We all have times where we have to deal with larger than normal amounts of pain, sometimes the next day or occasionally for days after a hard workout. Most times the muscle pain is due to a drastic change to what we are doing to our body; super hard workout, too much time off between workouts, a drastic increase in prolonged stress or a change in how we workout specifically around process.
There are things we can do pre workout and post workout to help alleviate the pain and discomfort. Let’s get into that today.
When we exercise we put our body into a state of stress. From muscle resistance training that causes micro tears in our muscle fiber to endurance training that can cause large amounts of inflammation in our body we are stressing our body when we exercise. Let’s look at extreme physical events such as marathons, triathlons, they are extremely stressful to our body causing the release of hormones such as cortisol, increases inflammation ultimately aging our cells and damaging our body. The above examples are extreme events but exercise is a form of stress and depending on the current state of our body and health our body will react differently.
So what can we do to help combat the stress put onto our body? Let’s look at what can be done before we exercise.
REST: Rest is very important in that it is how our body recovers from stress. Not enough sleep and our body has already been compromised in it’s ability to recover from stress. Also, we are more prone to injury when working out and tired. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep for your age and activity level so your body can rebuild and recover.
HYDRATION: Staying hydrated allows our body to perform and recover to the best of it’s abilities. Water flushes out toxins and brings nutrients to our cells. Also, being properly hydrated helps to regulate body temperature and pH balance. Lastly, proper hydration reduces muscle soreness and tension.
DIET: Of course I’m going to talk about the importance of what we eat and how that impacts recovery. As mentioned earlier, stress from working out causes inflammation. The foods we eat also cause inflammation or they don’t! Eating animal products, processed foods that are high in sugar will cause our body to become inflamed. Let me explain quickly why eating animal products cause inflammation: Inflammation is your immune system responding to a perceived threat. After eating animal products, your bloodstream becomes loaded with bacterial toxins known as endotoxins. On the other hand, plants are the only food type to have antioxidants that combat inflammation. This is exactly why more and more athletes are moving to eating a whole foods plant based diet. They are realizing they recover quicker, and are able to train more often, some of them training every day of the week. Here’s an article from pubmed that talks about benefits in more detail. Lot’s of references and also important, it’s a non funded study.
COLD/HEAT: What we do following working out can impact how quickly we recover. I used to do this when I was running long distance. When I had a long run that was over 3 hours, I would spend about 15 minutes following the run in a cold bath. Did it suck? Oh yeah. I hated it but I knew when stressing my body greatly it needed this to prevent inflammation. The cold bath helps to flush out the lactic acid and also reduces swelling. Just like when you incur an injury you ice it to reduce swelling. If you had a super hard workout, our a super busy day full of activity and that drained feeling, try a cold bath for 15 minutes.
Now let’s talk about heat. Heat should only ever be used when there isn’t any swelling. Heat will bring blood quicker to the area the heat has been applied. As more blood flows more nutrients are brought to the area to assist in the healing process. Remember, you’ve incurred micro tears in your muscle fiber. Heat can also aid in moving more easily as a warm body moves easier than a cold body.
MOVEMENT: Move if you can. Try not to spend too much time laying around, being lethargic. When our body moves, our blood flows faster and waste is removed quicker and nutrients are brought to our cells quicker thus we heal quicker. Rest if you need to but try not to spend too much time lounging. If you can, take a light easy run, a gentle/brisk walk or other activity that keeps you moving.
ALCOHOL: Alcohol should be avoided when dealing with inflammation and recovery. Alcohol causes inflammation of the body and also inhibits the body’s ability to regulate inflammation. Alcohol is also a diuretic and causes dehydration which we don’t want. Want to perform better? Want to make gains and not lose them feeling like you fell back again? Drop the drinking. From being hung over mildly or heavily, the dehydration, the negative impact on our sleep cycle, the negative impact on working out, it’s not helping you.
Try these things to see if they help you out. And don’t just try them once, give yourself a few weeks. Be conscious of where you are at physically and respect that. If you have been somewhat sedentary and then start working out, or have a huge uptick in activity, respect that and go into it prepared if you can. Eat more foods that combat inflammation, try to get more rest, drink more water, ice and heat and so on. Training hard is great, but we also want to train smart.
Yours in health,