After a lengthy sedentary period, such as after a long winter, it feels great to get active again and enjoy the outdoors. But it doesn’t always feel so great the next day, when sore muscles remind you of that burst of activity.
What makes your muscles sore to begin with? And is there anything that can help? Today we’re going to answer these questions and much more, as we explore this topic in depth, beginning with the science behind muscle soreness.
Why Your Muscles Hurt The Day After You Exercise
When you exercise, your body’s energy requirements require a cellular metabolic process that naturally acidifies your cells. But the soreness you feel is not due to a build-up of lactic acid, as it’s commonly believed.
Lactic acid does build up when you exercise; but researchers now agree that:
“…there is no biochemical support for lactate production causing acidosis. Lactate production retards, not causes, acidosis. Similarly, there is a wealth of research evidence to show that acidosis is caused by reactions other than lactate production.”1
Instead, this is what actually happens: when you work your muscles, your cells must generate more energy. To achieve that, the mitochondria in your muscle cells break down carbohydrates and fatty acids to produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which your muscle cells (indeed, nearly all your cells) use for energy.
ATP fuels muscle contraction, and when exercise gets more intense, the need for ATP increases. At that point, ATP must be supplied from non-mitochondrial sources, such as the metabolic pathway known as glycolysis, that converts glucose into pyruvate. Tapping into these sources of ATP produces acidosis, which in turn increases lactic acid production that actually offsets the acidifying effects of intense exercise.
So you can see why soreness becomes more of a problem after a sedentary period. Essentially, your muscles will hit the intensity point much sooner.
This is why an alkalizing diet as described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is such an important companion to bone-building exercise. Avoiding this acidic state with pH-balanced nutrition is essential for the effects of exercise to be positive for bone rejuvenation and muscle development. We’re going to take a look at the seven foods that greatly help avoid muscle soreness, but first, you may be wondering…
I Exercised Two Days Ago – Why Am I Sore Now?
If you spent Saturday gardening, hiking, doing yard or house work, the pain in your muscles on Monday may surprise you. This is due to a phenomenon known as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. I’ll explain.
When you exercise – especially if it’s a new move or something you have not done in a while – your muscles actually undergo damage on the cellular level. As the muscle undergoes intense contractions (as we discussed above), proteins actually leave the muscle cells, signaling your body’s immune response. White blood cells and other inflammatory fluids come to the rescue, “patching up” the damaged muscle cells.
As new muscle cells are generated, there’s a biological process that compensates by packing as much protein as possible into the new cells to avoid the loss that started at the beginning of the exercise. This is the building of muscle that you can actually see – muscles become larger and more defined. But they also can become sore.
One type of muscular contraction in particular produces more soreness than others: eccentric contractions, where muscles contract and lengthen at the same time. Your muscles experience eccentric contraction when you run down hill, for instance, or go down into a squat. These are usually the types of exercises we do first thing in the spring, too, when muscles are “lazy” from a winter with less activity.
What You Can Do To Relieve Post-Exercise Muscle Aches
It may surprise you to learn that what you eat makes a big difference in how your muscles respond to exercise. But when you think about it, it makes sense – your muscles need nutrients to build, especially amino acids, and many foods help keep the inflammatory response in check.
Here are seven foods that help relieve post-exercise muscle pain when consumed before and/or after exercise.
This knobby ginger root is inexpensive and, frankly, ugly – but don’t let those characteristics influence your impression of this remarkable food. Ginger is an exemplary anti-inflammatory substance, thanks to the presence of gingerols. That’s why this spicy herb is also good for your bones, because inflammation wears away bone density.
Why not brew some ginger tea (about 1 teaspoon of grated fresh root per cup of boiling water) and enjoy before and after your exercise? If it’s hot out, you can mix the ginger tea with bone-healthy lemonade.
One of the few alkalizing ‘grains’, quinoa is the protein-rich seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. Your muscles need protein to rebuild after the inevitable damage that comes from exercising muscles that have not been worked in a while. And because quinoa is alkalizing, it’s also excellent for your bone health.
