Muscle Soreness & Recovery

Not medical advice. Opinion only!  Below is an excerpt from my book 'How Much Fat are YOU Carrying?'

Copyright Max Wettstein 2009, all rights reserved.

Sore?  Just an intense work-out or perhaps an overuse injury?  Do you know the difference?  "What is D.O.M.S. and what exactly is lactic-acid 'burn'?  Can taking Ibuprofen or NSAIDs really limit my muscle growth?...No pain no gain, right?!"

Max will answer all these questions now!...

    Though usually not an issue for most of our overweight, American society, it is important enough to take a moment to discuss exercise recovery, because that is actually when muscle growth and tissue repair takes place after all.  Most folks don’t need to worry about over training, because they are barely incorporating any activity into their daily routine.  But over training can be a problem and this would not be a complete book if we did not touch on it.  For the most part how long your recovery period should be between work-outs is common sense: If a body part or certain muscle group is still sore, then don’t exercise it just yet because it is still undergoing repair.  You can however, certainly cross train with another exercise, or train a different muscle group.  And of course, there are times when we have an illness, or have just competed in a race, or perhaps just returned from a ski trip for example, where we need to build in extra rest days.  For the most part exercising is invigorating, stress-relieving, and reviving, but not always, so listen to your body.  The more you consistently train, the better you will be able to ‘read’ your body and sense if you are fully recovered.  Too much of anything can have negative consequences, and exercising too much can result in suppressed immune system, lower hormone levels and greater risk of chronic inflammatory injuries, ESPECIALLY if you are not getting a good night of sleep.        

Three types of fatigue and muscle soreness

  1. Accumulation of lactic acid within the muscles during intense exercise above your ‘lactate threshold’.  This feels like a ‘burning’ sensation and as soon as intensity is decreased below your lactate threshold heart rate, your body will quickly remove and recycle the lactic acid – within 30 minutes of finishing exercising all lactic acid is gone from your muscles.
  2. Intense anaerobic exercise can causes acidosis within the muscles due to large amounts of ATP consumption.  This acute fatigue can last in the muscles for several hours after very intense exercise.
  3. Delayed-onset-muscle-soreness, (DOMS), sets into the muscles 24 to 48 hours after heavy anaerobic exercise, especially weight lifting with heavy eccentric contractions.  This is caused by tiny tears and micro-trauma in the muscle fibers and the resulting inflammation.  This damage however, along with prostaglandins and induced growth hormone secretion is what is responsible for causing muscle-hypertrophy, (growth), when the body repairs the muscle fibers to be stronger than they previously were.

So if you feel pain after exercise, first you need to determine if it is the ‘good’ type of pain, such as DOMS, which means you met your goal of stimulating growth and pushed your limits, (If you’re not sore to some degree, then you may not have pushed hard enough to build muscle), or whether this pain may be a symptom of an actual injury such as a strain or pull.  Just moving about will help ease the pain of DOMS or work-out fatigue in general, so AVOID the Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, as they will eliminate the very prostaglandins and mild inflammation that is inducing the growth and repair!  Value this 'good soreness'!  If you do suspect you have over done it and have a strain, sprain or pull, then remember the RICE treatment formula for acute injury: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation for the first 48 hours.  Afterwards it may help to cycle ice, heat, ice, heat, and in the case of injury, ibuprofen and NSAIDs will help control inflammation and reduce pain.  If the pain is intense, by all means go to urgent care and see a doctor!

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