated before you get thirsty. The color of your urine gives a good indication: medium or dark yellow urine indicates dehydration, while pale yellow urine means you have taken in enough fluids.
Note, however, that taking vitamin supplements may cause your urine to look darker than usual.
Use a foam roller or massager after exercise
Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a technique for releasing tension in muscles and connective tissues (foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and massage sticks are common SMR tools) that helps move fluids that build up in the muscle after exercise.
Foam rollers can help increase range of motion and reduce muscle soreness. Foam rolling, as well as other types of massage, increases blood flow so more nutrients and oxygen reach the affected area, which reduces swelling and tenderness.
Eat within a half hour of an intense workout.
By giving your muscles the nutrients they need to repair and get stronger again, you can speed up the recovery process. To speed recovery, consume 20 to 40 grams (g) of protein and 20 to 40 g of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of an intense or long workout (60 minutes or longer). (A serving of Greek yogurt with a handful of berries and a tablespoon of honey is one option for a snack).
Protein is important for the amino acids needed to rebuild muscles, while carbohydrates play the main role in replenishing the fuel stores that muscles have used up during exercise. But don’t stop with the post-workout snack. You won’t help your muscles recover if you starve yourself or go without nutritious foods for the rest of the day.
Prioritize your meals, and make sure your daily protein intake stays reasonably consistent to keep your tissues supplied with amino acids throughout the day. Experts recommend 1.4 to 2 g of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day when you’re active, with doses evenly distributed every three to four hours. So if you weigh 60 kg, you need about 95 to 136 g of protein per day.
Fruits, vegetables and legumes are also important to provide the body with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and zinc, which promote healing.
What helps with sore muscles: sleep
Sleep is important for many reasons, but it is also one of the most important components of exercise recovery. It may not seem like it has an immediate effect on muscle soreness, but it can definitely be beneficial.
NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, for example, increases protein synthesis (the formation of new proteins), which is necessary for the recovery of damaged muscles. So in the post-workout phase, don’t skimp on a good night’s rest. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep.
Do light exercises the day after a strenuous workout
Sore muscles need to rest, but that doesn’t mean that putting your feet up and spending the day on the couch is the best thing to do. Try gentle exercise, such as yoga for recovery, a light walk, swimming or biking, or even light weight training. It is important that you avoid doing another intense workout with the same muscle groups on consecutive days . On an exertion scale of 0 to 10 (where 10 represents maximum intensity), you should aim for an exertion level of 3, experts recommend. You want blood flowing to sore muscles to provide them with oxygen and nutrients needed for repair – without further damaging muscle tissue.
Better stay away from NSAIDs.
While you may be tempted to swallow a painkiller and call it a day, experts warn that in doing so, you may be sacrificing important parts of the muscle-building process. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen) can relieve the pain associated with sore muscles, but they can also prevent your muscles from getting bigger and stronger again.