Reader question time! Let’s talk DOMS.
I was asked recently:
“How you deal with leg DOMS? THE “worst of all” DOMS… how do you get back up off the loo when your glutes are screaming in pain? What do you eat post work out on leg day, have you got any tips for recovery, etc? I know some people say a black coffee before and after training reduces DOMS, others say taking a regular dose of magnesium for 1-2 days after helps, others say pineapple or tart cherry juice with PWO shake. It goes on and on…”
First up, what is DOMS? DOMS stands for “delayed onset muscle soreness”, so it’s a fancy way of talking about that muscle soreness you get a day or two after a training session, race or event.
DOMS can feel like soreness, stiffness, tenderness or even weakness in the affected muscle. It’s caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibres (caused by the training you did) and the subsequent repair to the tissue as the muscle hypertrophies.
You know when you think you’ve got away with it? And then, perhaps 48 hours later, bam: crippling soreness, making it difficult to do such handy every day tasks as walk down the stairs, crouch down to get something out of the freezer or (as the reader mentions) get back up off the toilet.
That’s DOMS. It’s not the sole domain of bodybuilders and strength athletes (although you could be forgiven for thinking it was 😉 ) I’ve had DOMS from swimming, cycling, running, martial arts training and… er… Pilates.
Dealing with DOMS
Here’s what I do to minimise DOMS (apart from just ignore it and hope it will go away – which it always does eventually! Although I have had DOMS last a full week in the past…!)
Eat up: if you want your body to repair itself, you need to give it a helping hand by actually feeding it. Yes, even if you’re dieting down for a show or shoot. So prioritise your post-workout meal and make sure it’s sufficient in macronutrients (carbs, protein) and micronutrients (eat real food to maximise your chances of getting anti oxidants, vitamins, minerals in). As an example, after a “big” training session (legs, back, anything involving deadlifts…) I’ll have a protein shake and a bit of fruit (pineapple is good – anti inflammatory) on the way home from training, and then a wholefood meal about 90 minutes later (usually potato, sweet potato or rice, some green veg, and white fish).
Hydrate: again, you can’t really expect your body to deal with damage, lactic acid, toxins etc if you don’t keep it hydrated. Ideally you will be well hydrated all the time, but definitely up your water intake if you think you’ve got DOMS coming your way. It will help! I aim for 3-4 litres a day as standard (easier than you’d think) and will add a litre or so to this on “bigger” training days and the day after.
Magnesium: magnesium supplementation/therapy doesn’t help everyone but it definitely helps me. If I think I’m due a dose of DOMS, I will also have a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate heptahydrate) if I can be bothered (I find baths terribly boring).
Ice: DOMS is due to inflammation. So, ice it! It might feel counterintuitive when you’re already sore but I promise it will help. I have been known to sit atop a 1kg bag of ice at work after a gym session. Feels lovely on sore glutes and hamstrings, let me tell you!
I hope that helps, maybe gives you some new ideas to try.
Have you ever had awful DOMS? Are there body parts you never get DOMS in, no matter how hard you train? How do you deal with DOMS?
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.