For both experienced athletes and those new to exercise, muscle soreness can be very real and often uncomfortable. Don’t worry, a little soreness after a workout is a totally natural reaction to physical activity, and thankfully there are plenty of healthy ways to ease discomfort and help your body heal quicker.
What causes muscle soreness?
The pain of delayed onset muscle soreness, aka DOMS, occurs due to small microscopic tears in the muscle during strenuous physical activity, which release toxins and trigger inflammation. The onset is usually between 24 and 48 hours after activity. While DOMS decreases with repeated activity (as your body becomes experienced at processing those toxins), a proper diet and exercise habits can also certainly affect performance.
How can we combat muscle soreness naturally?
- Water. This should obviously be number one. Water is absolutely critical for proper body function, and should be considered a preventative measure.
- Warm up and cool down. “Never stretch a cold muscle” cannot be overstated. 5 to 10 minutes of walking or other easy aerobic work should be followed by light stretching at the workout’s beginning and end.
- Lean, protein-rich foods repair muscle through the amino acids they provide, which are the building blocks for your muscles and other body tissues.
- Blueberries, tart cherries, and kale provide antioxidants to more quickly flush out body wastes produced during a workout.
- Eat bananas to replenish potassium. It’s believed that post-workout cramps are enhanced by a lack of potassium; bananas pack a hearty dose of this essential mineral.
- Coconut water is full of naturally occurring electrolytes that are much more beneficial than artificial ones found in sports drinks. Add a touch of mango or pineapple juice for a fruitier flavor.
- Cook with turmeric and ginger. These contain anti-inflammatory properties that may accelerate recovery and prevent soreness. Add both to curries or stir-frys, or use ginger to make a delicious, soothing tea.
- Wear a sports health bracelet such as a silicone magnetic bracelet or ionic wristband for a natural energy boost that may give allow your body to jumpstart the healing process.
- Apply Arnica. Many runners swear by arnica as a remedy for muscle pain. Arnica contains helenalin and related compounds, which are known to assist in reducing inflammation. Typically applied topically in gel or cream form, arnica pills are also available.
- Ice numbs pain while narrowing blood vessels, which helps limit inflammation. Careful not to overdo it though – 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, is recommended to avoid muscle tissue damage