So, you have given your all in the gym. But that doesn’t mean the best results are guaranteed. Granted, a good quality workout is a must for building a great physique. But, the workout is only half the work. You still have to fuel your body with the steady stream of proteins and complex carbs, so that the broken muscle fibers could be repaired and made stronger.
Then, there is a case of taking right measures to assist in muscle recovery. Also, sometimes, there is a case of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to be tackled. DOMS is the muscle soreness that you’ve probably experienced one to two days after exercise. It is caused by the inflammation arising from the microscopic tears in your muscle fibers or by the micro-tears between your muscles and its surrounding tissues. The damaged muscles release biochemical irritants that cause mild inflammation, which in turn activates pain receptors.
Although DOMS will go away on its own, but it can prove to be a major nuisance. It can be uncomfortable and would force you to be less active. This soreness can also interfere with your ability to have a quality workout. Fortunately, there are some post workout measures that you can take to halt DOMS in its tracks. Also, you will need to avoid these mistakes after the workout to deal with the DOMS in the right way.
Icing won’t help much
Icing is often recommended for the host of muscle related injuries. However, it won’t be too helpful in treating DOMS. Yes, it may give you a momentary respite, but in long run, it may worsen the condition. The ice narrows your blood vessels, which prevents blood from accumulating at the site of injury. This is why it is great for treating injuries as the low blood flow reduces the chances of further swelling. However, this also delays healing and muscle repair, which is an important step in reversing the effects of DOMS. With delay in healing, the DOMS may ultimately feel worse and last longer. However, to be fair, the delay in healing isn’t too long, about half a day long. So, if the icing makes you feel better and you are fine with a minor lull in your workout regime, than you should go for it.
In fact, number of studies have backed icing as an effective way to get a momentary reprieve from the DOMS. In one research, the researchers looked at 17 different studies involving around 400 subjects. The group of subjects who were asked to dunk in an ice bath for at least five minutes after exercise had reduction in muscle soreness by 20 percent compared to those who simply rested. For the record, the participants were asked to undergo resistance training such as cycling or running.
The research have also backed ice packs in dealing with inflammation. One such study has revealed that ice packs reduce blood flow in the muscles by 50 percent after 10 minutes of ice time.
The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or better known as NSAIDs have become an integral part of bodybuilding routines. Some serious lifters have been popping these pills like candy to aid in the recovery process. On the surface, it is a no brainer. After all, if a pill can delay pain and muscle soreness, so what’s the harm in popping it? And, they are readily available. The shelves of every pharmacy, supermarket, and convenience store are lined with them and you don’t even need doctor’s prescription. However, research has shown that ibuprofen and other NSAIDs doesn’t have that big impact in reducing the pain caused by the muscle soreness. One such study was carried out on runners who have completed the 160-km Western States Endurance Run. The 60 subjects used for the study had completed the marathon under 30 hours. The 72 percent of the study participants were NSAID users. The result of the studies showed that NSAID users did not experience a reduction in muscle damage or DOMS.
And, if popping those pills has any positive effect on pain, their potential to cause harm means you should refrain from using them. The usage of NSAIDs inhibit the production of collagen, which is essential for healing tissue and bone injuries. Also, it reduces tissue adaptation to exercise, which could lead to injury. Plus, it can have adverse gastrointestinal and cardiovascular effects.
Avoiding foam rolling
The foam rolls have become an essential part of recovery procedures. The therapists and athletes are using foam rolls for myofascial release, which helps reduce the muscle pain and immobility. The fascia is the knot formed in the muscles due to an intense workout regime. So as you roll on it, the knots in fibrous tissue are broken down and circulation is boosted, which relieves tension and pain.
The soreness reduction benefits of foam rolling have been proved in a recent study that has been published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. For the study, 20 men were asked to do a workout of ten sets of 10 squats, with each squat at 60% of their one-rep max. After the workout, half of the subjects were asked to do 20 minutes foam rolling session, while the other half was instructed to undergo usual post workout routine. The researchers found that those who did foam rolling not only had less soreness, but their soreness peaked 24 hours after the workout, whereas the muscle soreness peaked 48 hours after the workout in those who didn’t foam roll. They also had a better vertical leap, range of motion, and muscle contraction.
So, start using foam roll after the workout. You can even opt to use it before the workout as well. The pre-workout sessions should focus on problem areas whereas post-workout sessions can focus on all of the muscle groups worked that day. Start out slowly and lightly, and increase the pressure slowly until you experience only a tolerable level of discomfort.
