Should You Always Be Sore After a Workout?

Sore muscles are not an indicator of how effective a workout was. Yes, soreness does come, but there are a lot of factors involved in what makes a muscle ach the next day or two after a workout. In small circles, muscle soreness is some form of badge of honor, as if being incredibly sore tells everyone how tough your workout was.  So you’re legs are sore four days after squatting? Maybe you pushed things a little too much.

Is it good to constantly have sore muscles?

The scientific name for it is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short. What happens is that your muscles weren’t prepared for what you did to them, and during the soreness, your muscle cells are actually making small changes so that if you ever do that same exact thing you won’t be as sore. You’ll also be stronger. So usually soreness is an indicator that you exposed your body to something new rather than just had a brutal workout. But soreness can also tell us a thing or two about recovery.

Sometimes excessive soreness is a result from what you do outside of the gym. Or in this case, don’t do. Lots of clients fail to repair their body through food, fluid, and sleep, and soreness may be more deep and prolonged than expected.  Eating protein and carbohydrates after a training session has been shown to improve recovery, reduce soreness, and help prevent protein breakdown (1). Unfortunately, a lot of people couple exercise with very low calorie diets in hopes that they will lose weight. This is a good recipe to slow hormone function down, oppress your immune system, and, you guessed it – get ridiculously sore.

The slightest things can help deal with soreness. A study done with fish oil found that it help reduced muscle soreness (2).  After subjects completed a 30 kilometer race, they were either given a fish oil supplement or an olive oil placebo; those who took the fish oiil reported less soreness as well has having lower levels of blood markers related to muscle damage.

A whole food diet coupled with plenty of fluids and good old fashioned sleep is mandatory for anyone on a serious training program. Your recovery goes well beyond just a post-workout shake.  And you know what? The more you recover means you can hit it even harder the next time you train. Now that’s a badge of honor.

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