Why do you ache after the gym?
If you’re reading this then i’m willing to bet that you’re either currently in pain, or have just recovered from being in pain caused by a good gym session. You’re wondering why you struggled to get out of bed the day after a leg session or why you cant open the fridge door without using 2 hands.
The reason for all of the above is that you are suffering from DOMS.
The proper term for this pain, or ache, is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and its a normal reaction to intense or unfamiliar exercise, typically you may start to notice soreness in your muscles anywhere from 6 hours post-gym with the pain usually reaching its peak at around the 48 hour mark
Sounds like a good enough reason not to skip leg day to me!
So if you’ve just started working out or you’ve increased the intensity of your workout or changed it all together you will no doubt be rewarded by being stranded in your own home, either at the bottom of the stairs or clutching to the sink trying to winch yourself from the toilet. These are common scenarios you may have found yourself in after a good squat session.
Whats the deal? Is this a good thing or have you caused yourself some damage?
The pain is caused by micro tears in the muscle and connective tissues, which is a good thing for anyone wanting to build firmer, stronger and bigger muscles (and lets face it, that’s what you want isn’t it?!) but does that mean that once you settle in to a routine and stop getting DOMS that your progress will halt? Absolutely not, DOMS are a crude indicator, not a requirement of making progress. There is in fact very little evidence to suggest that DOMS equal a greater increase in muscle mass than someone who doesn’t suffer from DOMS.
Once you have settled in to a gym routine and the body is used to the exercises you’re completing the DOMS will subside a fair bit, however it only takes 2 or 3 weeks of missing a muscle group and you will find that the DOMS will return when you next train that muscle, sounds like a good enough reason not to skip leg day to me!
So what can you do?
There are things you can do to reduce DOMS, the reason you may want to do that is when you’re experiencing severe DOMS you will be less likely to be able to hit the gym with the required intensity for your next session, that’s if you can get yourself to the gym at all, DOMS can often cause a decrease in motivation for some people, however you just need to work through the pain as much as you can knowing that eventually the symptoms and the pain will subside with regular exercise.
Increase your protein intake, this will enable your body to repair the muscle quicker resulting in less healing time for the micro tears.
Supplement with BCAA’s, these are the building blocks of protein itself and by supplementing your diet with them you will increase the rate of protein synthesis. This is the process that happens to protein in the body when repairing muscles, the quicker the process is, the quicker you’ll get rid of the pain. You can read our article on BCAA’s here to find out other great benefits of using them.
Go to bed! Sleep is the best way to let your body repair itself, if you’re a night owl you will take longer to recover, get the sleep your body is craving and you’ll see a reduction in muscle pain as well as a plethora of other health benefits.
Train more. Yes I said it, the more exposed your body is to regular exercise the less you will ache after a heavy session. Gym users who regularly workout will rarely complain about DOMS, where as the stop-starters and session stoppers will find they have to start from square one each time they return to the gym after a break.
Now you know how to reduce the effect of DOMS you have no excuse, get back in the gym and crush your routine!