Regular exercise is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones. But some people get discouraged from the muscle soreness that often follows exercise, and have difficulty sticking to their workout routine.
Today you'll learn seven strategies to help soothe sore muscles. That way nothing will stand between you and the exercise you need to build strong bones and live a healthier life.
Sore Muscles Are Growing Muscles
The process of gaining strength, much like the process of gaining bone mass, has two major phases. In the first phase, stress is applied. This happens during exercise. In the second phase, the body responds to that stress by taking adaptive action.
For your muscles, this means repairing the tiny tears that occur from the stress of exercise. That's how your body adds muscle mass. For your bones, the stress of weight-bearing exercise is sensed by mechanosensitive bone cells. These cells tell your body to add mass to your bones.
We don't feel the process of stress and adaptation that builds bone mass, but we do feel it in our muscles. Those sore muscles are evidence that your workout has been effective, and that your body is working to build new muscle mass.
However, there are ways to support and speed up this muscle recovery process, such that you experience less soreness and for less time.
In addition to minimizing discomfort– the tips we share with you today will help your body to maximize gains of muscle mass. That's important for Savers, because stronger muscles facilitate the growth of stronger bones.
Post-workout muscle soreness is a normal part of the process that builds new muscle. Try the following strategies to reduce the intensity and duration of muscle soreness while maximizing muscle growth. Stronger muscles facilitate the growth of stronger bones.
1. Rest And Recover
The process of muscle growth, described above, explains why this strategy is so important. If you don't give your body time to rest and recover, it won't be able to effectively repair those tiny muscle tears. And those repairs are where new muscle mass is added.
If you do high-intensity workout routines, especially ones focused on strength training, be sure to schedule one or two days off each week to allow your body to fully recover. You'll actually build more muscle mass this way, and you'll stay safer while you do it.
Overtraining can lead to exhaustion and injury. An injury that derails your exercise routine undermines your ability to build new bone.
Your body needs recovery time to build new muscle mass– if you do high-intensity workouts be sure to schedule days of rest, for both your muscles and your bones to add new mass.
2. Stay Well Hydrated
Exercise removes fluids from the body. To maintain proper hydration you need to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. Research has shown that exercising while dehydrated can cause hormonal changes that exacerbate muscle loss.1
Proper hydration is also essential for healthy bones. Studies have found that if bone tissue becomes dehydrated it loses tensile strength, and becomes more stiff and prone to fracture.2
Drink plenty of water to replace the fluids lost during exercise and ensure your muscle and bone tissues are adequately hydrated.
3. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Sleep is a period of recovery for your whole body. That includes muscle growth and the bone remodeling cycle.
Part of this effect is fairly obvious– if you're tired you won't be as likely to do your workout or to do it as vigorously as you might when you're well-rested. But sleep deprivation also results in biochemical changes in the body, such as the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
As Savers know, frequent high cortisol levels can lead to an acid pH that damages bone and interferes with the bone remodeling process. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a wide variety of health problems, including weight gain and bone loss.3
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night.4
Sleep is a crucial period for muscle recovery and for building bone. Make sure you're getting adequate sleep each night– at least seven hours.
4. Support Muscle Recovery With Your Diet
The tiny muscle fibers that tear during the stress of exercise are proteins. So when your body begins to repair those tears, it's constructing the proteins that comprise your muscle. To fuel that protein synthesis, ensure that your meals pre and post-workout contain plenty of– you guessed it– protein.
When you hear protein you might immediately think meat. But there are plenty of alkalizing plant sources of protein that are just as effective at providing your body with the amino acids it uses for protein synthesis. The Save Institute recommends eating a healthy source of protein with every meal.
An overall balanced diet ensures you have the full range of nutrients your body needs to replenish itself. The Save Institute's 80/20 pH-balanced diet ensures that you're avoiding bone-damaging acidification. When every meal contains 80% alkalizing foods, you naturally eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. That helps support strong bones and robust overall health.
Make sure you're eating a source of healthy protein with each meal to fuel muscle recovery and the strength required for building strong bones.
5. Try Applying Cold Or Heat
Cold and heat can both be used to alleviate muscle soreness, they just do so in different ways. By applying a cold pack to your muscles after a workout you reduce bloodf low. This reduces the inflammation that causes soreness.
Conversely, applying heat dilates blood vessels, allowing for more blood flow, while relaxing the muscles. Increased blood flow can speed recovery. Some people find they get the best results from alternating between cold and heat. Experiment to find what approach feels best to you.
This applies to exercise-induced muscle soreness, but not to injury. In the case of an injury, cold will help to reduce pain, but the heat will cause more inflammation, which will increase pain.
Applying cold to sore muscles can reduce inflammation and soreness. Applying heat can relax muscles and speed recovery. Both are useful for reducing post-exercise muscle soreness– some people get the best results from alternating heat and cold.
6. Incorporate Stretching Into Your Workout Routine
Do a round of light stretching both before and after your workout, also known as a “warm-up” and a “cool-down”.
By easing your body into motion and limbering up your muscles before exercise, you can avoid injury. Stretching post-workout helps keeps muscles from tightening up and increases blood flow– speeding the recovery process. Studies have found that stretching after a workout reduces soreness and inflammation.5
Stretching also increases flexibility and mobility– which can help you avoid the falls that cause fractures.
Stretching both before and after your workouts can help avoid injury and reduce muscle soreness. Additionally, stretching increases flexibility and mobility which can help prevent falls and fractures.
7. Listen To Your Body
A little bit of muscle soreness is a sign that your exercises are working. But don't overdo it. Your body will tell you when it needs more time to recover before your next workout. If you're feeling exhausted and sore, give yourself extra time to recover, and consider reducing the intensity of your next workout.
In fact, dialing back the intensity of your workouts for a week can actually help you achieve more growth when you return to your maximum capacity. This is called “deloading” and it's a technique used by athletes to maximize the effectiveness of their workouts.
Listen to what your body is telling you– if you feel too exhausted to workout, you're probably in need of a rest. Occasionally reducing the intensity of your workout can actually help you build strength.
What This Means To You
Take steps to reduce muscle soreness and support recovery. Not only will it help you stick with your workout routine, but it will ensure you get the most out of your exercise. That means increasing muscle mass and bone mass alike.
The Save Institute created SaveTrainer to help you build a sustainable exercise practice. SaveTrainer's on-demand video offerings include stretching programs to help you ease post-workout muscle pain, and a wide variety of exercise options, tailored to every ability level.
Make sure that exercise and recovery are both a consistent part of your bone-building strategy.