I never thought I’d write an article about healing sore muscles on this blog – but yesterday a good friend changed my mind…
I had quite an interesting conversation with him. He had come to me before looking for help to lose weight…
He had created a comprehensive workout plan, had come up with a healthier diet – and he was on his way to achieve his goal.
But, as it often happens when you start a long and difficult journey, after three days he already wanted to quit. So, he came to my house to have another talk.
Side note: If you have doubts about a health goal, I urge you to talk to your doctor before you make up your mind. Most doctors encourage their patients to tell them what’s on their mind, so don’t worry about bothering them. If you are, they’ll tell you.
Now, back to my friend. He came by looking devastated.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he told me.
I have to say I was honestly surprised about this sudden change. He was SO determined to lose weight just a few days ago. Naturally, I asked what happened.
“I’ve been working out every single day since Tuesday. And my muscles are so sore that I’m amazed I could even make it here. Nothing is making it better!”
“Well, what remedies have you tried?” I asked.
He answered: “I read some blogs that said to heal sore muscles by drinking protein shakes, applying ice packs and even stretching afterward.”
I understood right then and there why he was so ready to give up. There were two things going wrong:
- He wasn’t in the right mindset to exercise regularly.
- He was using the wrong methods to heal his sore muscles.
Maybe some of you are in the same place right now. Or maybe you were in the past and decided that exercising just isn’t for you.
And that’s okay. We’re all human, and none of us achieve every single goal we dream of.
But if you’re still looking to lose weight or just include exercise in your daily life, I want to share with you the right way to deal with sore muscles.
So, keep reading to find out what was wrong with my friend’s approach and learn a few methods to make exercising more bearable.
The first thing you need to know is…
Even Bodybuilders Get Sore Muscles After Exercise
A common misconception people have when they’re first starting to exercise is that you only get muscle soreness because you’re out of shape.
People feel that there’s something wrong with them, or worse, that they’re hurting their body so they should stop.
Of course, there’s something to say about the intensity and period of your workouts (you should start out gradually), but muscle soreness is something everyone who exercises experiences.
Even bodybuilders. Even people that worked out their whole life. It’s just a normal body response to exercise.
When you’re exercising, you’re stretching and contracting your muscles. And the pain comes from microscopic tears in your muscles.
But don’t freak out!
I know that sounds scary, but your muscles know how to repair themselves to become stronger. And every time you amp up the intensity of your workouts, they get a little tougher.
The truth not many people are ready to hear is… muscle soreness is part of the journey.
You should accept it. Embrace it. Use it as a motivator.
Because it says you’re doing a good job.
But don’t strain yourself to the point where you can hardly get out of bed as my friend did.
After talking over his workout regimen, I realized that his first week of exercises was way too intense for someone who’s just starting out.
That was part of the problem.
And because he was so determined to make it work, when he felt the pain he pushed even harder.
However, muscles need some time to heal. Especially if the pain is unbearable.
Have you ever heard people say: “I just did leg day at the gym”? Have you ever wondered why they worked out just from the waist down?
It’s because they know (or their trainers taught them) that muscles need time to repair. So, they divide the muscle groups they exercise on different days: legs, abs, chest, back, arms and so on.
I’m not saying you need to divide it the same way. These are usually people that do very intense workouts for each muscle group. Just do what feels right or what your trainer recommends.
What are the main takeaways?
- Build up the intensity of your workouts gradually;
- Give yourself rest days;
- Know when to stop.
Now let’s say you’re already in pain from a workout…
What NOT To Do To Heal Sore Muscles
Muscle soreness is one of the most annoying pains you can feel. That’s because you know it’s from your own doing. It’s not excruciating, but it keeps you from performing daily tasks normally. Aaand… it’s quite hard to get rid of.
Because many people want to escape the pain ASAP, there are also a seemingly infinite number of potential solutions. Some are better known than others. Some work better than others.
And you’ll be surprised how many well-known remedies are actually not recommended by doctors or just down-right proven not to be effective.
First of all, don’t use anti-inflammatory drugs! One, because they can pose long-term health risks for your body – especially when you take them frequently. Second, because research shows that they aren’t very helpful for alleviating muscle soreness.
My friend didn’t try this, but he said he came very close…
And since we’re talking about him, remember what he said he did to try and get rid of the pain? Protein shakes, icing the area and stretching after the workout.
You’ve probably guessed it by now – NONE of these very popular approaches are effective in healing sore muscles.
Not even protein shakes?! I know, I was shocked too.
But that’s what new research indicates.
I won’t bore you with the details of the trial, but the conclusion of the authors is this:
“While proteins and carbohydrates are essential for the effective repair of muscle fibers following intensive strength training, our research suggests that varying the form of protein immediately following training does not strongly influence the recovery response or reduce muscle pain.”
As for icing, this method only delays inflammation. If you need quick pain relief for a short period of time, you can choose to apply ice to the affected area. But beware that after the tissue rewarms, the pain will return as well.
But I honestly advise you to give up this practice completely, because I read a discovery in the Journal of Athletic Medicine Research that icing actually kills muscle cells.
Lastly, here’s another report on the effects of stretching for reducing muscle soreness:
“The evidence from randomized studies suggests that muscle stretching, whether conducted before, after or before and after exercise, does not produce clinically important reductions in delayed‐onset muscle soreness (pain after 24-48 hours from exercise) in healthy adults.”
I was sad to tell my friend that all the methods he tried are just myths. But the good news was that I had a curated list of proven-to-work remedies that he could use from now on.
So, that’s all for today… Just kidding!
Of course, I’ll share the list with you too.
Proven Natural Remedies For Sore Muscles
Here are a few of the methods I guarantee will help ease your muscle soreness:
- Replace lost fluids
Exercising can be pretty dehydrating, so drinking water before, during and after your workout can make a world of difference.
- Include anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet
Research shows that cherry juice, pineapple, ginger and turmeric can all help relieve muscle soreness.
- Include sources of dietary nitrates into your daily diet
Nitrates reduce the use of oxygen during physical exercise and are proven to help prevent muscle soreness from high intensity workouts. Some good sources are: beetroot, rhubarb, cilantro and leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula and cabbage.
- Take a hot bath with Epsom salts
The magnesium from the Epsom salts absorbs into your skin, which helps with muscle spasms and cramping. On top of that, heat therapy is actually proven to help reduce pain and relax the muscles, especially “moist heat,” like from a wet towel or a bath.
This is my top-secret method of getting rid of muscle soreness that I use every time I feel too sore from physical activity.
My friend said he tried it last night and already felt much, much better.
And with this final special trick for reducing muscle soreness, today’s guide is finished!
I hope you enjoyed today’s topic and that I helped you be better equipped to deal with post-workout muscle soreness.