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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS); 9 tips to conquer DOMS and maximize your workouts

We’re all familiar with mother nature’s excessive exercising fee, DOMS.

And the price we pay when the previous workout leaves us with that nagging muscle soreness. And steals our strength to boot.

Ideally, we want to stay healthy and active by understanding our bodies. That starts by knowing how our bodies become stressed, inflamed and fatigued. Check out these 9 variables that impact Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Understanding, following and experimenting with these variables will keep us active. Which will help us to maximize our workouts.

Before workout

1-Get Your Sleep – Get well rested and start expecting more from your body. If you can get 6-7 hours of uninterrupted and sober sleep. You will find your body bouncing back from your workouts. If not, you will most likely find yourself slow to recover. The body uses your sleep time to fix what ails it. Skip out on the sleep and your performance will lag. While DOMS rears its ugly head again and again.

Trying to reach elite athlete status?

There’s a reason why the new innovative Philadelphia Eagles coach, Chip Kelly, expects between 10-12 hours of sleep per night from an elite athlete.[1] Lets just say it does a body good.

And take an easy on the booze. It can impact your quality of sleep, alter your sleep patterns and zap your energy levels. In the end your body pays the price for overconsumption.

You should also consider taking 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of honey before bedtime. As some find that it enhances their sleep quality. And if you can enhance your sleep quality, then you might benefit with an increase in muscle and strength gains.[2, 3]

If you suffer from difficulty falling asleep, consider supplementing 5mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed to see if your sleep troubles improve.[4] A $10 supply of melatonin should last you approximately 2-3 months depending on your intake amount.

2-Eat Quality Food – You will need to feed your body quality food to get the most out of it. Do not stuff it with Doritos and other processed foods unless you want to zap your energy supply. Bodybuilding great Jay Cutler said it best, “I don’t eat for taste, I eat for function.”[5]

You should not limit yourself. Create a balanced diet of healthy fats (think nuts and avocados), fruits, vegetables, protein and complex/whole carbs. Ideally, you want to consume the majority of your carb intake close to your workouts to provide and replenish your energy supplies.[6]

Even though eating well tends to cost more. You should make that investment in yourself because you’re worth the investment.

When you shop for food. Use a food scanning barcode app to help you pick higher quality foods. Fooducate offers a free app. It will provide you with a food grade, alert you of any GMOs or other concerns, give alternative options, and provide other nutritional information. You could also use other free apps by MyFitnessPal (Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker) or MyNetDiary (Calorie Counter and Food Diary).

3-Hydrate – Looking for a great tool to combat the heat and hydrate when you workout during the summer months? Then you should start ingesting crushed ice slushies.[7]

Regardless of the time of year, you need to get water into your system to maximize your body’s potential. You need to consume no fewer than 60 ounces of water every day. And maybe more depending on your body’s size, activity level and environment. If you do not hydrate, your muscles will start acting like unconditioned leather. Cracks will form in your routine and DOMS will thrive.

How do you know if you drink enough water?

You should pay close attention to the color of your urine. Ideally you should expect a clear or a light yellow color. If a darker color, then that should alert you to rehydrate. But if you take a multivitamin, the color of your urine might change for a few hours. Which might make it discolored or a bright yellow color.

During workout

4-Correct Warm-up – When ever you go hard or go all out. You will need to make sure to warm up your muscles before going full throttle. While static stretching before a workout can hinder your performance.[8] It can also help you, and you should use it when needed. You can, however, risk injury by stretching cold muscles too far or holding your stretches for too long. Especially if it’s an area of weakness.

Instead, focus more on dynamic stretching to help your body with activity specific warm ups. This will help to get the blood flowing. And also increase your range of motion. Self massage, foam rollers and acupressure mats can also help you do the same. A low intensity 5-10 minute bike ride will also help you before you start your workout. When weight training, start with a warm up using lighter weights than you will train with. This will not eliminate DOMS. But it will help to keep you healthy, and allow you to optimize your workouts.

5-Know Your Intensity – If you do not go hard every day or 4-5 times a week. Then stay smart about what you can accomplish in the gym. Many of us want to lose weight and bulk up at the same time, but that will not happen overnight.

You will need to pace yourself for the entirety of a workout cycle. And not go all out in a one, two or three day span. Especially true after a long lay off. When on the comeback trail consider cutting your normal workout in half. Which will allow your body to build some momentum before hitting full throttle.

Once you build up to working out daily, you will find that your body adapts to the stress and DOMS becomes less and less of an issue. Known as the repeated bout effect. Your muscles overcome stress much easier after their first bout when performing familiar exercises. But when you switch up your workouts, or target your muscles in a new or different way. You’ll probably find that your DOMS quickly returns.

