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No Pain, No Gain

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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Have you ever been to the gym or gone for a long run and then 1-2 days later felt like you have aged 5 years? This is the natural and a necessary evil to see muscle adaptations and training improvements. Often these symptoms are increased: if this is a new movement or exercise, perhaps you’ve just come back to training, or you have just overdone it. DOMS or reversable exercise-induced muscle damage, usually begins 6-12 hours after exercise, progressively increasing with pain, muscle soreness and reduced mobility, around 48-72 hours following exercise. Let our Head Nutritionist, Gareth Nicholas talk you through how nutrition along with other strategies, can help relieve DOMS and get you back to training.

Exercise inflammation is essential

Whether exercise induced muscle inflammation or damage is a good or bad thing, when it comes to training adaptations remains a hot topic for discussion. Too much and it will limit training availability and potentially lead to injury. Little to no inflammation and there is no stimulus for muscle adaptations. Research suggests that some inflammation is essential but not at the detriment of a reduced training schedule. It is therefore important to find the appropriate recovery strategy to help alleviate inflammation and increase your training volume. The more you do the better the results.


Prevention is better than a cure

As always prevention is better than a cure, but in reality, when it comes to DOMS, muscle stiffness, soreness and inflammation is a requirement. The key is returning to training as soon as possible. Here is a little of recovery strategies that to prevent or relieve DOMS:

  • Sleep
  • Compression Therapy
  • Cold Water Immersion
  • Active Recovery & Stretching
  • Nutrition

Tip: For more on DOMS, check out this article.


SLEEP – Inadequate sleep will significantly affect both physical and mental performance

  • Build healthy sleep habits (dark comfortable room, no screen-time, avoid caffeine after lunch).
  • Aim for a minimum of 7 hours a night.
  • If sleeps is less than 7 hours try to incorporate short naps, if possible.
  • Limit your nap length to no more than 30 mins.


COMPRESSION THERAPY – Compression garments are effective at enhancing recovery or reducing muscle soreness/injury

  • Wearing compression garments during exercise enhances muscle blood flow and decreases muscle vibration caused from high impact exercise.
  • Post exercise compression has shown positive effects on recovery, muscle function and strength.
  • Compression post exercise seems to lower the markers of muscle damages, perhaps due to improved clearance and enhanced muscle repair.
  • There is no set consensus on the optimal time, level of pressure or garment design, always seek makers usage information.

ICE BATHS – Cold Water Immersion Therapy (CWI) is an effective way to reverse and treat exercise-induced muscle damage

  • For best results, water temperature should be between 11-15 degrees centigrade and immersion for 11-15 mins.
  • An effective recovery tool following whole body prolonged exertion, such as running.
  • A possible negative is the down regulation of the natural inflammatory process required for muscle development and growth.
  • A great inclusion after competition, matches or races, but not used as a regular strategy in relieving DOMS.


ACTIVE RECOVERY & STRETCHING – Low intensity exercise and stretching has long been conducted to help reduce DOMS

  • Low intensity exercise seems to alleviate pain and swelling due to the increased blood flow and increased removal of noxious waste.
  • Stretching post exercise has mixed results and success, on muscle healing, but if you can get up and move then try. Really depends on the cause and severity of the DOMS.
  • Foam rolling has become a popular and effective recovery strategy, due to the self-myofascial release (SMR).

Stretching-helps-to relieve DOMS

NUTRITION – Post-exercise nutrition is a critical component of exercise recovery

  • The requirement and effect are dependent on the exercise modality, duration and intensity.
  • Protein consumption is a key factor in stimulating protein synthesis and satellite cell activity for muscle repair.
  • Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) found in many protein sources, have a positive effect on cytokine production in relation to metabolic processes and muscle damage.
  • Research has shown that BCAA supplementation reduces DOMS and positively affects muscle development and the immune response.
  • Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation, 1.8-3g after exercise, has shown to limit the anti-inflammatory response, oxidative stress and DOMS.



Hotfiel, T., Mayer, I., Huettel, M., Hoppe, M. W., Engelhardt, M., Lutter, C., ... & Grim, C. (2019). Accelerating recovery from exercise-induced muscle injuries in triathletes: considerations for Olympic distance races. Sports, 7(6), 143.