Managing delayed onset of muscle soreness
A: The pain you are referring to is often called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It can be experienced by everyone from novices to elite athletes. There are a few theories on why we experience it, including micro damage to muscle and connective tissues. Regardless of cause, there are interventions that can be very effective in managing the discomfort.
There are a few practical therapies to use after exercise. Immersion in cold water can reduce DOMS; it is best performed in 10 to 15 C (50 to 59 F) water for 10 to 15 minutes. Another possibly effective post-exercise therapy is to do some foam rolling, as this has also been shown to reduce the severity of DOMS.
It is also important to look after our internal chemistry. Athletes who consume caffeine before exercise have been shown to experience enhanced performance as well as reduced muscle soreness following exercise. Caffeine is one of the most consumed and often overlooked performance-enhancing substances.
Branched-chain amino acids may also be important in managing DOMS. A recent study demonstrated that supplementing with 3.2 g of branched-chain amino acids and 2 g of taurine three times daily for two weeks prior to and then for three days following an intense workout greatly reduced the pain of DOMS and muscle damage.
As the authors of this study concluded, this supplementation offers those who are just beginning a workout program a real motivator to continue while also enabling competitive athletes to train at higher intensities.