As the old proverb goes, “no pain, no gain.” Smashing heavy weights will help you stack on more gains, but it will also leave you extremely sore. Effectively reducing muscle soreness after your workout will help you maximize your performance in the gym and optimize your workout recovery. If you can reduce your muscle soreness, then you can indisputably improve your workout volume, strength, and size. We’re going to talk about how you can relieve muscle soreness after your workout to help you keep on training and hitting it hard.
Why Do Your Muscles Get Sore?
Post workout muscle soreness is a common result from working out. When you lift weights, you are applying direct physical stress to your muscle tissue. The increased exertion produces microtears within your muscle fibers, stimulating the muscle building process and resulting in muscle soreness. The severity of your muscle soreness depends on several different variables such as workout intensity, duration, maximal load, workout type, and rest intervals. The small microtears will produce inflammation and muscle pain normally 12-24 hours post workout and can peak at 48-72 hours, depending on how active and consistent your training schedule is.
Soreness is a good thing. Muscle soreness suggests an increase in workout intensity, exercise routine, and load which can improve muscle growth and strength. Inflammation is it is a natural biological response to protect the body from future stress.
Consistent training will always cause some physical discomfort or acute muscle soreness after your workout. However, severe muscle soreness can be incapacitating and cause a functional deficit in your training. Delayed onset muscle soreness often referred to as DOMS is contracted from the eccentric or lengthening motion of a specific exercise (I.e., the sitting position in a squat, or de-loading motion in a pec fly) causing microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. This causes an inflammatory response, producing pain in the muscle, as well as the connective tissue and surrounding ligaments. The soreness associated with DOMS is painful and can be quite debilitating. When you get it, you’ll know it, because it sucks.
Varying degrees of pain are associated with how much damage occurs to your muscle fibers, along with other factors such as how hydrated you are, and your post workout nutrition. There are several different methods and modalities of treatment to relieve muscle soreness after your workout such as nutrition, post workout supplements, and active recovery methods like foam rolling, massage therapy, and electric muscle stimulation.
How To Relieve Muscle Soreness After Your Workout
1. Post Workout Nutrition
Consuming the right nutrients is fundamental to maximize athletic performance by rebuilding lean muscle mass and optimizing recovery. Exercise capacity, performance and recovery from exercise can be enhanced by evidence-based nutritional interventions through the manipulation of different nutritional variables like nutrient composition, quantity, and timing of nutrient ingestion.
Post workout nutrition is critical to help improve athletic performance and optimize recovery.
The nutrients you receive from the foods you eat, can effectively reduce post workout inflammation and oxidative stress; the two most common contributing factors to delayed onset muscle soreness.
Glutamine rich foods, Omega-3 fatty acids, and fruits rich in polyphenols such as blueberries and pomegranates are robust in anti-inflammatory polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidants which can help relieve soreness.
Eat Protein And Carbs After Your Workout
There’s a reason why active gym goers and athletes drink and eat so much protein – it helps build and rebuild muscle mass. Replenishing vital key amino acids is critical to initiate muscle protein synthesis and reduce exercise induced muscle mass breakdown and muscle soreness.
Complex carbohydrates are another critical piece to your post workout nutrition strategy. Carbs are broken down into glycogen, and aid in the recovery process by optimizing amino acid utilization from protein and reducing muscle mass breakdown. Glycogen is also the first form of energy metabolized to support your workouts during long and intense training periods. When glycogen stores are depleted, your will experience lethargy and muscle fatigue. Carbs are crucial to influence the restoration of exercise capacity during high-intensity training.
Drinking a post workout protein and carbs shake, is literally the best way to relieve muscle soreness after your workout, to repair muscle mass and replenish glycogen stores.
2. Post Workout Supplements
Incorporating a post workout supplement strategy is crucial in order to relieve muscle soreness after your workout so that you can get back in the gym and hit the weights hard day after day. Studies have proven that specific supplements such as whey protein isolate, glutamine, clean carb sources, and citrulline malate can provide a reduction in muscle mass soreness and exercise induced muscle mass breakdown.
Protein provides fundamental amino acids to build and rebuild muscle mass. Often times, ingesting a fast-acting form of protein can be one of the best recovery methods, to help relieve muscle soreness post workout.
A study published in the journal Nutrients examined the effects of whey protein supplementation on performance recovery after resistance training. 12 study participants consumed 25g of whey protein post workout and 25g the following morning. The study found
that whey protein significantly reduced acute muscle soreness 24 hours post workout [R].
Swolverine’s Whey Protein Isolate has 26g of protein per serving, to help relieve muscle soreness and optimize post workout muscle recovery.
Rebuilding muscle mass is crucial to help relieve muscle soreness post workout. Carbohydrate ingestion following resistance training is critical to replenish glycogen stores and initiate glycogen synthesis. A lack of glycogen stores post workout will result in sub-optimal muscle recovery and limit performance capacities on subsequent training days. Adding a clean carbohydrate source like Swolverine’s Clean Carbs post workout, will ensure you replenish glycogen stores and provide the muscle fuel you need to increase your overall training capacity.
RELATED ARTICLE Should You Take A Post Workout Carb Supplement
Protein and carbohydrates both have their own distinct functions, yet both works synergistically when consumed together.
