While we once thought that DOMS was due to a build-up of lactic acid, soreness that continues for days after training a muscle is more likely due to micro-tears in the muscles from resistance or high intensity training. Do not fear! This small scale damage is the stimulus that forces our muscles to repair themselves bigger and stronger. Here are some of our top tips to avoid, or reduce DOMS!
Low intensity cardio
The emphasis being on low intensity. Something like sprints or sled pushes will only exacerbate the problem. But a low to moderate intensity walk will increase circulation to assist in removing waste from the muscles and ease any stiffness by warming the muscles.
Stop rotating exercises
Have you ever tried a new exercise and been extra sore the day after? This isn’t because that particular exercise has had a magical muscle building effect, but because it is a new stimulus. Focus on sticking to a set programme and getting as strong as possible in those movements for as many weeks/months as you can. Once you hit a genuine plateau, it may be time to rotate some exercises. Within this programme, make steady increments to reps or weight. Remember that even an extra rep or 2.5kg is still a personal best. Making large jumps before you are no ready might result in worse than just DOMS and cause actual injury.
Protein around workouts
Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS), the synthesis of muscle, is driven by two things: resistance training and nutrient availability. When we regularly break down muscle during exercise, our body has an elevated need for protein and carbohydrates for recovery, compared to a sedentary person.
Pre-workout: Protein and carb meal, small amount of fat
Intra workout: EAAs and Cyclic Dextrin
Post workout: Protein and carb meal
The digestibility of the protein source used around this window is important. Whey isolate, white fish, chicken breast and egg whites are great options.
Water intake is incredibly important for recovery. Water will help to flush waste products from our muscles. To avoid cramping and avoid the water passing straight through us, add electrolytes. Don’t just drink water during and after exercise. Hydration is important before we even step into the gym for pumps and nutrient delivery. A 2008 study by Judelson et al found that hypohydration significantly increased circulating concentrations of cortisol and norepinephrine after resistance exercise. This high stress environment might affect recovery,
Anti-inflammatory supplements may help in the recovery process from DOMS.
One of our favourites is curcumin, found in turmeric. Curcumin, when paired with black pepper extract (often written as ‘bioperine’ on labels) has a high anti-oxidant enzyme profile. It has been shown to reduce elevated levels of C - reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and has been used to manage inflammatory conditions including colitis and osteoarthritis. Seasoning foods with turmeric is a great, and tasty, place to start, but for a more concentrated dose we would suggest a supplement such as Warrior Turmeric.
Fish oils/omega 3s are another great supplement to add to your stack. They have even been compared to NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen) for their treatment of pain from inflammation.
We would suggest you do not take anti-inflammatories immediately post workout as this may actually interrupt some of the natural recovery processes.
Rest days from the gym. Sleep. Two massively overlooked factors to recovery. It is during these periods, not when we are in the gym breaking our muscles down, that we grow and improve. If you are having trouble sleeping, try a magnesium and zinc containing supplement before bed such as CNP Pro Test XTR. Use rest days for foam rolling or getting a deep tissue massage.