5 proven (and scientific) ways to help you recover from your workouts.
What Causes Sore Muscles?
Muscle soreness, in a nutshell, occurs due to “microtrauma” of the muscle fibers and connective tissues. It’s a completely natural result of the breaking down of muscle that occurs during weight lifting or strenuous training.
These tiny tears cause pain due to the low-level inflammation that occurs as the body works to repair them. This process can take several days, which is why it can sometimes take 24-48 hours for you to feel sore.
After this bout of pain, however, the muscle has fully repaired itself and as a result has become stronger and denser.
However, this doesn’t mean we can’t try out a few tactics to lessen our post-workout pain. Check out some of the most effective ways below.
Warming up before a workout is one of the most overlooked ways to prevent and ease delayed onset muscle soreness (that kind we feel a day or two after our workout).
The short answer: BEFORE every Total FX Fitness workout our warm-up is dynamic.
By dynamic, we mean performing movements that mirror what you’ll be training that day. So, say you’re focusing on lower body training; you’ll want to perform dynamic movements like walking lunges, leg swings, butt kicks, and lateral lunges, combined with dynamic stretches like the plantar flexor stretch and a light aerobic activity.
This type of warm-up will take about 8-10 minutes, and research shows it’s a worthwhile time investment if you’re trying to reduce next-day soreness and injury.
As a bonus, research also shows warming up with dynamic stretching improves power output and reaction time – definite pluses, especially if you’re training for a sport.
2. Get Enough Protein
Getting enough of the right kind of protein is crucial when it comes to easing muscle soreness.
Remember how we discussed that soreness is caused by microtrauma of the muscle fibers? To repair this trauma, the body needs sufficient amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
Research shows getting protein immediately before and after exercise (combined with a small amount of carbohydrates) can help ease muscle soreness.
This can help because it increases the body’s rate of muscle synthesis, but that’s not all.
One study conducted on 130 U.S. Marines found that marines eating protein (compared to a group who took no protein before or after exercise) had, “33 percent fewer total medical visits, including 28 percent less visits due to bacterial or viral infections, 37 percent less orthopedic-related visits, and 83 percent less visits due to heat exhaustion.”
The study also found muscle soreness was “significantly reduced” in the subjects ingesting protein.
For most active individuals, 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is plenty to meet your needs. If you weigh 180 pounds (82kg) then you’re looking about 66 grams of protein per day.
So what kind of protein is best to consume, and how much?
The above study consisted of a “protein supplement” containing 8 grams of carbs, 10 grams of protein, and 3 grams fat, which definitely isn’t a huge serving.
To keep things simple, focus on consuming whole-food sources of protein coupled with healthy amounts of carbs and fat. If you’re meeting your caloric needs with well-balanced meals then you’ll easily meet your protein requirements.
Chlorella Tabs are also a wonderful plant based source of protein and have some great studies done in after workout recovery, we recommend the Giddy Yo Yo tabs from Goodness Me.
3. Soak in Epsom Salt
Most of us are familiar with this one. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a natural mineral compound historically known for its ability to reduce inflammation, ease stress, and flush toxins from the body.
Today we know that magnesium is indeed a true powerhouse nutrient, regulating over 300 enzyme reactions in the body.
Not to mention, 99 percent of magnesium in the body is located in the bones and muscles, making it a key player when we talk muscle repair .
Interestingly, magnesium has also been shown to aid in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which increases muscle endurance, as well as protein synthesis, neuromuscular contraction, nerve transmission, and insulin metabolism.
Even though we rarely need an excuse for a long, hot soak in the tub, it’s indeed a bonus that magnesium absorbs best through the skin. In fact, doing do a few times a week after a brutal workout is an effective and proactive way to ward off muscle soreness and get rid of it faster.
4. Fortify Your Body with Anti-Inflammatory Foods
One of the side effects of any injury (even if it’s positive, like in the case of muscle soreness) is inflammation. Undoubtedly, with inflammation comes pain as the body fights to shuttle nutrients into the “wound” and rebuild tissue.
Because of this, trying out anti-inflammatory foods might help to quickly get rid muscle soreness. A few stellar foods fit for the job are below:
Turmeric is possibly the most well-known anti-inflammatory spice.
Its active anti-inflammatory ingredient, curcumin, has been shown in several human studies to reduce inflammation by actively blocking molecules that play a role in the inflammation process.
You can add more curcumin to your diet by either taking a supplement form, or enjoying curries with liberal amounts of turmeric and curry powder.
Ginger is another powerful anti-inflammatory spice. Although it’s commonly used to help ease digestive problems, it has also been shown to be effective against a variety of inflammatory diseases such as gastritis, esophagitis, and hepatitis.
When you feel soreness creeping in, make a cup of ginger tea, add it to a smoothie or juice, or down a couple capsules.
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens and swiss chard are full of nutrients to ward of inflammation symptoms. These greens contain powerful antioxidants as well as flavonoids, carotenoids, and Vitamin C which will all help ward off cellular damage and tissue injury. Try your greens cooked or raw and don’t be afraid to fill your plate up!
Our favorites at Total FX Fitness is a combination of Deep Blue Rub, Lemongrass and Marjoram to help ease all aspects of inflammation and sore muscles, this is a powerhouse combination and much better for you then your store bought A5 35 and other chemical muscle rubs!
5. Foam Roll
Foam rolling is essentially an inexpensive, convenient way to give yourself a deep tissue massage.
The fancy term for foam rolling is self-myofascial release, which refers to releasing those deep knots formed in our muscles that can cause pain and stiffness.
But the benefits don’t stop there: foam rolling has also been shown to alleviate muscle fatigue, soreness, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and even enhance performance. One study found that foam rolling immediately after exercise improved muscle tenderness by a “moderate-to-large amount,” and also increased power and strength endurance.
Looking at these results, it seems the best time to foam roll would be after a workout. In reality, you can foam roll anytime you feel stiffness or soreness.
To foam roll, simply place your roll beneath the area that’s bothering you (say, your glutes) and slowly roll over it, lingering for a few breaths on really tight areas.