Updated: Jan 23, 2021
A couple weeks ago, we talked about the difference between good pain and bad pain. You worked out with Samantha, and the next morning you wake up unable to move. Yay, you're sore! You worked hard and now you're feeling the benefits as DOMS kicks in.
At the same time, ow.
So how do you make the pain a bit more manageable before your next work out?
Immediately After Your Workout:
Drag out that foam roller!
One of the best things you can do after the workout is to relieve the tension in the muscles you just worked. If you have someone in the house who's willing to give you a massage, ask them nicely for their assistance. If not, you can use a foam roller, massage stick, or even a tennis ball to ease your muscles.
The massage process induces self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR reduces swelling and tenderness by increasing circulation in the affected area. More circulation equals more blood and nutrients to the parts of your body that are in need.
Foam rollers were designed to be used to loosen up your muscles prior to a workout, but studies have shown the benefits of using them after a workout as well. The Weighting For Warriors recommendation? Use your foam roller before every workout and after especially intense workouts.
Chug some water.
First of all, you should be doing this anyways. Like all day. But it's especially important to drink extra water after your workout. The water will flush out the waste and promote recovery of your muscles.
Eat something within 30 minutes of your workout.
There will be none of that "But I don't want to undo the work I just did" here. If you want to see progress, you have to give your body the nutrients it needs.
Shawn Arent, PhD, CSCS, and chair of Exercise science at the University of South Carolina Columbia says you should eat a healthy, protein packed meal or snack within 30 minutes of an intense and/or long workout. Fruits, legumes, and veggies are essentials that will help you get vitamins and minerals your body needs.
You can also look into a Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) supplement. Some research has shown that BCAAs can help with muscle recovery and decrease the duration of DOMS. The same study concluded that BCAAs can be used to decrease exercise fatigue. Your body burns BCAAs during exercise, so it can help to replace them sooner rather than later. However, BCAAs are present in most protein-rich foods, so you may not necessarily need a supplement based on the amount of protein you're consuming.
It's extremely important to make sure you're getting enough protein each day, especially while working out. The International Society of Sports Nutrition states that a person should eat 1.4-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on days you're active. To translate, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be eating 95-136 grams of protein a day.
You can get your protein in powder form or by eating eggs, meat, nuts, Greek yogurt, fish, tofu, etc.
You can use heat to reduce tension and dampen pain signals or you can use ice to reduce swelling. You can also take an Epsom salt bath.
Most importantly: get a good night's sleep. Your muscles need the rest.
The Next Day:
Okay, now the soreness has *really* set in.
Time to get moving.
What?! Everything hurts and you want me to move more?!
We promise this isn't a scam by Weighting For Warriors to get you to exercise more. There's actual science behind this.
Pete McCall, an ACE certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist, says the worst thing you can do for DOMS is sit on the couch all day. Joel Seedman, PhD, exercise physiologist and owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, States that increased blood flow is an efficient way to speed up muscle repair and DOMS recovery (see SMR). Seed man emphasizes the importance of not overdoing it.
So when you're feeling sore, you can go for a walk, light jog, easy hike, swim or do weight training at 25% of your normal weight tolerance.
Gentle stretching is also a great way to help your muscles recover. You can either do stretches on your own to target certain areas or you can do a yoga program. (We love Alo Yoga on YouTube.)
No matter what you choose to do, make sure you don't push too hard and are getting enough food and water.
Before Your Next Workout:
Drink coffee as pre-workout.
We didn't believe this at first either, but this time science is on our side.
According to multiple studies, consuming caffeine before a workout can decrease your chance of DOMS. In one of these studies published by the Pain Journal, people who had caffeine before an intense workout experienced 48% less muscle fatigue and soreness than those who didn't. How does this work? Caffeine is a natural analgesic (substance with pain-killing properties), which is why it's often included in over-the-counter pain meds.
As exciting as this is, don't forget that coffee is NOT a substitute for water.
What do you do after a hard workout? Let us know in the comments below!