You’re motivated, and you’re excited about losing weight. You’ve got a plan and you’re implementing it with gusto. You hit your workouts hard and you pour every ounce of effort into it to show yourself you have what it takes.
You finish; you’re tired, but you feel great. You’ve got this stuff locked down.
And then you wake up the next morning, try to hop out of bed for another great workout, and your body seems to hate you. Your muscles burn with the hatred of a thousand suns and you realize, not only is working out off the table…your next two days are going to be a myriad of “ouch” and “ugh!” and awkward shuffling.
What are you supposed to do now?
Well, first let’s start with what you didn’t do. Muscle soreness should be expected. Building muscle requires breaking it down first. Soreness is common and necessary to being healthy.
But how much is too much?
Well, if you’re reaching too far, or putting way too much on your plate (like trying to do a marathon without properly training for it) you’re putting yourself at risk for Rhabdomyolysis, which is a severe breakdown of muscle fibers. It’s pretty uncommon and a stressful workout isn’t going to cause it, but it’s another reminder that even great things (like exercise) can be abusive to your body.
So for an intense workout, what should you have been doing that you might not have been that is just adding to the pain the next day.
Protein is the building block of matter and muscles. Obviously protein is a huge part of exercise and getting 12-15 grams of it during meals on exercise days is pivotal to your success, but what else?
Vitamins C, D, and E provide big benefits for stressful workouts.
Vitamins C aids in the removal of lactic acid. During, and immediately after, workouts, your muscles have excessive amounts of lactic acid and metabolic wastes built up from the exertion. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that help remove these build-ups.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. (Which while mostly touted for bones, calcium is just as important in muscle growth and repair.)
Vitamin E is another antioxidant the helps with your body’s clean up after muscle breakdown during exercise.
Stretching…maybe? Warm-up YES!
Stretching before exercise is one of those common sense things that might not have as much sense as previously believed.
While stretching may have a small effect on muscle soreness, it doesn’t seem to be as beneficial towards injury prevention as once believed. The CDC weighed in on the subject in in 2004. “The research so far is inadequate to answer most stretching questions,” was the gist of the article.
However, “stretching” and “warming up” have become overlapping terms which is unfortunate because warming up gets a huge thumbs up. Increasing blood flow and practicing a range of motions your body will go through during the exercise is actually a big benefit for those trying to avoid injury or soreness.
Know your limitations
Exercise pushes boundaries, but understanding yours is important. Giving it your all is necessary and encouraged, but there is a second boundary that we all need to understand. What is too much?
I once finished at the gym, and embarrassingly had to pull over the car three times on the ride home to throw up. It wasn’t hard to see in that instance that I had really overdone it, but over time I have learned more subtle signs from my body that I’ve pushed myself more than I should. This is one skill that takes time to learn, but it becomes pretty easy to spot. It also becomes harder and harder to hit that second wall the more you exercise, and the healthier you get.
The Little Things:
Here are the things that you should be doing anyway that will definitely contribute to muscle recovery. In which case, DO THESE THINGS!
Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
Dehydration is going to increase the intensity of muscle soreness. Remember the half your weight in ounces rule: if you weigh 200 lbs, you need to be drinking 100 oz of water each day.
Hot and Cold.
A hot/cold shower can add a little bit of benefit by reducing the muscle swelling. A hot bath is sometimes just what the doctor ordered for relaxing muscle tension after a long workout.
Alright, this one might not be as much common sense, but it’s very important. You’ve just done a very intense workout, so the best thing for your muscles is rest, right? Au contraire, my friend, the best thing you can do is usually keep moving. Any form of light activity is great for muscle recovery (like taking a nice walk.)
When I started this article I was going to do a quick blog on muscle soreness, but there’s just too much information for one post. This week is prevention, so next week we’ll talk about muscle pain after the fact. How to recover the fastest when the pain is already there.
Have an embarrassing anecdote about throwing up after an exercise, or muscle soreness? Have some tips and tricks for preventing it that weren’t mentioned here? As always, let us know in the comments.