Reduce Muscle Pain and Soreness

Oh, the great outdoors.  The weather is warmer, the trails are freshly groomed and the days are longer.  There’s no better time than the present to get outside for a little activity.  But with the extra fitness can come muscle stiffness and soreness.  Here are a few of my tried and true tips to minimize those uncomfortable muscle aches that can arise from working some hibernated muscles.

Make sure you’re getting enough protein, especially after a workout.  Ever notice that body builders or fitness fanatics always have a post-workout drink?  It’s important to support muscle recovery with adequate protein that has an appropriate amino acid profile.  Exercise causes tiny tears in the muscle, which needs to be repaired afterwards.  This is what allows muscle to increase tone, strength and size.  Branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) in particular are an important component of any protein source for proper muscle repair.  Formulas containing L-glutamine will also be helpful in muscle recovery.  Above and beyond protein powder formulas, it’s important that you’re getting in an appropriate daily intake of complete proteins, like grass-fed animal proteins or proper food combinations of vegetarian sources.  A general goal to aim for is 1.0-1.2g/kg of body weight in protein daily.

If you’ve ever experienced the “dreaded DOMS”, you know how frustrating it can be.  Delayed onset muscle soreness (a.k.a. DOMS) is muscle pain and stiffness occurring about 24-48 hours after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.  Some studies have suggested that ensuring proper nutrition and electrolyte balance can help minimize that stiff, sore feeling.  Minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium can help minimize the severity and duration of DOMS, when used in an appropriate manner.  Natural anti-inflammatories such as curcumin have also been shown to decrease overall muscle fatigue and enhance recovery of muscle performance.

Providing extra mitochondrial support to your muscles is also helpful for muscle soreness.  Our muscles are full of mitochondria and are primarily involved in creating energy for our bodies.  If you’re planning on doing a strenuous exercise or an exercise that your body isn’t exactly used to doing, it may be helpful to try some mitochondrial support prior to starting the exercise.  Mitochondrial support nutrients include alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and L-carnitine, to name a few.

Muscle soreness is also the perfect excuse to go for a massage.  Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy can significantly decrease the pain associated with DOMS.  Massage will help increase blood flow to the sore muscles and stimulate lymphatic movement to expel the build-up of inflammatory mediators and bring oxygen to the area.  And don’t forget to warm up your muscles prior to exercise with some light stretches – this will not only reduce the risk of injury but can help diminish the intensity of muscle soreness after your work out.  Ask your massage therapist, physiotherapist, personal trainer or yoga instructor for a few tips on proper stretching.

While you may inevitably experience muscle soreness from increasing your physical activity, these tips are a great way to reduce the overall severity and duration of the pain and stiffness to help get you back out on those trails sooner than later.