When you work out, you’re actually damaging your muscle tissues. When your body uses the proteins you consume to repair that damage, muscle growth occurs.
Unfortunately, this muscle damage often leads to soreness that you may not notice for several hours after (or even the day after) your workout.
Luckily, there are several ways to help you prevent and recover from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.
#1 – Hydrate Yourself
One of the absolute best ways to prevent and recover from DOMS involves making sure you’re getting plenty of water. When you work out, your body loses fluid in the form of sweat. You should aim to replace the amount of fluid your body loses during one workout before you start another.
Although it’s difficult to tell exactly how much fluid you need, you can get a pretty good estimate from your urine. If it’s clear, you’re hydrated. If it resembles apple juice, it’s time to drink up.
Don’t just rely on sports drinks since these contain fat-soluble vitamins that may cause side effects when consumed in large quantities. If you choose sports drinks, make sure you’re drinking an equal amount of water along with them.
#2 – Make Sure You Sleep Eight to Nine Hours
When you sleep, your body produces far more hormones that it can use to help you recover. In fact, the University of Chicago’s Department of Medicine conducted a study to prove it. They found that testosterone production increases by an average of 15% for each hour you sleep, and other studies have shown that growth hormone levels increase as you sleep, too.
You should sleep eight to nine uninterrupted hours each night – just like many coaches ask professional athletes to do – in order to facilitate faster recovery and promote the muscle-building process.
#3 – Get a Massage
The tears in your muscles that result from a workout can cause a significant amount of pain and stiffness that can last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. One of the best secrets to recovering from DOMS more quickly involves increasing your blood circulation and flushing out waste products.
Getting a massage will do both, and you have several options. You could hire a massage therapist who specializes in working with athletes and bodybuilders, or you could purchase a foam roll. Foam rolling is becoming increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts because it allows for deep tissue massage, relaxation, and relief.
#4 – Use Compression Garments
Many people believe that compression garments help them recover from DOMS more quickly because they force blood through the veins, which prevents fatigue. According to research on the use of compression gear for post-workout recovery, you’ll need to purchase high-grade gear for it to actually work.
This means you can’t skimp on products you find in your local drug store. Look around for compression gear from quality manufacturers, and be sure to check out some reviews, too. This can give you a better idea of which garments are most likely to help you reduce the severity of DOMS and recovering more quickly.
#5 – Eat a High-Protein Snack
The Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition published a study on the effects of eating protein within the first half hour after a workout. They found that those who consume enough high-quality protein immediately after working out experience milder DOMS that lasts only a short time.
You should consume about 20 grams of high-quality, pure protein, such as whey protein isolate, every couple of hours throughout the day and within the first half hour of finishing your workout. Pulsing like this helps to maintain the amount of free protein in the body, which goes a long way toward alleviating your soreness.
#6 – Do Some Stretches
Although active recovery strategies such as aerobic exercise and dynamic stretching have not been studies as thoroughly as dietary intervention and passive recovery, there is some evidence to suggest that stretching your muscles may actually help them recover.
Theoretically, stretching increases blood flow through different parts of your body, which helps to facilitate the removal of the waste products responsible for DOMS. What’s more, enhanced blood flow can also deliver more vitamins and nutrients to the tissues, which also aids in recovery.
Stretching should be therapeutic in this case, so don’t push yourself. Keep your stretches comfortable and do them a couple of times per day.
#7 – Try an Ice Bath
If you’ve ever seen a movie in which a professional athlete immediately immerses himself into a tub of ice water following a game, then you’ve seen one of the more prevalent methods for preventing DOMS before it even starts.
Coaches (and some physicians who specialize in treating athletes) believe that the cold helps to combat the small tears in the muscles and reduces swelling, which can provide pain relief. Ice baths also constrict blood vessels, which helps with the removal of waste products that can break tissues down.
#8 – NSAIDs
Another method for reducing the swelling and pain that comes as a result of delayed onset muscle soreness involves taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs. The most popular over-the-counter option is ibuprofen, and most athletes claim it works relatively well.
The best part is that you can combine NSAID medications with other therapies, including ice baths and compression garments, in order to accelerate and improve your overall relief.
#9 – Magnesium
Magnesium is one of those minerals that your body needs quite a bit of but cannot make on its own, so you need to consume plenty of it every single day in order to keep yourself healthy. There are a couple of different ways to get your magnesium, too. You could take a dietary supplement which is fairly inexpensive and simple to do.
If you choose this route, make sure you look for magnesium citrate since it’s the easiest for your body to digest and absorb. You can also choose Epsom salt for a soak or magnesium oil as a topical agent; both of these contain magnesium sulfate, which can absorb into your bloodstream through your skin.
DOMS / Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a significant problem for many athletes. However, the good news is that the more you workout and train the less pain you will feel later on.
You can also use one or all of the tips above to help prevent the occurrence of DOMS and recover more quickly when you do experience it.