So eating quinoa can boost the rebuilding process and decrease the time that your muscles feel sore.
With its high Omega-3 content, salmon helps ease the inflammation associated with achy muscles. Salmon is also one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption.
Another important point about Vitamin D: as this vitamin is metabolized, one of the byproducts of the process actually affects muscle cells directly by entering the cell itself, where it boosts the cells’ ability to contract. So the Vitamin D in salmon is one very important aspect of this food’s muscle-soothing properties.
And finally, salmon contains a substance called calcitonin (not to be confused with the synthetic drug, calcitonin salmon). Calcitonin helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood. Calcium is extremely important in muscle relaxation and is used to treat painful muscle cramps, so getting plenty of calcitonin helps your body regulate muscle contraction to minimize soreness.
Many Savers know that almonds are among my favorite foods. Another alkalizing protein source, almonds are full of the muscle-soothing nutrients calcium and magnesium. Almonds also contain muscle-building protein and healthful fats, especially oleic and linoleic fatty acids, which calm inflammation.
The tart, jewel-like seeds of pomegranate deliver antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenols to aching muscles. Pomegranates promote healthful blood flow, which is vital for easing the pain of sore muscles.
In addition to the crisp seeds, pomegranate juice without added sugar is an alkalizing, polyphenol-rich, refreshing drink that pairs well with exercise.
Rich in bone-building polyphenols, coffee is an acidifying beverage, but it deserves a place in a bone-smart diet. Not only do its polyphenols boost osteoblast formation, but according to research, the caffeine in coffee can actually reduce post-exercise pain.
When athletes ingested either caffeine or a placebo before exercising, leg muscle pain was significantly reduced among the caffeine group. Remarkably, even “jaded” coffee drinkers experienced the same reduction in pain.2 Caffeine apparently blocks pain-triggering biochemicals, making it a good choice of beverage the morning before and after a workout.
If you decide to incorporate coffee into your exercise regimen, just make sure you’re not drinking pro-inflammatory, sugar- and dairy-rich coffee drinks. Instead, try bone-smart, alkalizing creamers in your plain coffee to boost your beverage’s flavor and alkalinity.
Last but certainly not least, blueberries are rich in pain-relieving substances like anthocyanins and flavonoids. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that help relax blood vessels to increase blood flow and relieve sore muscles.
Flavonoids prevent oxidative damage that can occur with exercise, thus helping to prevent and soothe muscle pain associated with such damage.
As you can see, what you eat makes all the difference in your exercise experience. The above foods present a big variety of combination possibilities. Salmon and quinoa with slivered almonds and a pomegranate-blueberry mix for dessert, for example, or perhaps a handful of almonds and blueberries along with a cup of ginger tea or coffee for a snack. Enjoy putting these key foods together to enhance your workout experience and soothe those sore muscles, because what you eat before and after exercise really does matter.
That’s Why Densercise™ Comes With An Eating Guide
If you didn’t get the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System yet, you might find it surprising that it includes the Densercise™ Eating Guide, a free bonus. But given the importance of food on your muscle and bone health, it only makes sense for a comprehensive, bone density-building exercise program like Densercise™ to include a guideline for what you should eat for optimal bone- and muscle-building, and to avoid sore muscles.
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Besides listing the foods, the Densercise™ Eating Guide goes into detail about why those specific foods are recommended. It has in-depth discussions on the glycemic index, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. None of the foods are chosen at random; they are all scientifically-backed and specifically listed for their particular effects on your bones and your muscles, so you’ll know exactly what to do.
Enjoy your pain-free bone-healthy workout!
1 Robergs, R.A., Ghiasvand, F., and Parker, D. “Biochemistry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis.” Am J Physiol Requl Integr Comp Physiol. September 2004. 287(3): R502-16. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15308499
2 Motl, Robert W., O’Connor, Patrick J., amd Dishman, Rod K. “Effect of caffeine on perceptions of leg muscle pain during moderate intensity cycling exercise.” The Journal of Pain. August 2003. Volume 4, issue 6, pages 316-321. Web. https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900%2803%2900635-7/abstract