One of my awesome FB readers wanted to me to do a post on muscle soreness and workout recovery, he indicates that he is training 5 days a week and is constantly sore.
I must mention that I don't know his training schedule so am unsure of how he is spacing workouts and muscle groups worked so I'm giving a general response here.
Let's start by discussing where muscle soreness come from. Simply, muscle soreness comes from working the muscles of the body harder than we typically do or have been. If we've just started out or are just getting back into the gym after a hiatus or holiday, those first few workouts typically cause some soreness because we haven't been challenging our muscles in the same way that we do when we are adding resistance or are targeting them specifically. Although the topic is constantly being researched, some of the latest research shows that muscle soreness (sometimes called DOMS or delated onset muscle soreness) is thought to come from micro-tears of the connective tissue causing inflammation and therefore an immune response by the body.
Don't we all want to know that our training is worth while? So does sore mean that we're making gains? Not necessarily. I like to think that a little muscle soreness in the right places is a good reminder that I've worked hard. When we feel soreness in the muscle group(s) that we've trained, it's a decent indication that our we've been successful in targeting the muscles that we were training. That said, extreme soreness can keep us from getting back into the gym and can make life a lot less enjoyable if we are limping around, barely able to get down stairs or out of our chairs.
I am a firm believer that more is NOT always better. If we are annihilating our muscles day in and out without sufficient rest and are feeling constantly sore then our bodies are telling us that we need more rest and recovery. If we fail to listen, we can end up ill or injured, or both.
Here are my tips for keeping that muscle soreness to a gentle reminder of a great workout as opposed to a laid out for a week full body meltdown. If you do go overboard, these tips will also help you to recover faster.
- If you are new or haven't been training for a while, start slowly. Choose lighter weights while you are getting back into the swing of things, don't go for 1 rep maxes on the first day out. Once you are back into the swing of things, remember to push your limits, however, not every workout needs to be to complete and utter failure.
- Space out muscle groups trained. If you've done a killer workout, take a rest day in between or make another muscle group the focus of your next workout.
- Cool down, stretch post workout, use a foam roller, add yoga into your workout schedule. Flexibility is so key in staying injury free and is so important for posture, balance, and coordination as we age.
- Keep moving, cardiovascular exercise has been shown to lower muscle soreness so you don't need to go out and run a marathon however, going for a walk, cleaning house, just moving around will help to loosen things up.
- Sleep! Get good quality sleep as this is when our bodies (and brains!) recover.
- Hydrate and don't be afraid to add a little salt to your water to help to balance electrolytes.
- Of course, use post workout nutrition to your advantage. Aim to replenish muscle glycogen with *.8-1.2 grams of carbohydrate per lb of bodyweight, and *20-50 grams of good quality protein post workout. **Range will vary depending on gender and activity level. Choose whole foods which are nutrient dense so that you are getting the benefits of all of the nutrients in your food to aid in your recovery. Potassium has been shown to help with muscle cramping and soreness so a sweet potato or a banana post workout is your friend - quick digesting carbs and potassium.
- Take a good quality multi-vitamin and fish oil. A good multi-vitamin will make sure that you are covering all of your bases as B vitamins as well as C, D, E, and K have been shown to help control inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil have also been shown to be significant in not only reducing inflammation but also in attacking inflammation that is already present in the body.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory/whole food nutrition plan - given that soreness is showing in the body as inflammation, as is all disease, stress, and trauma, we want to ensure that we're filling our bodies with vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and good quality proteins.
- Take a warm bath with epsom salts. The jury is still out on the whether the magnesium actually helps tackle muscle soreness however a warm bath just feels good 🙂
I hope that this helps and oh, by the way, I love when you guys ask questions, it let's me know what you need to hear!