Reduce muscle soreness
by Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., R.D.
It’s the day after a hard workout and you get out of bed to discover uncomfortable soreness and tenderness in your muscles. This common feeling is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Exercises that emphasize the eccentric component of the movement like downhill running are associated with greater DOMS. Even trained athletes who do a different exercise emphasizing slightly different muscles experience DOMS. It often occurs more than 24 hours after exercise and can last for days. What can you do about DOMS? Two recent studies point to novel strategies to minimize the symptoms.
Researchers tested whether supplementing with fish oil for one month had any effect on markers of muscle soreness in response to a single bout of exercise in untrained subjects. The fish oil group supplemented with 1.8 grams of fish oil per day (324 mg EPA and 216 mg DHA), the equivalent of about two regular strength fish oil softgels. After 30 days of supplementation, subjects performed 40 minutes of bench stepping to induce DOMS. Compared to the placebo group, the subjects who took fish oil reported less perceived pain 48 hours after exercise, less swelling of the thigh, and greater range of motion in the knee joint.
In a separate study, the effects of creatine supplementation on recovery from a workout consisting of eccentric only leg presses designed to cause muscle damage was examined. Participants supplemented with 21 grams of creatine/day or placebo for 5 days before the exercise bout. The recovery of strength over several days was significantly greater after creatine supplementation, averaging 21% higher than placebo. There was also a significant decrease in markers of muscle damage during recovery.
The beneficial effect of fish oil and creatine supplementation on measures of muscle soreness may be due to more efficient metabolism, strengthening of membranes and lessening of the inflammatory cascade in response to exercise. If you suffer from muscle soreness and want to speed recovery, consider trying fish oil or creatine supplements. When taking creatine, a more typical 3-5 gram daily maintenance dose should be considered after the higher dosage of 21 grams per day used in the study. Users typically start with 12-25 grams for a 5-7 day loading period to fully saturate the muscles.