We all know that feeling. Wake up the morning (or 2 mornings) after a great workout, put your feet on the floor, and try to stand up. Ouch. Yup, you have some sore muscles. Just try to walk down the stairs. Owwwchihuahua.
Recently I got a Twitter question about muscle soreness. Here’s the 411 on muscle soreness AND what you can eat to help it.
Some weeks I seem more sore from workouts. does it fluctate or did I work diff muscles? also-any foods/nutrients that help?
When your muscles are sore, you can thank lactic acid. Lactic acid is a totally normal byproduct of muscle metabolism, ie when you ask your muscles to do big work then lactic acid builds up. It’s normal, however it can cause muscle soreness.
What’s another key culprit of muscle soreness? White blood cells and other nutrients flood muscles post-workout to help repair the damage that was done. (Remember, when you lift or workout you’re causing tiny microtears in the muscle that must be repaired. As the muscle repairs it becomes stronger and hypertrophy occurs). As these nutrients and cells flood the muscle there is some swelling involved and this leads to soreness that can last for anywhere from 1 – 5 days.
We can all remember a time when we experienced soreness, but are there certain workouts or muscles that are more susceptible to soreness?
From my experience and research any exercise is capable of producing soreness if you’re doing microscope damage to the muscle fibers, however in my personal opinion eccentric exercise provide the greatest level of soreness. Eccentric exercises are also called “negative” and they are the lowering portions of the lift. For example on a seated leg extension, as you straighten your legs that’s the positive part of the movement and lowering your legs back down is the negative. Some workout protocols would call for anywhere from a 30-second to a 10-second negative phase and that would cause my body to be SUPER sore during recovery.
Also if you’re working muscles that have been neglected or you haven’t trained consistently you might experience a greater level or soreness. For me this happens with the calves. You might also find soreness when trying a new exercise or upping the intensity of your current routine.
Finally the size of the muscle won’t affect the ability to induce soreness, but it may cause you to feel greater discomfort. Sore gluteal (aka the butt) muscles will be a lot more noticeable in daily activities than sore biceps (which I’m experiencing today!)
Now to the second part of the equation – FOOD!
Having a balanced diet full of lean protein and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables is your best bet for overall wellness. But there are key nutrients that have been shown to reduce soreness and help speed muscle healing. I’m a big advocate of having 15-30 grams of whey protein immediately following a workout. I combine this with carbohydrates from tart cherry juice to speed recovery plus the tart cherry juice has been shown to fight soreness. See below for more answers from other RD’s and know that I have every single thing Rikki Keen advises in my house and I eat them weekly if not daily.
From Rikki Keen, RD who is a sports Dietitian, Adjunct Professor who works with the performance lab at University of Alaska, works with Coach Tom Shaw at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and FRS Healthy Performance.
o Focus on these core nutrients:
- Quercetin via FRS
- Omega-3’s from Nordic Naturals
- Whey protein
- Tart cherries
According to Kristina LaRue, Registered Dietitian, CSSD, and blogger at Love & Zest, “Athletes can reduce post exercise muscle soreness and speed recovery by eating anti-inflammatory foods.” Here are her favorites:
o Fatty fish — Salmon and tuna are rich on omega 3 fatty acids that fight off toxins that cause muscle soreness and reduces risk of overuse injuries. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin D and high quality protein that increase muscle protein synthesis allowing the muscles to rebuild and repair properly.
o Tart Cherries— Anthocyanins, natural compounds found in Montmorency tart cherries are effective in enhancing recovery by reducing joint pain muscle soreness. Research shows that 8 ounces of tart cherry juice or 2 tablespoons of concentrate 2 times per day is effective in reducing inflammation in as little as 7 days!
o Nuts and seeds especially pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium which is a mineral lost through sweat and deficiency can lead to muscle weakness, cramps, and poor recovery.
o Bell pepper— vitamin C plays a large role in connective tissue repair and is an antioxidant that promotes recovery.
o Kefir— probiotics help support gut heath reducing inflammation from the inside out.
o Apples/Berries/Grapes/onions—Quercetin, a pigment found in apples, berries, grapes and onions has a potent anti-inflammatory effect.
I hope that we answered your question and you have a plan of action next time you feel the post workout DOMS setting in! As you can see from the RD’s key post-workout, beat soreness nutrients are omega 3’s, quercetin, and tart cherries!