For some, the discomfort associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which generally occurs about 24 hours after exercise, is enough to make you think twice before going back to the gym or engaging in activities you would otherwise enjoy. Naturally, if given the option, most would choose to prevent the muscle soreness that follows intense exercise or physical activity, but using risky drugs is not the only, or the best, solution. The best strategies to help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, whether you're a professional athlete or not, are those that will help to address some of the underlying causes. Among them:
- Using acceleration training
Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT), also known as Acceleration Training using a Power Plate, works by stimulating your white muscle fibers—which are your fast- and super-fast muscle fibers. The Power Plate kick-starts your pituitary gland into making more growth hormone (HGH), which helps you build lean body mass and burn fat, as well as accelerate tissue healing.
Acceleration Training is quite different in that the vibrating plate targets your entire body, focusing on fully integrated motor and neurological patterns, which allows you to work ALL your muscles, and nerves, all at the same time.
It's a truly revolutionary approach to fitness because it addresses your neuromuscular system as a whole, rather than one limb or muscle group at a time. The net result is a dramatic improvement in strength and power, flexibility, balance, tone and leanness, along with reduced pain and soreness.
They aren't cheap but I am fortunate to have access to one virtually year-round, and it is my first therapy that I use when I get a muscle injury from an accident or over training.
- Eating ginger
Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds and oils known as gingerols, which have pain-relieving effects. In one study on people who did exercises meant to induce muscle pain, those who ate two grams of ginger a day had a 25 percent reduction in exercise-induced muscle pain 24 hours after their workout, compared to those who took a placebo.11
- Cold water immersion
Cold-water baths appear to be significantly more effective than rest in relieving delayed-onset muscle soreness when used just after exercise. Cold works by lowering the damaged tissue's temperature and locally constricting blood vessels. Using cold therapy immediately after an injury helps prevent bruising and swelling from the waste and fluid build-up. Cold also helps numb nerve endings, providing you with instant, localized pain relief.
- Eating a diet that includes naturally occurring carnosine, i.e. animal protein such as organic grass-fed beef or free-range chicken
Carnosine is a pluripotent dipeptide composed of two amino acids, beta-alanine and histadine, found in many tissues but most notably in your muscles. It serves several important roles, two of which are:
- Buffering acids in your muscle
- Serving as a potent antioxidant
Carnosine appears particularly useful for improving anaerobic high intensity exercise performance, but both of the functions mentioned above also explain how it may help reduce muscle soreness. As mentioned in Steady Health, damaged muscles become inflamed, which can cause soreness. Since carnosine is a potent anti-inflammatory antioxidant,, its presence in your muscle can serve to quell muscle inflammation. 12
The foods with the highest amount of useful dietary dipeptides like carnosine would be animal proteins, like eggs, whey protein, poultry and beef. If you are considering using carnosine as a supplement it is important to realize that carnosine itself is probably not that useful because enzymes rapidly break it down to its constituent amino acids (beta-alanine and histidine), which are then absorbed by your muscles and re-formed back into carnosine.
- Taking a beta-alanine supplement
As explained above, if you do decide to take a supplement, instead of taking carnosine, I recommend taking its primary precursor, beta-alanine, based on the science in this area. Beta-alanine has also been shown to be helpful for preventing muscle soreness when working out.
For those of you who are using ibuprofen or aspirin for other types of pain, including arthritis, back and neck pain or headaches, I've outline more than a dozen natural, non-drug approaches to pain relief here.