I wrote a brief nutrition Q & A for the Guardian newspaper a while ago on delayed on -set muscle soreness or as most of us know it DOMS! The journalist wanted to now if you could tweak your nutrition to help reduce the muscle ache and stiffness some of us experience after a particularly hard or new session.
DOMS result from a number of factors and will mainly occur 1-2 days after we have performed a new or more intense that usual session. This pain we feel is tiny, microscopic damage to the muscle fibre and not a build up of lactic acid that many think it is. Although it may not feel like progression, DOMS are part of the training adaptation process that over time will lead to greater levels of fitness and strength.
How can your diet affect your post workout recovery DOMS?
Is there any way to avoid it?
Getting your nutrition right around your training can speed up the recovery process considerably. It can reduce the effects of DOMS but you can’t completely avoid it as it is a natural part of the training adaptation process in any part of training schedule. Most nutritional interventions to reduce DOMS are closely related to inflammatory response and aiding the rebuilding of damaged muscles.
Are there any foods or drinks that can aid recovery from DOMS?
Are there any you should avoid?
Prevention of DOMS through eating a range of healthy foods in the correct portions should ensure your body is fit for withstanding the strains of physical activity.
Here are few key points to consider :
Protein is our main nutrient for muscular repair and recovery and the most important to consider. Depending on training goal you could need anything from 1.2-2g of protein per kg of your body weight a day. Choose from meat, fish ,eggs, pulses, nuts, seeds and dairy and ensure you have a portion at each meal and snack to support the recovery and muscle adaptation process.
Regular intake of carbohydrate is vital to replace muscle glycogen depleted during exercise. If you skimp on the carbohydrate you run the risk of excessive protein (muscle) breakdown which won’t contribute positively to the training process. A carbohydrate based snack immediately after exercise will ensure adequate refuelling of energy stores. If you ignore this, your fuel stores will remain depleted and ability to perform well in your next training session will be hampered.
Ensuring you remain hydrated is also a simple way to reduce muscular pain. Muscles are a high percentage of water and therefore even mild dehydration can make your DOMS worse. Although this may reduce symptoms, it is worth noting hydration status will not speed up repair from muscle damage.
There are other suggestions that may reduce muscle soreness.
Tart cherry juice, a rich antioxidant and full of anti inflammatory properties has been suggested to reduce muscle damage from exercise. It is also high in melatonin which is a hormone that can help improve sleep which again will help with recovery. Taking 30mls of cherry juice 4 days prior and 2 days after a strenuous session can reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. Taking it on a long term basis though could interfere with long term training adaptations from exercise so use it periodically or simply when you need rapid recovery.
How soon after exercising should you eat?
Does it help to have something during?
If you have 24 hours between sessions, your strategy can be a little more relaxed. Simply ensure a well balanced meal rich in carbs, protein and vegetables / salad within an hour or so of finishing exercise. Simple but effective!
If you have less than 8 hrs between sessions you need to be more regimented. To get the recovery process going as quickly as you can, eat within 30 minutes of finishing (This is the time the muscles are primed to take on nutrients. A simple carbohydrate and protein based snack will get the muscles on their way to being refuelled ( aim for approx 1g carbohydrate /kg BW & 0.25g protein / kg BW). Follow this snack with a good balanced meal in the next hour.