Clinical studies have shown that including carbohydrates and protein together into your post-workout nutrition has the greatest benefits on performance optimization [R] stimulating muscle protein synthesis, better than when each one is ingested alone [R].
Glutamine is perhaps the most proven sports nutrition supplement when it comes to relieving muscle soreness. Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that in times of severe physical stress production in the body is limited and must be obtained through food or supplementation.
During intense training periods, your body will actually use and deplete all of its glutamine stores inhibiting its function resulting in decreased strength, stamina, and prolonging your recovery period.
Studies have shown that the anti-catabolism effects of glutamine significantly inhibits muscle mass breakdown and has a direct effect on reducing muscles soreness associated with resistance training, due to improving muscle tissue repair and improved protein metabolism [R]
In a randomized double-blind controlled study conducted by the School of Health and Human Performance, at Dalhousie University, 16 healthy participants were either administered a placebo or 0.3 grams of L-Glutamine per kg of body weight every day for a 72-hour period after eccentric exercise involving knee extensions.
The study results concluded that L-Glutamine supplementation produced faster recovery of peak torque (workout intensity and power) and diminished muscle soreness 72 hours post-workout.
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Citrulline Malate is composed the amino acid L-Citrulline and malic acid. Often times you’ll find L-Citrulline or Citrulline Malate as a main ingredient in pre-workout supplements, however several studies have shown that Citrulline Malate has a positive impact on exercise performance and muscle recovery.
Citrulline Malate is a natural Nitric Oxide [NO booster]. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which widens your blood vessels, improves blood flow, oxygen delivery, and nutrient transport to your muscle tissue. Citrulline malate also has several other impressive mechanisms which include increased phosphocreatine levels, enhanced amino acid utilization, the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, as well as increasing aerobic energy through ATP production [R].
More oxygen and blood flow sent to the muscle tissue means optimized relieved muscle soreness and optimized workout recovery. Increased blood flow and nutrients will speed up the recovery process. Blood carries nutrients and oxygen to your muscle tissue. The faster the nutrients get to your muscle tissue the faster they can work to relieve your muscle soreness.
Moreover, citrulline malate helps enhance the use of amino acids, especially the branched-chain amino acids, which are responsible for muscle protein synthesis (the muscle-building process), which decreases muscle mass breakdown and soreness.
In a study published in the Journal Of Strength and Conditioning Research researchers examined the effects of citrulline malate supplementation on performance outcomes, muscle soreness and strength. 41 study participants participated in a resistance training program and administered 8g of citrulline malate before their workout. Study results indicated that citrulline malate improved rep volume, by 53% and produced a 40% reduction in muscle soreness at 24 hours and 48 hours with a response rate greater than 90% with Citrulline Malate supplementation. [R]
There is some limited research into the effects of hydration on improved muscle recovery and soreness. The idea is that since dehydration is postulated to increase muscle soreness, then increased levels of hydration, should in fact minimize it.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, fluid type was evaluated for its effects on acute hydration and muscle performance recovery. Study participants underwent a dehydration exercise, until 3% body mass loss was achieved. Participants rehydrated with either deep-ocean mineral water (Deep), mountain spring water (Spring), or a carbohydrate-based sports drink (Sports) at a volume equal to the volume of fluid loss.
The study concluded that all three provided adequate levels of rehydration and improved muscle recovery, however mineral water, did in fact have a greater positive effect on restored muscle strength and recovery [R].
The bottom line, hydrate.
4. Foam Rolling
There are a limited number of studies covering the performance benefits of foam rolling for athletes. But the research that is available suggests that foam rolling does most of what it promises to do – namely helping you warm up before your workout and recover faster. A small study published in the Journal Of Athletic Training examined the effects of foam rolling as a recovery tool after intense exercise protocol through assessment of pressure-pain threshold, sprint time, change-of-direction speed, power (broad-jump distance), and dynamic strength-endurance. The results suggested that foam rolling after a workout, is effective and reduced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and associated decrements in most dynamic performance measures [R].
A comprehensive and systematic review published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy also found that self-myofascial release with a foam-roller improved joint range of motion, enhanced post workout muscle recovery, and reduced the severity of DOMS [R,R].
RELATED ARTICLE 6 Ways Foam Rolling Can Relieve Muscle Soreness
How To Relieve Muscle Soreness: Takeaway
Gains aren’t made when you lift weights; they’re made during your recovery. Without muscle soreness, you would never be able to build more muscle mass. It’s a completely natural and necessary result from working out. Some soreness will be expected when you lift weights and increase your training intensity, however, preventative action such as nutrition, post workout supplement strategies, hydration, and active recovery techniques will help optimize your recovery, so you relieve muscle soreness and feel better, faster.
Looking For A Way To Relieve Muscle Soreness After Your Workout?
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West, Daniel W D et al. “Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study.” Nutrients vol. 9,7 735. 11 Jul. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9070735
Poole, Chris et al. “The role of post-exercise nutrient administration on muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis.” Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 9,3 354-63. 1 Sep. 2010
Gonzalez AM, Trexler ET. Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Humans: A Review of the Current Literature. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 May;34(5):1480-1495. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003426. PMID: 31977835.
Harris, Preston R et al. “Fluid type influences acute hydration and muscle performance recovery in human subjects.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 16,1 15. 4 Apr. 2019, doi:10.1186/s12970-019-0282-y