Soreness soreness soreness. I know, it sucks. Everything feels horrible, you can’t move your limbs, and taking a number 2 in the toilet feels like you’re taking a number 3. Well, in hopes of helping you through this difficult time, let’s look at some research-supported ways on how to deal with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
What is delayed onset muscle soreness?
Speaking of which, delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is the soreness you’re likely feeling right now if you’re searching for this video, which kicks in around 24 to 48 hours after training. It tends to get worse before it gets better, so don’t be alarmed if this is happening to you.
What causes delayed onset muscle soreness?
The reason we get DOMS is still uncertain. One of the more popular beliefs is that DOMS is caused by microtears and inflammation of our muscles during eccentric contractions, contractions that occur when a muscle lengthens.
For example, the eccentric phase of a bicep curl occurs when you lower the dumbbell, which causes the muscle to lengthen under tension.
Now, before we move onto research-supported tips, I do wanna address some common ones that are misconceptions.
One of which is stretching, something often suggested by fitness experts. Unfortunately, science kinda slaps this one in the face. The data DOES NOT show that stretching alleviates DOMS, with a near-definitive 2011 meta-analysis concluding that stretching had no clinically important reductions to muscle soreness.
Another concept is the use of cold-water immersion. Kind of like the ones you see pro athletes use in ice baths. The problem with cold-water immersion isn’t that it’s not effective, but the conditions required to see benefits are very narrow.
According to a 2016 systematic review, the benefits of cold baths are only observed in water at 11 to 15 degrees Celsius and you cannot be immersed for longer than 10 minutes. This is a pretty impractical approach for the average joe that cannot so specifically control time and temperature in their bathtubs.
Even more so when considering that using too cold or too long of a bath can actually make soreness worse. Speaking of worse, if you ever thought of taking anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, you might want to reconsider.
Sure, it can help with inflammation, which might temporarily relieve muscle pain, but inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Inflammation is often a signal for muscle growth, so anti-inflammatories theoretically can cut into your gains.
But the thing is that there simply is no solid evidence showing NSAIDS preventing or even reducing DOMS. But enough about misconceptions.
Let’s finally move on to more helpful matters, starting with potentially helpful SUPPLEMENTS.
First up, caffeine! That’s right, caffeine before exercise has shown to significantly help with muscle soreness 48 hours post-workout. But this carries a fairly heavy caveat of having to ingest more than 400 milligrams of caffeine an hour before your workout.
That’s… A LOT, about 4 cups of coffee. Not great if you work out late, but at least the option is there. Other supplements would be 3 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acids and 50 milligrams of taurine, both showing benefits to DOMS.
But of course, it wouldn’t be right if I did not mention that you should GET YOUR PROTEIN.
Protein, either from your meals or supplements, have shown to improve muscle recovery and soreness. Some also have shown a benefit to taking a protein shake about 30 minutes before your workout.
As far as daily intake, my typical recommendation of 1.6 grams to 2.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is a good place to start.
Now, for things you can DO rather than take, foam rolling might be a helpful tool.
The research on this is quite limited but some do exist, and considering the relative affordability and simplicity of use, foam rolling is definitely something worth considering. If you do use it, then foam roll the trained muscles for 20 minutes after your workout session.
Another thing you can do is to start light and simple. You want to ease yourself into the exercises, ESPECIALLY, ESPECIALLY if you’re not used to exercising at all. This allows your body to become acclimated to a lighter, less sore-inducing training stimulus before dealing with higher intensities and volumes.
And one new finding making its way through the literature is the use of isometric exercises, exercises under load without any movement, like holding a bicep curl still. According to a 2019 study, performing 10 3-second maximal isometric holds two days before regular eccentric training did reduce the severity of muscle soreness.
A very interesting finding and better yet, something fairly easy to do. You just gotta do some isometrics a couple of days before your real workout.
And finally, by far the most tried and true method to deal with DOMS is consistent training. Consistent training employs the wonderful repeated bout effect, an effect in which your body becomes adapted to the continuous training stimuli plus inflammation resulting in much more efficient subsequent recovery rates.
This also explains how using lighter weights and isometrics first might help with DOMS, as they’re precursors to the repeated bout effect. In short, you’ll get less and less sore the more and more you train.
Some even experience no soreness if they train consistently enough. The opposite is true as well, where if you stop training for too long, then DOMS will return with a vengeance. So make sure you get out there and keep lifting.
These are the current scientifically supported tips on dealing with delayed onset muscle soreness. Well, other than crying… but that-that’s a personal problem.
Or you can just embrace the soreness, and even though soreness is not the best indicator of a good workout, you could still feel proud knowing you did at least something.
And I’m sure some of you have your own soreness tips and I would love to hear them in the comments below.
If you find this post helpful, give it a sore rating and share it with your DOMS-loving or hating friends.