Sometimes a little delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be pleasant. But when DOMS gets severe, it becomes a big ‘ol pain in the gluteus maximus. Not only does it make conditioning more painful, but force generation is reduced, meaning you can’t lift as much in subsequent workouts
Good news is there are some easy tricks for significantly reducing muscle soreness and accelerating recovery. Here are ten science-based ways for curing sick muscles:
#1: Use Caffeine
One of the lesser-known benefits of caffeine is that it appears to be one of the most effective methods for reducing DOMS. A dose of 5 mg/kg of bodyweight of caffeine pre-workout has been shown to produce significantly less muscle soreness and enhance training performance. This is equivalent to about 2.5 cups of coffee.
#2: Eat Blueberries
The bioactive nutrients in blueberries aren’t only good for your heart and brain. They also lead to less soreness and faster restoration of strength due to the fact that the anti-inflammatory compounds in blueberries help remove the waste products produced during training.
#3: Cook With Ginger
Consuming 2 grams of ginger (1 gram is about the size of a quarter) reduces the inflammation that coincides with intense muscle damage, according to recent studies. In fact, ginger has properties that mimic NSAID drugs, which happen to be one of the most effective ways to reduce muscle pain, but without the negative side effects on your stomach or liver.
#4: Take BCAAs
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) increase protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown, conserving tissue during intense training. This resulted in less DOMS in trained men who took 40 grams of BCAAs twice a day and did 100-muscle damaging drop jumps.
#5: Supplement With Taurine
Taurine is an amino acid that reduces oxidative stress and improves water content in the muscle fibers, reducing muscle damage. For example, when untrained men took 50 mg of taurine for 21 days, they had a significant reduction in DOMS after eccentric muscle-damaging exercise. Pair it with BCAAs for a synergistic protective effect.
#6: Use Topical Menthol
Topical menthol has a cooling sensation on the skin that has been found to reduce muscle pain. A recent study found that when active men used a menthol cream on trained muscles after a muscle-damaging eccentric workout, they were 63 percent less sore compared to a group that iced their muscles. One caveat: Menthol reduces pain, but doesn’t enhance strength recuperation, which means that the muscles aren’t fully recovered, so modify training accordingly.
#7: Use Curcumin
Curcumin is a compound found in the herb turmeric that is well known for reducing inflammation. For example, male subjects who took 2.5 grams of curcumin twice a day had significantly less muscle pain than a placebo group after doing singly-leg muscle-damaging jumps. There was evidence of enhanced recovery of muscle performance as well. Although turmeric is a delicious addition to meals and savory beverages, to get full benefits, you likely need a larger dose and should try either an oral or topical curcumin supplement.
#8: Use Tart Cherry Juice
Similar to blueberries, tart cherries provide polyphenols that reduce DOMS and may help recuperate strength faster. Tart cherries provide the added bonus of raising the sleep hormone melatonin in the body so that you get better rest. Avoid drinking milk products at the same time as cherries or berries because there’s evidence that the protein in milk will inhibit antioxidant activity in the body. Wait at least an hour after a whey protein shake to get your tart cherries.
#9: Pre-Condition Your Muscles
You probably remember the incredible intense soreness you experienced when you first started training. One way to prevent it is to pre-condition your muscles a few weeks before you are going to begin training or practicing for sports. Doing 10 near maximal eccentric reps for the major muscle groups will produce minimal soreness and get your body ready for higher volume training in 7 to 10 days. It’s called the repeated bout effect and it’s believed that the initial bout of training increases sarcomeres, reducing the strain on the muscle during subsequent bouts.
#10: Train More Often
Increasing your training frequency can reduce DOMS. Obviously, that first hard workout is unpleasant, but a high training frequency in the range of three times a week per muscle group can decrease soreness because the muscles get conditioned to the hard training.
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