July 26, 2021
After a very busy few weeks, I’m finally starting to get back into my workout flow. If you’ve ever gotten off track or started a new workout routine, you know that one of the worst parts is being soooooo sore.
Like, wincing every time I try to walk upstairs or lift my arms to put my hair up sore. It’s THE WORST. And going through that phase of working out has me thinking of so many questions…
Is it normal to be this sore?
Could I have done something to prevent it?
What is actually happening in my muscles?
How do I make it go away sooner?!
How can I fuel my muscles so they can recover and get stronger?
It’s time to deep dive. You ready?!
What causes muscle soreness?
Muscle soreness is more than just an annoying side effect of exercise. There’s actually a scientific term for it: delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Did you know that working out actually damages your muscle?! When you lift weights, jump, squat, run, or do anything that fatigues the muscle, you’re actually making tiny little micro-tears in the muscle fiber.
It’s a good thing! When those micro-tears recover and repair themselves, they grow stronger. You actually build more muscle tissue, which is what makes YOU stronger and helps you build muscle!
Some muscle soreness is just part of the process. The stress on your muscle triggers inflammation and signals your body to bring extra fluid to the affected area. That makes you feel tight and sore for the next day or two.
What about lactic acid? I’m sure you’ve heard that soreness is due to lactic acid in the muscle but that’s actually not true! The burn you feel in your muscles during a tough workout is from lactic acid. But it doesn’t just hang out in the muscle after your workout is over. As you recover at the end/soon after a workout, the lactic acid clears the muscle. When you wake up the next morning and it hurts to walk down the stairs? That’s inflammation.
How to get some relief
How do you avoid waddling around and crying every time you sit, stand, walk, or even laugh or sneeze?!
A few basic things that will help:
Sleep – Key for recovery!
Active rest – Sounds contradictory, but hear me out. You need to give your muscles time to recover, but you’ll feel better if you keep moving. Go for light activity like walking, yoga, stretching, or swimming.
Cooldown – We’re all busy and it’s easy to skip the cooldown part of a workout. DON’T DO THIS. Incorporate a few minutes into your workout to properly cool down, stretch and ease back into the rest of your day.
Stretch – I think this is the 3rd time I’ve mentioned stretching – it’s important! Not only do good mobility and flexibility help prevent injury, but stretching while your muscles are still warm can prevent or reduce some muscle soreness.
Hydrate – Dehydration will only make sore muscles worse. Make sure you’re getting enough water throughout the day, and especially after your workout. Replenish electrolytes too after a super sweaty workout.
Other remedies – Alternative therapies like ice, heat, massage, or acupuncture can provide some relief too.
How to fuel
There’s one major thing your body needs to recover from a workout – FUEL!
If you’re putting in the work during your workout and then coping with muscle soreness after your workout, you want to get the most out of your workout, right?! To do that, you need to give your body the best food to repair and recover. Which is…
Protein. Your muscle fibers are rebuilding and repairing themselves to grow stronger. To do this, they need amino acids, which is what protein breaks down into.
Carbs. Your muscles use glycogen for energy, which comes from carbs! After you deplete their stores during a workout, make sure you replenish with high-quality carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Whole foods. Eat a variety of whole foods to get the vitamins and minerals you need to facilitate muscle repair.
Water. Last but not least, HYDRATE!
A good workout won’t always make you sore
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This is soooooo important.
Your workouts don’t have to be super intense to be “good workouts.” Every workout shouldn’t leave you sore and fatigued.
It’s normal to feel sore after the first few workouts of a new routine or program. After that, you shouldn’t really feel a lot of discomfort unless you’re “leveling up” somehow (increasing weight, etc.).
Don’t forget to listen to your body! If you start to experience pain that goes beyond what’s “normal” muscle soreness for you, don’t ignore it! Take a break and get it checked out.