How To Minimize Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Also known as ‘muscle fever’, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) refers to the sore muscles you experience typically a day after unfamiliar exercise. When you’re a beginner and start a workout routine, it shocks your muscle and leads to a cramp-like pain. Even when you’re an advanced athlete, you can still develop muscle soreness when you add more intensity to your workout than you usually do. That is why it is important to know how hard you should push yourself during a workout. The good thing is that the soreness becomes much weaker after you complete your next workout, but still, dealing with the first bout can be a test of your patience and perseverance.
More about DOMS Timing and Causes
It is quite interesting to see that DOMS can be quite delayed for some people. For most, the soreness appears a day after the workout, but some people develop it “right away” and almost immediately after they complete their workout session. There are also examples of people who have that soreness three days after the original workout, which is weird but true.
What causes DOMS is not clear but experts have identified some triggers. For instance, you develop soreness when you put in more effort during a workout than you usually do, but you may also develop the soreness because of eccentric contractions. In other words, controlled elongation is more likely to cause DOMS as compared to concentric contractions.
Some experts believe that genetics play a role here as well, as some people are more sensitive to the effect and the intensity of pain is quite high for them. Moreover, many other stresses can also exacerbate your muscle pain, like the pain that can become severe when you’re dehydrated after a workout session. Sometimes, your fear of pain can also make your DOMS more severe, so you have to develop a stronger mind along with a stronger body to deal with it.
Ways to Help Reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
It is difficult to prevent DOMS since experts are not sure what causes it in the first place. However, it is certainly possible to minimize its devastating effects, and the following will help you with that.
1. Include BCCAs in Your Routine
The branched-chain amino acids (BCCAs) have so many benefits, one of which is to accelerate recovery and help reduce muscle soreness. Many studies have confirmed that BCCAs can help prevent DOMS, but also confirm they are ineffective when it comes to preventing DOMS from happening. It was established that taking around 100mg/kg of BCCAs may help reduce muscle soreness at 48 hours in men.
Another study has found that taking BCCAs before and after a strenuous workout may reduce DOMS. Some experts believe BCCAs work because they trigger protein synthesis and limit muscle breakdown, which helps conserve tissue during a workout session. It means that BCCAs are likely to preserve the integrity of your muscle fibers, with less severe muscle soreness after the workout.
2. Combine BCCAs with Taurine
To get better results and minimize DOMS, a combination of BCCAs and taurine has been shown to be effective. Taurine is an increasingly popular supplement mainly because it helps reduce stress, boosts metabolism, and support cardiovascular function. At the same time, it enhances the overall effect of BCCAs, which is why you’re likely to notice a considerable reduction in muscle pain after a workout. Studies have found a reduction in soreness with 3 doses of 3.2g of BCCAs and 2g of taurine a day before and after a strenuous workout.
Taurine is believed to improve the water content in your muscle fibers, reducing muscle damage and minimizing DOMS. The combination of BCCAs and taurine is also thought to decrease oxidative stress and enhance protein synthesis, which may also play a role in accelerating recovery and reducing the intensity of DOMS. Additionally, taurine is thought to improve your sleep quality, and since your body repairs itself during sleep, it accelerates recovery and alleviates soreness.
3. Make Use of Topical Menthol
Thanks to its cooling sensation, topical menthol is likely to make you feel better when you’re battling with muscle pain. Some studies have noticed a reduction of 63.1% after the use of a menthol cream on trained muscles. It doesn’t really make any physical changes in your body but blocks the brain-pain connection reducing the pain sensation.
4. Try Curcumin to Reduce DOMS
Some evidence is there to back the use of a topical curcumin cream on muscles after a workout to reduce muscle pain and trigger recovery. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is the main compound present in turmeric. Some experts believe that using the combination of bromelain enzymes, curcumin, resveratrol, and other vegan proteins and antioxidants may alleviate muscle pain and help you recover after a workout.
5. Train More Often
Another way to avoid dealing with severe muscle pain and soreness is to train more often, or you can also try a concentric workout the very next day of performing a DOMS-inducing workout. Experts believe that regular training helps with DOMS because it lowers the inflammatory response in the body. Therefore, regular exercise is beneficial, and you can actually enjoy the repeated bout effect for better gains by exercising thrice week.
6. Try Acupuncture
One way to manage soreness in an efficient way is to try acupuncture, especially on tender points. When done correctly, acupuncture can help increase muscle function and lower pain sensation by inhibiting pain receptors. You may benefit from acupuncture a lot more when you’re a professional athlete or training for a competition.
7. Enjoy Tart Cherries
The idea is to load up on antioxidants to help relieve the oxidative stress. Good nutrition plays a role in determining the effectiveness of your workout, and it can also affect your recovery period. Some studies have shown that consuming tart cherry juice a few days before the strenuous workout may help reduce muscle soreness.
