What could be worse than having the mental fortitude to work out every other day, but lacking the muscle power to do so? It feels great to have a dynamic weightlifting session, but muscle soreness is never a fun occurrence. Unfortunately, a little bit of aching is unavoidable. After all, to grow your muscles requires that you tear a few fibers here and there! However, there are a few things you can do to limit the amount of discomfort you feel, so you can keep pushing through this week’s workouts.
- Eat cherries.
A 2011 study found that people who swallowed a tart cherry gel made from whole fruits before their resistance workout reported 24 percent less muscle soreness compared to the placebo group. Declan Connolly PhD from the Human Performance Lab in Vermont says that it’s the antioxidants like polyphenols in cherries that offer natural anti-inflammatory properties. On the downside, you’d have to eat 50 cherries to get the same net benefit as the study participants. Of course, there are supplements.
- Decrease sets.
If you consistently feel very sore the next day, try decreasing the number of sets performed to failure, says Alan Mikesky PhD of Purdue University. If you usually do three sets of 10, try doing just one set with a slightly heavier load. It will still be challenging, without doing too much damage to your muscles.
- Water treatment.
Some people recommend taking a warm Epsom salt bath to relieve hurting muscles. There is another technique called a “contrast shower,” where you alternate between very cold and very hot water every 30 seconds to cause blood vessel dilation and improved circulation. If you have severe Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), try icing your muscles.
- Eat right.
Post-workout nutrition is very important in the healing process. Be sure you drink tons and tons of water, first and foremost. You should also consume a snack or meal containing 25 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs within 2 hours of working out. A protein shake would work well.
Note: You can use topical muscle creams for surface-level, short-term relief. However, Reed Ferber PhD of the Running Injury Clinic in Alberta, Canada says that these products are no more effective at treating muscle pain than placebos because they’d have to penetrate to the actual muscle, which is about an inch below surface level – and rubs only go down a quarter-inch.