A great workout can leave you with an endorphin high and a sense of accomplishment. However, building up our fitness, upping our reps, lifting heavier weights and testing our endurance can leave us with sore, tired muscles, too. It’s called, the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and it can be a right pain in the leg.
The DOMS can strike anywhere between eight and 24 hours after exercise and is caused by myofibril tears (muscle strains), an inflammatory response resulting in swelling, altered muscle firing patterns and pain.
Experiencing some muscle soreness after a tough workout is normal and most people enjoy that ‘good’ sore feeling. But when it prevents you from hitting the gym the following day—or three days later—it’s probably doing more harm than good. As well as using products that help speed up your recovery time, consuming certain foods is key too. To get you back on your feet and working hard, try incorporating these foods into your diet.
These dark coloured fruits are antioxidant rich and can help reduce inflammation and free radical production to accelerate the elimination of waste products produced during training. Tart cherries have also been shown to raise melatonin (your sleep hormone) to promote more restful sleep.
A hot cup of joe may not only wake you up in the morning but it’ll help to manage pain from DOMS too. When muscles are sore and inflamed, a pain-promoting compound called adenosine is produced. Luckily, caffeine helps to block the effects of pesky adenosine by binding to its receptors, resulting in less pain and a speedy recovery.
Adequate hydration can go a long way in reducing muscle soreness and supporting faster recovery. Studies have shown that being dehydrated during your workout can significantly increase your muscle pain post workout. Water is critical for optimal temperature regulation and muscle and heart function. Drink water frequently during the day (not just post workout) and make sure that you are well hydrated before training.
Taurine is an amino acid (protein building block), which has been shown to protect cells against the cytokines that can cause damage and inflammation leading to muscle soreness and pain. Taurine has been shown to be particularly supportive for resistance training. Naturally taurine-rich foods incude beef, lamb, dark chicken meat, eggs, most dairy products, seaweed, krill and brewer’s yeast.
Omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA fatty acids are superstars in reducing inflammation and therefore muscle pain and soreness. These healthy fats (found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) boost brain and heart health as well as improve cellular signalling and have anti-inflammatory effects. Ideally, include 2-3 servings of fish to your diet each week to speed up DOMS recovery. Not a fan of fish? Up your intake of walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and eggs.