Not using compression aids
The compression aids are extremely useful in healing and treating DOMS. The compression minimizes the swelling and fluid build-up that can delay healing. The benefits of compression clothing in reducing the amount and severity of muscle damage has been proved by a study conducted on amateur football players. For the study, the Spanish researchers selected soccer players from two local clubs. All the participants were older than 18 years and had a regular training activity from 4–12 hours per week for at least 3 months. The researchers found that subjects by wearing compression shorts experienced reduction in the amount and severity of muscle damage. And, the best thing is that the compression shorts didn’t have any negative effect on the overall performance.
You can opt to go for the pneumatic compression, which are inflatable sleeves that can be worn on your arms or legs. They apply pulsating pressure that can be useful in reducing swelling, pain, stiffness, and DOMS.
In order to avoid injury or any muscular problem, it is important that you do a proper warmup before an intense workout. The best way is to go for an activity that will warm you up gradually and give your muscles an opportunity to prepare for the physical demands. Ten minutes of walk on a treadmill is one such option. However, making your warmup more dynamic could help in prepping the muscles in even better way. To make your warmup dynamic, you should include low-level cardiovascular activity, such as power walking, jumping jacks, jump rope, martial art kicks and squat thrusts. Such a warmup will raise your heart rate and body temperature to optimal levels.
The static stretching (where you hold each stretch for 60 seconds or more) has been considered an important part of warmup sessions. But, you need to refrain from it. The prolonged stretching decreases the blood flow within your tissue, which can lead to lactic acid buildup. Also, the muscle actually shortens by prolonged stretching, which can lead to injury when the muscle is later pushed by physical strain.
However, there is no harm in doing dynamic stretching before the workout. For the record, the dynamic stretching occurs when you perform lunges, squats, or arm circles. Such type of stretching helps improve your power, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility, and strength.
Not hydrating enough
This mistake is made not only by inexperienced beginners, but by the experienced bodybuilders and powerlifters as well. Some make the most common and critical mistake of waiting to go thirsty before re-hydrating. The thirst is the first sign of dehydration in your body. So, drink sufficient amount of water before and during the workout without going thirsty in the first place.
The lack of water in your body increases fatigue. Though, the water doesn’t provide any energy like carbs and other nutrients, but it plays a key role in energy transformation. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. The lack of hydration will make you lethargic, and could lead to cramping.
Also, water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells and transport waste out of them. The water plays a key role in forming the structures of protein and glycogen as well. Additionally, you need water to move and flex the muscles. If you are dehydrated, the muscles will be deprived of electrolytes. And, improper electrolyte balance will hamper the functioning of nerves as well.
However, you also have to be careful about overhydration as it can have a negative effect on your performance as well. With the presence of too much water, your cells will start to swell, which will lead to conditions such as gastrointestinal upset, dizziness and soreness among others. In severe cases, the sodium levels in your blood will drop to dangerously low levels.
Feeding your muscles
After an intense workout, it is very important that you immediately provide your body with essential nutrients. Your muscles have suffered micro tears to the fibers due to the grueling weight workout. So, you need to eat complex carbs and proteins that will be immediately used in repairing the micro-tears and making the muscle stronger than before. Amino acids from high-quality animal proteins and with carbohydrates from vegetables (not grains) are essential for this process. If you fail to feed your muscles after the workout, the catabolic process will set in and can potentially damage your muscle.
Not refueling fast enough
As said earlier, you need to feed your muscles to prevent catabolic process from setting in. And, you need to do it fast enough. If you don’t do it fast enough, then the catabolic process would have gone too far. The best option to get a good supply of amino acids and other muscle repair elements is whey protein. The whey protein is assimilated quickly on ingestion. The protein will reach muscles within 10-15 minutes of swallowing it. Thus, supplying muscles with right food at the right time.
Too many drinks
The alcohol can have an adverse effect on muscle repair and recovery. So, to go for night out with your best pals after an evening’s heavy workout is probably not a great idea. In a study, scientists from Massey University in New Zealand have found that those who consumed 1 gram of alcohol per kilogram, which means about five drinks for a 160-pound man after a weightlifting session experienced more soreness than those who drank juice.
Lack of sleep
And, last but not the least is the lack of sleep. The sleep enhances muscular recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release. Therefore, you need at least seven hours of sleep to give your body sufficient opportunity to do the necessary repair work on the broken muscle fibers. If you aren’t getting necessary sleep, no amount of proteins and supplements will help in complete muscle recovery. Also, sleep restores brain functions and alertness, which is very important in preparation for intense training sessions.