Have you ever felt unstoppable after smashing a tough workout only to wake up the next day and find yourself barely able to crawl out of bed? Most of us are no stranger to post-workout stiffness. However, you may be wondering what exactly causes sore muscles after exercise? And is there something you can do to recover faster? You’ll be relieved to know there are steps you can take to help speed up your recovery so that you can make the most out of your next workout.
First of all, what causes soreness after exercise?
When you start a new workout routine or amp up the intensity or duration of your regular workout, you may experience soreness in your muscles. These aches and stiffness usually begin one or two days after the workout. Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is believed to be caused by minor damage to the muscle tissue. These small tears are triggered when your muscles work harder than they are used to, and can affect people of any fitness level, from newbies to seasoned athletes.
Although it sounds odd, feeling sore after a workout is actually a sign that your muscles are adapting. As the muscles repair themselves, their endurance and strength increases.
It’s important to note that while DOMS is a natural part of working out, injury is not. Localized, acute discomfort that begins immediately after or during exercise may be a sign of an injury. Additionally, DOMS typically eases after about three days. If you experience discomfort that severely bothers you and that gradually worsens, it may be advisable to see a healthcare professional.
How long does it take for your body to recover from a workout?
It can take anywhere from one to three days for DOMS to hit its peak. Although, you may still feel slightly sore for longer. Generally, however, your stiffness should ease after a few days and you should notice an improvement in mobility. Taking steps towards your post-workout recovery could help to reduce your recovery time, helping to protect your muscles and joints.
What is post-exercise recovery and why is it necessary?
Post-workout recovery is a crucial part of maintaining an exercise routine and active lifestyle. Many argue that it is just as important as doing the workout itself. This is because of the big role it plays in helping your body after a tough workout. It can help you improve your strength and maintain your fitness. Read on for tips that can help improve muscle recovery.
How can you relieve muscle soreness and improve your recovery time? 7 Tips:
We lose a lot of water when we sweat. This makes rehydrating after a workout a super essential part of your recovery. Not only is it vital to drink water, but it’s also a good idea to drink other beverages than cold water to replenish any lost electrolytes. These are minerals like magnesium, potassium, and sodium, which are important for your body’s nervous system. Coconut water and smoothies, for example, are a good source of electrolytes. Some trainers also recommend drinking tart cherry juice due to its high antioxidant content which may aid with sore muscles.
Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts also drink pre-workout drinks that contain BCAAs, or branch-chain amino acids, to aid with muscle recovery.
Light stretching can help to ease muscle tightness and soreness. Although be sure to make sure that you really keep it light! Engaging in stretches that are too intense may further aggravate tight and tense muscles. Keeping it somewhere in the range of 5-10 seconds per stretch is a good general rule of thumb to follow. If you find that it’s too much to handle (or even think about) then it’s better to lay off until your muscles have recovered a little more.
Foam rolling is another useful way to boost mobility after a workout thanks to the increased blood flow to the area. Including it in your post-workout stretching routine can help with improving suppleness. Some even recommend doing a brief foam-rolling session before a workout to help warm up and prepare the muscles.
Although the idea of doing even more exercise may sound unbearable, adding some light movement to your day may actually help. Engaging in some light activity can help to boost your circulation. This gets blood and nutrients flowing to your muscles which can help them recover. Just make sure that you don’t do anything overly taxing that could cause more discomfort in your muscles or joints. Some great examples of light activities include cycling, walking or yoga.
If you really want to get in another workout, then just be sure to train a different muscle group. So, for example, if your legs are aching from a killer leg day then mix up your workouts by doing an upper body routine instead.
Taking care of your nutrition is a key part of the post-workout recovery process. This means both before and after exercise. Eating a pre-workout snack supplies you with the energy you need to make the most out of your routine. Having enough energy while you exercise may help to reduce the risk of injury.
Grabbing a post-workout shake or snack high in protein and carbohydrates helps to quickly provide your body with the nutrients it needs to recover. However, this is not enough on its own. You should also try to make sure that you eat a well-balanced meal after you exercise. Including protein, complex carbohydrates and fresh vegetables in your meal helps to ensure that you have the right balance of micronutrients to help nourish your body.
Sometimes all you really need is some rest. Take the time to let your muscles recover. If you follow a training routine, don’t forget to factor in enough rest days. Making an effort to schedule in rest days is just as important, as they are important for muscle recovery. Not that this means you only have to lay on the couch all day. If you simply can’t bear the thought of no movement at all, active recovery activities like light jogging, yoga or walking, can be included in your rest day.
Getting a good night’s sleep can make a big difference in how quickly you recuperate after a strenuous workout. Many people struggle with getting quality sleep due to various factors, one of the most common of these being stress. There are several ways that you can try to lower your stress levels. More and more people are making time for activities like meditation and breathing exercises, which can help soothe a stressed and busy mind.
Others also may use natural supplements that can help to boost feelings of calmness. People use supplements like CBD oils or tinctures to help ease feelings of stress. If you’re new to CBD, you can find out more here.
If you’re feeling a lot of aches and discomfort, it may also be advisable to use topical relief. Although there are debates over whether ice or heat is better, generally using whatever feels better may be the best way to go. Ice, for example, can help to reduce swelling. Heat, on the other hand, can help with soothing tension and achiness.
Topical creams can also be helpful for providing muscle and joint relief. Some people may use natural CBD creams, like this one, which contain ingredients such as menthol, Boswellia, and emu oil to help soothe tired and tense muscles and joints.
Before your workout
While we’ve mostly focused on things you can do afterward that may help your body recover, there is also an important step you can take before your workout. Making sure that you warm up properly before engaging in exercise can also play a role in helping your muscles and joints. Reserving at least five minutes or so before you start your workout may help to minimize the discomfort of DOMS.
Even adding a few of these steps into your routine can help you recover faster so that you can make the most of your next workout!
All the best,