Do you really have to be in pain for days after your workout for true gains? Nope!
Delayed onset muscle soreness, more commonly referred to as DOMS, usually hits about a day or two after working out. It's inevitable, especially when you introduce your muscles to a new routine. However, there are ways to reduce the symptoms, making it easier to get moving again quickly.Add these workout recovery tactics to your routine to prevent muscle soreness:
1. Amp up with coffee
Good news: Your coffee addiction is actually beneficial for your sore post-workout muscles. Researchers from the University of Rhode Island tested the effect on caffeine consumption on DOMS and found it significantly reduced soreness in participants during the days after a workout. And there's more: Participants who consumed caffeine right before upper-body resistance training performed better than those who did not. Therefore, the researchers concluded that consuming caffeine before a workout can decrease soreness after exercising muscles and, with enhanced performance, it can also potentially increase the amount and level of training completed during each session.
Another study, published in PLOS One, found that moderate coffee consumption doesn't dehydrate the body. In fact, the data suggested that it can even hydrate in the same ways as a glass of water. While water should always be your go-to for hydration - before, during and after a workout - it's comforting to know that your morning coffee won't negatively affect your exercise performance.
Keep in mind that according to the Mayo Clinic, about three to five cups of coffee a day is a safe amount for most adults. And based on the evidence from these studies, drink one of those cups before your workout for optimal results and muscle soreness prevention.
2. Pump up the protein
Your muscles and tissues need nutrients for healthy growth and repair. Foods high in protein provide muscles with these nutrients, allowing them to recover from strenuous exercise without intense stiffness or soreness. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommended a daily protein intake of about 1.4 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight, with consumption evenly distributed about every three to four hours. Milk, eggs, meat and protein blends are all sources of these important nutrients.
According to LIVESTRONG.COM, combining protein-rich foods with carbohydrates is optimal for reducing muscle soreness. A post-workout shake with milk, bananas, berries and a scoop of protein powder will do the trick. Throw some tart cherries in the mix, too. Research from Oregon Health & Science University found that drinking tart cherry juice a week before, as well as during, running exercises can reduce post-workout muscle pain. Researchers from Northumbria University discovered similar positive results for cherry juice, concluding that it is not only an effective form of recovery, but that it can also improve muscle function.
Aim to consume protein within an hour after exercising to stimulate important muscle repair and decrease soreness. If you're a fan of protein drinks, consume them immediately after completing your workout. It's also beneficial to eat a light snack high in protein before bed, as this will work to repair your muscles as you sleep. Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast to continue preventing DOMS before your next workout.
3. Never skip the warm up
In a piece for Bodybuilding.com, Krissy Kendall, Ph.D and lecturer at the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University, stressed the importance of warming up your muscles before working out. Without loosening your muscles before strenuous exercise, you'll risk the dreaded DOMS you always want to avoid. Kendall recommended walking or cycling for about 10 minutes, dynamic stretching and pre-workout sets. Plus, make sure to stretch after your workout, holding each position for about 30 to 60 seconds to decrease soreness in the coming days.
If you prefer aerobic and strength training routines to weight lifting, try this 10-minute warm up exercise from POPSUGAR Fitness to get your blood pumping before your workout. Your muscles and joints will be prepared for the exercise, which will reduce any next-day soreness or discomfort.
4. Roll out your muscles
If you don't already have one, it's time to invest in a foam roller. It's ideal for massaging out knots and increasing blood flow to your muscles after a workout. Evidence from a study conducted by researchers at the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University in Newfoundland shows that foam rolling for about 20 minutes can effectively reduce muscle soreness and tenderness after exercise.
The study participants used the foam roller immediately after their workouts, and repeated it after 24 and 48 hours. However, you can make it part of your warm-up and cool-down routines, or simply spend about 15 minutes doing it each day. Foam rolling is especially useful on your rest days to promote muscle recovery.
You can also step it up a notch with a professional massage. Like foam rolling, this will stretch out and soothe your muscles after intense work. Schedule your massage as soon after your workout as possible - a few hours after is ideal. This will promote immediate recovery for optimal reduction in muscle soreness and tightness.
5. Relax with purpose
If you're smart during your recovery period, you can soothe muscle soreness while relaxing. Take a hot bath filled with Epsom salts to relax your stiff muscles, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, try cold therapy with an ice bath. While there isn't conclusive evidence for these pain-reducing tactics, many fitness gurus and professional athletes swear by them. Therefore, use these methods as supplements to the methods confidently backed by scientific studies.
Next time you hit that next tough workout, try these 5 tactics to help you recover. A proper recovery will allow you to get back in the gym and perform at your best even sooner!