Tart cherries are high in antioxidant compounds including anthocyanins that help decrease inflammation in the body. Simply having a couple of glasses from your home juicer or blender every week will help bridge any nutrition gaps you may have. You should still pay attention to maintaining a nutrient-rich diet for better gains.
8. Include Coffee in Your Routine
One way to help minimize DOMS is to increase your intake of caffeine and take it before your workout to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness. Not only does caffeine stimulate your central nervous system to increase energy, but it also helps by working as an analgesic reducing pain associated with strenuous workouts.
You can take a caffeine supplement or by simply drinking a couple of cups of coffee an hour before your workout. Coffee beans also trigger the recovery, which makes it easier to combat muscle pain. Some experts believe that a moderate amount of coffee may also help hydrate your system, which is important for reducing the symptoms of DOMS.
9. Get a Massage
While not all studies have shown positive results, there is some evidence that a post-exercise massage may help reduce muscle soreness. Some experts are of the view that regular massages significantly increase your body’s ability to deal with delayed onset muscle soreness.
Getting a massage may help because your massaged muscles are likely to have increased circulation through the blood vessels than those that don’t get a massage, and an increase in blood volume aids recovery. You’re also less likely to develop scar tissue in muscles that get a massage before a workout. Similarly, you can also have a post-workout massage to promote tissue regeneration.
10. Try Foam Rolling
Just like getting a massage, foam rolling moves may also help relieve tension in the connective tissue of your muscle. There is evidence to support the use of foam rolling to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness and improve your performance in the next workout. Simply take your foam roller and use it for at least 15 minutes daily by making it an important part of your cool-down and warm-up routine.
11. Try Recovery Workouts
It may sound counterproductive but trying a light workout when you experience muscle soreness may actually help make things more manageable. When you engage in a DOMS-inducing workout, it is a good idea to perform a low-intensity routine right after your regular workout to reduce muscle pain. For instance, if you feel sore after your leg workout day, you will not be in a position to try another heavy squatting session but some light legwork, like a few minutes on an elliptical or assault bike will work wonders in promoting recovery.
Light workouts improve blood circulation and deliver important nutrients to your muscle tissue, which reduce inflammation by clearing inflammatory mediators and moving immune cells better. Just keep in mind that contrary to popular belief, static stretching is not going to help a lot in reducing DOMS.
Popular Options You May Want to Avoid
Many people believe that eating more fats, protein, and carbs alone can help prevent DOMS, but that is not always true. Even the most effective ways to treat DOMS may fail to help some people, and that is probably the reason why many athletes are trying other ways to tackle this problem with many of them resorting to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The question is, “Should you really be relying on that pain pill to deal with DOMS?”
Well, many experts believe that those pills can affect muscle protein synthesis and lower your bodybuilding gains. Some also believe that it can damage your liver and cause other complications. Similarly, many athletes have found anti-DOMS enzyme therapy to work for them, but the truth is that using protease enzyme is not always beneficial against delayed onset muscle soreness. The destruction of these enzymes in the gut and absorption issues make it a less favorable way to deal with DOMS.
Some Steps to Take to Lower Risk of Having DOMS
As mentioned already, there is no clear-cut answer to why some people are more likely to deal with DOMS as compared to others but experts recommend certain steps to lower chances of developing that severe muscle pain after your workout. Here is what you can try:
- Never skip your warm-up or else you will end up dealing with severe muscle pain after your workout. You don’t have to go hard here, as simply cycling or walking for 10 minutes or so will prepare your muscles for your grueling workout session.
- Don’t forget to foam roll before you start your workout because it goes a long way in improving range of motion and relieving stiffness.
- Don’t forget to drink your BCCAs before your workout to give your body the nutritional power to deal with a strenuous workout.
- Keep your body well hydrated before and after your workout to lower your chances of developing DOMS. You should drink more water before your workout and after to help flush nasty toxins trapped in your body. Proper hydration will help increase recovery and keep your muscles supple, which will also play a role in reducing muscle pain.
- Increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin C or consider taking a vitamin C supplement to prevent muscle soreness. You can opt for foods such as guavas, chili peppers, and citrus fruits to get vitamin C, which will help by reducing oxidative stress.
The fact of the matter is that delayed onset muscle soreness is a reality and it can affect both advanced and beginners, and while most of the techniques used to relieve DOMS are quite ineffective, some scientifically proven ways can help reduce it to a certain extent. You’re certainly free to try all those techniques to find what works for you and then stick with that to make that muscle pain more manageable. Also, be sure to understand the difference between a muscle strain and muscle soreness, as a strain refers to a greater degree of tear in your muscles and requires several weeks to heal. Pushing your body when you have a muscle strain is not a good idea, so listen to your body and always make the right move!