Feeling Sore After Your Workout? Here’s some tips
Yesterday, or even the day before, you worked out. It was a tough workout. So tough that as you read this, you are still aching. We’re talking the type of aches where your muscles let you know about every little movement you make. What is this? Why is this happening? Does this happen after every workout? This pain that you feel in your muscles, is commonly termed as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and it’s a bloody nuisance.
What exactly is DOMS?
We’re going to briefly explore some of the common explanations of DOMS and figure out if they’re plausible explanations.
Microtrauma in muscles
This theory goes like this: we work out intensely. So much so, that we cause small tears in muscles. These tears cause us to feel pain. Seems plausible. However, this paper seems to actually contradict this explanation, in which it was found that “evidence tends to suggest that muscles are not damaged by hard, unfamiliar exercise”.
Metabolic stress refers to the by-products cells produce when working intensely. Some of these by-products include Hydrogen, Lactate and Free Radicals. In reference to free radicals, there is some evidence that they are a player in the DOMS game. However, the relationship is not clear as there was an increase of free radicals after the peak decline of DOMS.
This explanation gets a lot of airtime. Dr Matthew Goodwin, has researched this idea for much of his career. He says the following. “as someone who has made a career of studying lactate metabolism, it is both irritating and amazing that it has taken so long for the science to reach the public.” He does an excellent job of reasoning why, “exercise that causes soreness typically doesn’t cause very high Lactic Acid (and vice versa).” in this well referenced article.
The Brain Over reacting?
The Brain gets little airtime in all aspects of physical performance and pain. Yet, it is should be our first port of call.
In this fascinating piece of research, it was demonstrated that DOMS spread to muscles that were not involved in exercise at all. With pain being an output of the Brain, it would suggest that the brain is being over-protective and telling us that we should rest.
What can we do about DOMS
Medical science can’t seem to explain what DOMS is. Is there a way to relieve the soreness you’re feeling. Let’s find out.
Stretching feels good. Really good. The fact that it feels good may well be a good enough reason to stretch to try to relieve DOMS. In terms of the science of stretching, it was shown that, “stretching after eccentric exercise cannot prevent secondary pathological alterations.” Yep, stretching doesn’t seem to anything for DOMS.
Foam Roll / Massage
Ah massages. They feel good too. Surely they’ll help reduce my DOMS. Maybe the expectation alone might help. The science, however, suggests otherwise. In this review paper, it was found that “Light exercise of the affected muscles is probably more effective than massage in improving muscle blood flow (thereby possibly enhancing healing) and temporarily reducing delayed onset muscle soreness.”
These look pretty snazzy. That may be it though. However the science says, “There are conflicting results regarding the effects of wearing compression garments during exercise.”
So what can we do about DOMS?
Experienced exercisers know that once they become accustomed to exercise to a new intensity, they don’t experience DOMS, until they exercise to a new higher intensity. You just have to accept that when exercising to a new high intensity, DOMS is going to happen whether you like it or not. What can you do about it? Things that will help distract you from the pain. Stretching, massages and the like may provide those distractions. Don’t be disheartened from the pain though. Provided you stick to your program, DOMS will be something you rarely experience.
If we’re aspiring athletes, we want to be able to exercise to high intensities. When we do exercise intensely, there is a shift from fat metabolism to carbohydrate metabolism. This means that we draw upon glycogen, stored in muscles and the liver. Glucose availability is therefore an important aspect of being able to perform at a high intensity. When we consume alcohol, there is a reduction in muscle glycogen uptake and storage. Not only that, the amount of glucose made available in the bloodstream is also reduced. We can see, therefore, that alcohol doesn’t transfer well to improving our performance.
As we well know in the Brotherhood, we’re very concerned with how we can convince the brain to allow us to access our full potential. Therefore, we need to ensure that the brain is firing on all cylinders. Alcohol depresses brain function and can impair abilities needed for athletic performance: balance, reaction time, and accuracy of motor skills.
As we can see in this short post, alcohol affects our ability to fuel intense exercise and our ability to execute the complex movements needed during exercise.
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