On June 22, our paper, the Oregonian, printed a great article on muscle soreness.  I was excited to see this information being put out to the masses, because there is a huge misconception about “lactic acid” and post workout soreness.

The article was called “Great Workout! But why do I hurt like heck?” by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz.  Usually people point the finger at lactic acid, when their muscles are aching and in pain after a workout.

Here is the big surprise… are you ready?

Its not lactic acid at all.

Lactic acid is produced in the muscles when you perform strenuous exercise, its the burn!  As soon as you stop overworking the body or take off the resistance, the body is forced to recover and clears the lactate.

Soreness felt after 24 hours post workout is called “DOMS.”  Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is normal and is actually a good thing.  When you are lifting weights you are creating small tears in the muscle tissue, talk about a burn!

The recovery after a workout is just as important as the actual workout itself.  This is when your muscles repair the damage you did and adapt for the next round, making you stronger and in better “condition” to perform these exercises again.

The fact is “If you don’t get muscle damage, you don’t get muscle growth,” said Dr. Gabe Mirkin, retired physician and former professor at Georgetown University Medical School (check him out at Drmirkin.com).

Since you now understand how the muscle breakdown, repair and growth cycle works, lets examine how you can optimize your hard work at the gym:

Make sure you allow each muscle group the time to recover; say, you worked out your legs on Monday, try to give them at least 48 hours to repair (meaning Thursday) before you hit them again.

After you do a workout, eat protein!  Protein is made of amino acids- the building blocks of muscle.  You must feed your muscles to see progress in muscle growth and to maintain lean body mass.  Get protein into your body asap!  There is a window of about 45 minutes after your workout where your hungry muscles can best absorb and put this protein to work.  This will greatly help with DOMS.  Other ways to ease the effects of DOMS are to warm up and cool down, apply heat (hot shower, hot tub/bath, heating pad) to relax the muscles if soreness sets in,  drink extra water, stretch after the workout, and get moving the next day!  The worst thing you can do for a sore body is nothing.  If you sit the entire day after a workout, you are REALLY going to feel it later, so try to move around, keep mobility in the area and blood flow to the muscles.

Now you know exactly what to do to get the best results from your training, time to hit the gym/pavement/treadmill/dancefloor or whatever workout your do!  Or get out there and try something new!  You will see better results faster by switching up your routine. To continue seeing results, keep your body guessing or in shock, the new challenges create new strengths.

Remember, the workout isn’t over at the gym, what you do after is just as important as the work you put in.  Don’t let your hours of hard work go to waste!  No one wants to be one of those people you see at the gym, in a pool of sweat, working their butts off and never changing or improving.

Change your routine to change your body!

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got,” Mark Twain.

Good luck!

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