The final word on BURN

Ever wonder why you feel more sore 2 days after a hard workout than you did right after the workout itself?

This pain is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

DOMS is mainly caused by the “eccentric contraction” of an exercise movement. Think of your basic biceps curl. As you curl the weight up, you are doing a “concentric contraction” also know as the “positive” phase of the contraction. As you lower the weight, SLOOOOWLY and in a controlled manner, you are doing the eccentric contraction or, as you may have guessed the “negative” phase… funny to call it that since that is the phase that makes you the most sore! Coincidence?

Anyway, by definition, the eccentric contraction is when the muscle is contracting at the same time it is lengthening.

If someone tells you that your soreness the next day or 2 days after your workout is from lactic acid, they’re wrong, wrong, wrong. The burn you feel WHILE you are exercising is lactic acid, but that gets removed by the muscle cells pretty quickly. Doing a good cool down by exercising at a very slow pace right after your workout is one of the best ways to flush out the lactic acid. Stretching helps too, but neither stretching nor a long cool down will prevent muscle soreness from happening since post-exercise soreness is from the actual cells being torn. They need time, rest and nutrients in order to rebuild themselves.

The real soreness you experience after a hard workout should take at 8 hours or more to manifest and it’s caused by micro tears in the muscle. This is GOOD! This is how the muscle gets stronger. In response to the tears, your body repairs and rebuilds the muscle cells bigger, stronger and more capable of doing whatever the workout was that made you sore in the first place. So, each time you do it, it gets easier.

To help avoid some post exercise soreness try these things:
. Stretch all the muscles groups used thoroughly after each workout.
. Drink plenty of water, around 2 liters of water during the 24-hour period following the workout.
. Use NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs like Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen sodium/naprosyn) or aspirin. **Remember there are risk involved with these, so check with your health care provider on dosage and frequency!**
. Icing the affected areas for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 hours can give relief.
. Some research suggests that vitamins C and E may help. Research on the effectiveness of C and E is not conclusive but has been promising.

If you are still sore by the time you’re ready for your next workout, tone it down. Working out on sore muscles can lead to potential injury. If the soreness lasts more than three days, it is a sign that you have caused more extensive damage so you may need an extra rest day.

Now, if you’re getting sore after every workout, assuming you’re doing the same or similar workout again, this could be due to poor biomechanics, lack of rest or it could be due to dietary deficiencies.

Vegetarians, pay attention here. If you are deficient in protein, iron or certain vitamins and minerals, you could be experiencing chronic soreness from your workouts.

You’re probably okay if you’re eating eggs and drinking milk since that means you’re hopefully getting enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with musculoskeletal pain in studies. Take a vitamin D supplement if your levels are low. If you’re not getting enough protein there’s definitely going to be a problem.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that endurance and strength training athletes consume higher levels of daily protein than the standard recommended daily allowance (i.e. 1.2-1.7 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight, versus 0.8 grams per kilogram per day). Iron deficiency is also a culprit in causing muscle soreness. Since vegetarians are at risk for iron deficiency, make sure you eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods since vitamin C improves iron absorption. If you suspect your soreness is due to diet or you just want to be sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need, ask your doctor to do a blood test.

So remember, muscles should feel sore on some days after you exercise, especially when you’re doing a new workout or amping up your intensity. That means you’re getting stronger. However, if you’re feeling chronically sore, then there is most likely a problem.

Jill Brown
Jill Brown
Hi, I'm JillI am a Los Angeles based Fitness + Nutrition Coach. With 20+ years of experience in teaching, training and continuing my education, I have transformed thousands of lives through fitness and healthy lifestyle changes.