Health, Fitness and Diet; the Common Questions Answered
Everybody complains of aching muscles after a hard gym session, and we see many people wobbling down the stairs after a good leg session, but how much is too much and how much is enough? Muscle aches during or immediately after exercise are caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. However, this is not the case for muscle aches experienced days after a workout. Lactic acid should have been cleared by circulating blood flow minutes after exercise stops; this process is helped by an active recovery or cooldown.
Days after a hard session, muscle soreness is caused by muscle fibres that have literally been torn during your workout. Don’t worry this is normal, and if you are looking to build muscle or tone up this is what you should be aiming for. The breakdown of muscle fibres stimulates the body to repair those muscle fibres to be stronger than they were before; this process is known as supercompensation. The body is preparing to be able to do the same amount of work again, and for it to be less of a stress on the body. Protein in your diet or supplements will help this building and repairing process.
However, if you are still feeling crippling effects for more than roughly 3-4 days then you may have overdone it. The process is still the same (muscle fibres torn triggering supercompensation), but the muscles are just taking longer to build and repair. However, the risk of injury to other tissues i.e. ligaments and tendons is far greater during this time, especially if you still train the sore muscle groups.
Some ways to avoid or reduce the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are:
- Gradual progression of weight or intensity of your exercise.
- A decent cooldown, which work the same muscle groups as you have been training. E.g. at least 5 minutes cardiovascular exercise gradually decreasing in intensity.
- No more than 45 minutes post exercise protein intake, from your meals or supplements.
- Anti-inflammatory pain killers, i.e. ibuprofen.
- Light cardiovascular exercise in the following days.