Why muscles get sore, and what to do about it!
Soreness in your muscles, scientifically known as ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ (DOMS), starts between a few hours and about a day after a strenuous workout and can last up to 72 hours. The cause is tiny rips (microtrauma) on the muscles you’ve been working and your body’s efforts to rebuild and expand these muscles so it’s better able to cope with the same workout in the future.
In essence, it’s the fundamental mechanism by which your muscles get bigger and stronger when you work out, and as such, if you’re working out regularly it’s something you’ll get used to experiencing. Some people even grow to enjoy the feeling as a sign of progress.
If you plan to take bodybuilding seriously, you should plan a whole week workout plan, concentration on different muscle groups each day, this allows you to train a new part of the body while other muscles recover from soreness.
The Science Behind Muscle Soreness
Be careful not to use muscle soreness solely as a gauge of how good your workout was, as a range of factors dictate how quickly you muscles will grow. Your diet is one particularly important one. You need to make sure you’re eating enough protein and have a balanced amount of carbs, fats, sugars and other essential nutrients in your diet. You also need proper rest and sleep, as it’s at night that your body tends to repair itself.
All muscle movement is likely to cause soreness when done intensively, but movements where the muscle lengthens as it contracts will cause some of the most soreness. This is why you’ll really feel it in your legs after you’ve done extended running downhill or squats for example.
One common misconception is that DOMS is caused by the buildup of lactic acid in your body. It’s true that as you exercise, in your bodies quest for energy it breaks down molecules and produces lactic acid as a byproduct – this is what causes your muscles to feel like they’re burning when you exercise – but this lactic acid clears your body within about an hour of the end of your workout and certainly wouldn’t be affecting you the day after a workout.
Delayed muscle soreness is quite normal, however, any sharp pain felt immediately during or after an exercise could be a sign of muscle injury. Your should stop your workout immediately and work out what’s happened before carrying on. And remember to drink plenty of water while you workout, otherwise you could put yourself at risk of rhabdomyolysis.
Avoid and Relieve Muscle Soreness
You might have heard that stretching before and after a workout can help you avoid muscle soreness. Sadly studies have found this claim not to be true. While it’s still a good idea to warm up and down properly to avoid injury, progressing through a new exercise slowly, rather than gunning it, is the best way to help you avoid excess soreness.
Having a sports massage has been shown to be a great way to help relieve muscle soreness as it helps fluid and blood travel more quickly around the body and helps muscle microtrauma heal quicker.
The same has been shown for contrasting hot and cold showers, taking a bath with Epsom salts and consuming protein shakes immediately after a workout which encourages protein synthesis and leads to quicker repair of your muscles. Omega-3 supplements have also been shown to help reduce inflammation which will give you some additional relief.
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