DOMS 101: What is it and how to manage the pain?
Things you’ll learn in this blog:
Have you ever woken up a day or two days after a workout with muscles that are sore to the touch?
Struggled to lower yourself onto a seat?
Or had to hobble down the stairs after leg day?
That sore, tender feeling in your muscles is commonly known as DOMS. It’s the dreaded post-workout pain, all too familiar with regular gym goers.
And, if not managed properly it can put you off your exercise routine and ruin your dreams of weight loss.
However, there are ways to manage it to minimize the chances of happening, and managing the pain if (and when) it does - that’s what we’re looking at in this blog.
What is DOMS?
DOMS is short for delayed onset of muscle soreness, which explains why you feel soreness around 24-48 hours after a workout (ps. day two DOMS are worse than day one).
It doesn’t set in during your workout, or even straight after, and can take up to 72 hours to appear.
DOMS occurs after you’ve done the kind of exercise that creates minuscule microtears in your muscle fibers. This is usually weight training, resistance training, or high-volume bodyweight workouts like circuits.
However, you can also get localized DOMS from doing repetitive exercises like cycling or running.
The little microtears are nothing to worry about, in fact, they are a sign that your body is adapting to the workout and rebuilding the muscle tissue to be stronger (something which requires rest and healthy nutritious food).
Can you avoid getting DOMS after exercise?
DOMS is not fun!
And although it’s common, it might be a sign to ease off until you are feeling recovered.
But can you avoid it?
The only way to fully avoid getting DOMS is to never really exert yourself (which we definitely don’t recommend, after all, you want to get results!) Although it’s painful, a little bit of DOMs is a good sign that what you are doing in the gym is working.
You can minimize the chances of getting DOMS by having a ten-minute cool-down phase post-workout, followed by a stretch. Although you’re still likely to get them especially if you switch up your exercise routine, either by changing intensity, volume, or exercise type.
- Related content: HIT vs LISS: what’s the difference?
6 ways to recover from DOMS after a workout
It’s 24 hours after the workout and you begin to feel the pain in your muscles…
DOMS is setting in!
And while there is no way to get rid of it completely, there are a few things you can do to speed up the recovery process.
1. Stay hydrated…
Did you know that around 82% of your blood volume is made up of water?
When you exercise your muscles are working harder, which means that they need more oxygen, and as result blood. So, you need to keep your blood (and body) hydrated so that it can pump around your muscles effectively.
The best way to do this is to drink water as you are exercising and to stay hydrated post-workout.
Water helps flush through waste products that increase the feeling of DOMS, and to keep the blood and muscles oxygenated.
Hint: drink at least 2 liters of water a day - more if you are exercising
2. Eat protein with every meal…
Are you eating protein with every meal and snack?
Not only does protein help to keep you full for longer, which will stop you from craving snacks.
But protein also supports your body as it builds new cells and repairs those exercise-induced muscle microtears that are causing DOMS. So you should make sure to include a portion of protein with every meal, especially after exercise.
- Related content: Healthy snack alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings
3. Take an Epsom salt bath…
One of the ways to repair the minuscule tears in your muscles is to boost circulation, which will deliver blood and oxygen faster to your muscles.
Warmth is a great way to do this, so we recommend taking a warm bath with a hefty scoop of Epsom salts (also known as Magnesium salts).
Your body will absorb the magnesium, which boosts recovery from DOMS, and the warmth will help your muscles to relax.
4. Foam roll your muscles…
While I’m sure you’d love to book a massage after every workout - it’s probably not financially possible.
However, foam rollers are a nice cheap recovery tool to keep at home, that helps to reduce inflammation, and improve circulation and blood flow - easing recovery.
Roll out the big muscles of your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and back to speed up recovery from DOMS. It only needs to take 5 minutes a day but be warned - it’s painful.
5. Gentle stretching…
There’s no evidence that stretching gets rid of DOMS faster, but it feels nice and might encourage tight muscles to relax.
Try a standing quad stretch, forward fold for hamstrings, or cat/cow stretch if your lower back is sore.
6. Active recovery…
It might sound counterintuitive, but a bit of movement will help DOMS move along more quickly.
Avoid the same exercise that caused the DOMS in the first place. Instead, try a gentle bike ride, leisurely swim, or mid-paced walk (followed by foam rolling or stretching!)
Beating DOMS to get back to exercise…
Yes, DOMS can be painful. But the good news is they will go away, and these tips will help you rid of them sooner (or at least make you a little more comfortable).
The main thing is to make sure they don’t put you off exercising - they will become less common as you exercise more regularly. DOMS is a sign that you are pushing yourself in your workouts, and working towards your weight loss goals.
Remember, if you need a helping hand, PhenQ is here to give you a boost.