Bodybuilding great Lee Haney puts it into perspective when he said, “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.” [9]

After workout

6-Recovery Shake/Drink – You should take 25-40 grams of whey (fast digesting) protein after your workout to help muscular recovery and growth. If you take a pre-exercise meal 1-2 hours before your workout. Then you will want to take your whey protein in the 1-2 hour post workout window. If your previous meal was 3-4 hours before your workout or longer. Then you will want to take your whey protein immediately after your workout. [10]

Generally speaking, protein is protein. So you want to grab something that satisfies your price range, taste buds, protein per serving, ability to mix in water/milk, and ease of digestion.

Lactose intolerant? You could try taking a protein isolate. Vegan? Pea protein might interest you.

The going rate on quality protein brands will cost you roughly $50 for 5 lbs. While a decent cheaper option will cost you approximately $30 for 5 lbs.

If you want tasty choices, you could just stick with the most common flavors, vanilla and chocolate. But pretty much every flavor imaginable exist. So know your options before deciding.

Consider taken a casein (slow digesting) protein before bed to help muscular recovery.[11] And to provide your body with a steady dose of protein for muscle growth while you sleep. Eat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or quark as alternatives.

Just remember that if you only stick with water, you will only end up replenishing your sweat losses. For a quick dose of carbs, protein and water replenishment drink chocolate milk.

7-Cold/Hot Techniques – Ice baths, the oldest and most famous recovery technique around. Dump 1 or 2 bags of ice into a tub filled with cold water and submerge your legs for 5-15 minutes. Do it immediately after a heavy leg workout to feel refreshed and remove general leg stiffness.

Meanwhile, hot and cold contrast showers do a better job stimulating blood flow because of the alternating temperatures. You want to start hot and end cold. Give yourself 3-7 varied time cycles of hot/cold ranging from 1-3 minutes in duration. Some people make the cold part as cold as possible. But you can use a temperature as warm as 60°F. If your mind finds it refreshing, then you can expect that it does the body good.

And lets not forget about the readily available icy hot creams. Apply it to any area in need of some relief, and rub it in well. Just be careful when using it before or after a hot shower. The hot water opens up your pours. Which may intensify the effect, and could make it painful.

8-Active Recovery – The day after your workout. Some people find a lightly targeted exercise on the muscle group worked out the previous day to help with their DOMS.

Likewise, try to stay active in the hours following your workout. A brief extended 15 minute walk may help you after your leg workout. The constant muscle contractions will keep the blood flowing. Which will aid the removal of waste build up, and may also promote an increased release of endorphins.

Just remember that the incorrectly accused foe known as lactic acid. The one incorrectly associated with waste build up and muscle soreness for ages. Well, that lactic acid actually turns into lactate, which the muscles use as fuel during your workout. And lactate does not remain in the muscles after exercise. [12,13]

9-Massage – Find the pain and rub. A quick self massage of your arms, chest, shoulders or legs periodically can help your mobility. Or go grab some foam rollers to get the job done. Also consider using broomsticks or other similar objects on your legs.

Find a wall edge if you need to get to those hard to reach tight back muscles in need of a deep massage. Laying on golf balls, tennis balls, baseballs and softballs can also help relieve the tension in your back. If laying on a ball causes too much pain, then place a pillow or cushioned material between the ball and your back. Acupressure mats help too. While massage will not cure your DOMS. It can provide your mind with a temporary pain relieving solution.


Outside of time, no universal cure for DOMS exist. And depriving your body of proper sleep, hydration or nutrition will hurt your post workout recovery more than anything you can do to overcome your DOMS.

After your next big workout try isolating a few techniques to see what works best for you. Many individuals experience positive results with certain techniques. Even if they do lack scientific proof. And other more advanced recovery devices exist too that allow you to recover like an elite athlete.

In the end everyone points to the placebo effect. And when you make your mind a believer in something. You start using the most powerful recovery tool of them all. So stay positive and keep believing that what you do to recover actually helps your body.

But remember, just because you can decrease stress, inflammation and fatigue does not mean you should. Constantly preventing your body from its natural adaptation to what ails it will only prevent you from getting stronger. “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow,” as Robert Moore once famously said.[14]

A fine line exist between recovery and adaptation when striving for results. Go sign up at to stay up to date on the latest recovery information in fitness.


To read other articles or for additional information, citations, references, sources and footnotes please see the original article at .

I’m a hit and miss writer, Tom Peashock, who specializes in fitness recovery.

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