If you’re like me, sometimes you overdo it a bit with your workout and you feel it the next day…or you just work a muscle in a new way and that muscle tells you about it the next morning. There are tons of creams out there that promise to alleviate that soreness, but there are natural ways to feel better, too.
First, it is important to note where this muscle soreness actually comes from. If you are sore during your workout, this is lactic acid. When lactic acid builds up in muscles it creates that soreness that everyone associates with overexertion. However, if your body is in good condition, this lactic acid quickly purges from the body within an hour. Things like ballistic stretching or just shaking out the muscle can help.
Now, soreness that comes a day or two after you exercise-often called ‘DOMS’ or delayed onset muscle soreness, has a different source. This delayed pain is the result of tears, small ones, in the muscle that become inflamed. These tears are normal, necessary in fact, because it’s tearing the muscle down and rebuilding it that causes your muscles to grow in size, which is the point. It is just your body’s way of saying, “HEY! I need a break!” It is a natural part of the recovery process that will result in stronger muscles in the end.
But, what can you do to alleviate this pain while it’s there, if you don’t want to go with those store bought creams and ointments? Well, first you need to use hot and cold packs, alternating, for the first 24 hours. These contrasting temperatures work like a pump to increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. This will also provide a flushing action that will help to remove the tiny fragments of protein generated by torn muscles.
In addition, another thing that you can do is treat the inflammation from the inside. Do this by ingesting ginger. Ginger acts almost like a natural source of ibuprofen. It contains an enzyme that breaks down the protein fragments. Put ginger in your tea (or wherever else you’d like to add it, but speaking from experience, I can tell you it’s pretty good in tea!), up to 2 grams per day, or take a supplement, up to six 500 milligram capsules per day.
Also, another food that contains an enzyme that will break down these protein fragments is pineapple. Pineapple contains bromelain, and this can start to work even before you are sore. If you overdid it today, and think you might be sore tomorrow, take a supplement of bromelain, or have some pineapple. If taking a supplement, take a 500 milligram capsule three times a day, between meals.
To help prevent muscle soreness, always do a warm up before working out, just a quick five minutes to jog in place, walk or do jumping jacks. Don’t do static stretching at this time (which is holding a stretch for 30-90 seconds), but you can do ballistic stretching. Static stretching at the beginning of your workout could actually harm the muscles. And you can take supplements of Vitamin E and C on a daily basis if you workout regularly. These two vitamins can help minimize your pain and will help your muscles recover more quickly.
1) Hatfield, Frederick, PhD. Fitness: The Complete Guide. (2010). ISSA
2) “Muscle Soreness.” (2010). Retrieved from http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/23/117.cfm