An Athlete’s Guide to Reducing Muscle Soreness
Athletes know that muscle soreness is a necessary evil. Sure, it’s unplea/sant, but it’s the body’s way of saying “Hey, you’re doing things right!” Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) happens as a result of the microscopic tears sustained during exercise. Without these tears, the muscles wouldn’t be able to grow bigger and stronger and you wouldn’t be able to reach your fitness goals. Still, continuous soreness can set us back from our ambitions because, as we all know, nobody wants to go back to the gym or hit it extra-hard when they’re in pain.
Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to reduce muscle soreness so you enjoy your rest days more and feel ready to go big tomorrow. Here’s your complete guide to quelling the soreness while you recover.
Attack the Pain Directly
Certain pain relief products can do wonders for sore muscles. Luckily, most of them are widely available online or at your local drugstore. We recommend using some of the following pain relief products on your rest days as well as in between workouts to help lessen inflammation and discomfort when your body is recovering.
- Try a CBD topical cream for on-contact relief from soreness. Studies show that applying CBD directly to inflamed joints can help reduce swelling. These products are great because they deliver relieving ingredients directly to the source, but also because they make a great buffer for a massage to help you work out the soreness mechanically. Plus, they are often formulated with instantly soothing ingredients such as menthol for total relief on-contact.
- Use a heating pad on mild aches and pains. This can help increase the blood flow to the affected area and help release tense, tight muscles. Heating pads are great for soreness, but make sure to never use them on an acute injury or something more severe. Ice may be best in these scenarios, but ask your doctor first.
- Try a foam roller or massage. There’s really no substitute for a deep-tissue massage when your muscles are feeling achy. Physically working out the pain can relieve tension and tightness, which can help you get back to normal. Since most of us don’t have constant access to a professional masseuse (unfortunately), the use of a foam roller can really come in handy. Use one to work out the pain in your legs, back and more in the comfort of your own home.
Leverage What You Eat (and Drink)
In addition to the above pain relief techniques, you want to try to address muscle soreness from the inside out. You can do that by pumping your diet full of the vitamins and minerals that specifically help your muscles rebuild themselves swiftly. Here’s what to eat for muscle recovery.
- Consume protein supplements made with whey protein isolate. You can easily add the powder form of this protein to your shakes and other foods, such as pancakes or muffins. This form of protein is jam-packed with key amino acids that speed up protein synthesis, which is what happens when the body creates new proteins to repair the microscopic muscle tears responsible for your soreness.
- Get your fruits and veggies. Unsurprisingly, many fruits and veggies contain key nutrients that your body can put to use when healing these tiny injuries as well as regulating your body’s essential day-to-day processes. Some of the best foods to eat for muscle recovery include cottage cheese — which is a natural source of whey protein — as well as sweet potatoes, salmon, watermelon and eggs.
- Try some natural pain-relieving herbs and spices, such as turmeric or green tea. Turmeric is one of the more powerful natural pain-fighters out there because it contains an anti-inflammatory compound known as curcumin. In addition to helping ease pain, turmeric may also help reduce your cholesterol. Bonus!
- Avoid eating certain foods that may trigger inflammation, worsening your pain and slowing your recovery. While everyone has their own set of trigger foods, it’s a good idea to steer clear of anything excessively salty or processed. They might cause you to sweat and lose hydration and nutrients.
Take Rest Days Seriously
One of the most important things you can do to facilitate faster recovery is get serious about your rest days. We all want to push ourselves to the limit, but the truth is that taking your rest days is better in the long run because they can help your body recover and repair so you can push further, harder and faster when you get back into the gym. Plus, overtraining can lead to boredom and burnout.
- Practice active recovery, such as taking a leisurely walk or doing some restorative yoga. It’s not a good idea to push yourself too hard on your days off, but it’s not great to revert to a couch potato lifestyle, either. Gentle, active recovery — exercises that are leisurely and go easy on the joints — is best. Try to mix it up to help prevent you from getting bored with your overall routine.
- Alternate muscle groups and make sure to put rest days in between particularly hard-hitting workouts targeting a single muscle group. Alternating allows specific muscles to recover while you’re still able to put in work elsewhere.
- Get lots of water. It’s only natural to guzzle extra H2O while you’re working out, but make sure you keep the water flowing on your days off, too. Dehydration will only prevent your body from delivering the restorative nutrients to where they need to go. Do your best to get your recommended daily amount or more on your rest days to help avoid a bad case of DOMS.
Live Your Off-Hours to the Fullest
We all hate muscle soreness, especially since we tend to take our off-days to have fun and relax with family and friends. But nothing gets in the way of that quite like pain and discomfort. Thankfully, there are some simple things you can do to ease the pain and feel like yourself again so you can live life to the fullest.