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We’ve all been there: you finish an invigorating workout feeling on top of the world. Then, the next morning, it feels like you’ve been hit by a truck. Your body and muscles ache after working out, and it can be tough to even get out of bed. So, why does this happen? Is there anything we can do about it? Let’s delve into the science behind post-workout aches and pains and how to manage and prevent them.
At WholyMe, we believe in the power of understanding the body’s signals. Recognizing that the soreness experienced after a workout is a form of communication from your body to help us respond appropriately. It’s our body’s way of letting us know that it’s adapting to the stress of exercise.
So, why does your body ache after a workout? The answer lies in a phenomenon known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
The Science Behind Post-Workout Aches
DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is an exercise-induced muscle pain that sets in after intense exercise, particularly if the body is unaccustomed to it. It is the result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibers during exercise, particularly in resistance and high-intensity training. This small-scale damage activates a localized inflammatory response in the body, which, although it sounds alarming, is a normal process for repair and adaptation.
The response involves the recruitment of enzymes and immune cells to the affected area to help repair the muscle tissue. This process triggers the nerves, leading to an increase in pain sensitivity in that area. Thus, you experience soreness, which peaks around 24-48 hours post-workout, explaining why your body might feel extremely sore after a workout or why your thighs are particularly tender.
What Can You Do About It?
First, don’t be discouraged! Body aches from exercise, though uncomfortable, are a normal part of the adaptation process that helps you get stronger over time. It’s also important to note that the severity of the soreness doesn’t necessarily equate to the quality or effectiveness of your workout.
The approach to managing these post-gym aches involves a combination of staying hydrated, practising active recovery, ensuring quality sleep, utilizing natural remedies, and incorporating mindful practices, but have you ever wondered why? What’s the science behind these methods that helps relieve muscle soreness after the gym? Let’s dive deep and explore:
Stay Hydrated and Fuel Your Body
Ensuring optimal hydration and nutrition is not just a guideline, but a necessity for facilitating effective muscle recovery and reducing post-workout aches.
Hydration is a key player in cellular function and overall bodily health. Every cell, tissue, and organ in the body relies on water to function properly. In the context of post-exercise recovery, water plays several crucial roles. It helps regulate body temperature, lubricates joints, and transports essential nutrients to cells, including those in the muscles that are in need of repair. Dehydration can impede these functions, contributing to muscle cramps and increased soreness, and delay the recovery process. The American Council on Exercise suggests drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise, 8 ounces 20 to 30 minutes before exercise or during warm-up, 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, and 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes after exercising.
Nutrition, on the other hand, provides the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth, and replenishment of energy reserves. Post-exercise, your muscles are starved of nutrients and your energy reserves are depleted. Consuming a balanced meal at this time can greatly accelerate recovery. Proteins provide amino acids, the ‘building blocks’ of muscle tissue. Amino acids like leucine are particularly important for initiating muscle protein synthesis – the process through which the body repairs and rebuilds muscle fibers. Carbohydrates are equally important as they help restore the body’s glycogen stores, the primary energy source used during high-intensity workouts. Insufficient glycogen replenishment can lead to continued muscle breakdown, prolonged recovery periods and can potentially impact your subsequent workouts.
Emerging research also indicates that including fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, in your post-workout meal could offer additional benefits. These fats have potent anti-inflammatory properties and might aid in reducing exercise-induced muscle inflammation and soreness.
Active recovery refers to low-intensity exercises like yoga, walking, or cycling performed during non-training days or post intense workouts. This practice enhances blood circulation, facilitating efficient nutrient delivery to muscles for repair and recovery. It helps reduce muscle stiffness and accelerate the removal of metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid, that accumulate during exercise and contribute to muscle soreness. Additionally, active recovery activities stimulate the lymphatic system, aiding in waste removal and immune function. Lastly, these activities help maintain flexibility and range of motion, preventing muscle shortening and tightening after high-intensity workouts.
Sleep is the body’s natural recovery phase where healing and growth predominantly occur, particularly the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage, is crucial for physical recovery. During ‘deep sleep’, our pituitary gland secretes the human growth hormone (HGH), which helps repair and build new muscle tissue, aiding in post-workout recovery.
In addition, deep sleep boosts the activity of cells that produce proteins called cytokines, helping to modulate the body’s immune response and reduce inflammation. This process improves muscle recovery and lessens soreness.
During deep sleep, our muscles receive an increased blood supply, improving nutrient and oxygen delivery, which are essential for muscle recovery and growth.
Moreover, proper sleep helps regulate hormones such as cortisol (a stress hormone that can impede healing) and insulin (which promotes glucose storage for muscle recovery).
Mindful practices, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, play a pivotal role in managing stress and aiding recovery after a workout. These practices lower cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone, by increasing activity in brain regions associated with stress regulation and activating the body’s parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) response. The result is a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, and perceived stress, leading to an enhanced muscle recovery process and potential mitigation of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). By incorporating mindfulness into your post-workout routine, you can bolster your body’s natural recovery mechanism.
Natural Remedies and Supplements
The science behind post-workout recovery often highlights the benefits of certain natural substances known for their anti-inflammatory and recovery-promoting properties. Two such examples are Turmeric and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Turmeric contains a potent anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, which inhibits enzymes that mediate inflammatory processes, accelerating muscle repair and recovery. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found in abundance in fish oils, reduce the production of inflammation-related molecules, contributing to faster muscle recovery and reduced post-workout soreness.
WholyMe builds on this scientific understanding to create products specifically designed to support your body’s natural recovery process and to soothe discomfort.
- WholyMe Target Relief Balm: Our Relief Balm is a clinically-tested, award-winning product that provides immediate and lasting comfort for overworked bodies. It’s formulated with an innovative blend of 12 evidence-based, natural ingredients, including arnica. Designed for daily application, the Relief Balm effectively alleviates aches and pains associated with overworked and fatigued muscles and joints.
- WholyMe Recover Relief Salts: The ultimate post-workout recovery solution, these certified natural bath salts contain naturally occurring Epsom salts, or magnesium sulfate. Blended with certified organic essential oils and botanicals, these salts provide enhanced recovery for muscles and joints, offering a rejuvenating bathing experience.
By incorporating these natural remedies into your post-workout routine, you can support your body’s natural recovery process and manage post-workout aches more effectively. WholyMe products aim to help you maintain an active lifestyle and navigate the path to a healthier, stronger, and pain-free life.
Remember, pain should not be seen solely as an adversary but as an important message from your body. This applies to workout soreness too. If you’re consistently finding yourself body sore after a workout to the point it affects your daily activities, it may be a signal that you’re pushing too hard and need to scale back.
Our approach at WholyMe is not about merely silencing the body’s messages but understanding and addressing the root causes. We want you to feel empowered and in control of your body, whether that’s managing post-workout aches or chronic pain.
We hope you now understand why your body might hurt after a workout, and that you’ll feel better equipped to handle muscle aches after a workout. It’s about recognizing that each twinge, each ache, is your body communicating with you.
WholyMe is here to guide you through your journey to a healthier, stronger, pain-free life. We’re excited to continue providing the knowledge and tools to help you navigate this journey and look forward to helping you meet your fitness and wellness goals.