11 Ways a Triathlete Can Treat Sore Muscles

We all love sore muscles because it shows that we worked hard at the gym. However, some muscle soreness is a sign that we have overworked our muscles and this is not good.

Why do our muscles get sore in the first place?

Damage to muscle tissue causes muscle soreness after exercise, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

The micro-tearing of muscles initiates the repair process by triggering inflammation. This was explained by Shawn Arent, a professor and the chair of the Department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and the director of its sports science lab.

The feeling of tightness and pain that typically begins to develop 12 to 24 hours after your workout is caused by fluid accumulating in the muscles and putting extra pressure on the damaged areas, Dr Arent explains.

There are no solutions that will instantly make your muscles feel better, but there are some things you can do to help ease the pain and aid in recovery. Here’s what you need to know.

1. During and after your workout: Hydrate

Water is important for muscle recovery because it helps reduce inflammation, flush out waste products, and deliver nutrients to muscles.

The trouble with dehydration is that you may not feel thirsty until you’re dehydrated. According to Schroeder, the colour of your urine is a good indicator of hydration levels. Medium or dark yellow signals dehydration, whereas pale yellow means you’re well-hydrated.

Vitamin supplements may cause your urine to look darker than usual, but it is hard to say who will be affected and by what types of vitamin supplements.

2. Immediately after your workout, use a foam roller (self-myofascial release) or massage gun

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Self-myofascial release is a technique employed to relieve tension in muscles and connective tissues. This is done by using tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and massage sticks. This technique helps to promote the movement of fluids that build up in muscles after exercise.

If you are looking to try out a foam roller, it is advised that you start with a softer version. The firmer foam rollers allow for more pressure to be applied but can be too intense for those who are not used to them. Lacrosse balls can also be useful to have around as they can help to smooth out areas that are difficult to reach, such as the glutes, lats, calves, and the iliotibial (IT) bands, Arent notes.

Percussive massage guns also called vibration therapy, are a popular tool to help muscles recover after a workout.

Foam rolling on sore muscles can be incredibly painful, but it is an effective way to repair your muscles. “It has been suggested that foam rolling may decrease oedema (or swelling in the muscles) and enhance tissue healing,” says Hogrefe.

According to a 2021 study, foam rolling on a high-density foam roller for 20 minutes immediately after exercise and 24 hours later may reduce muscle tenderness and help you move more freely.

Percussive self-massage devices work similarly to a regular massage, according to Arent. These handheld machines deliver rapid vibrations that help promote blood flow to the area when placed on your muscles. Many massage guns come with attachments of various shapes and sizes to better target different-size muscle groups.

3. Eat within a half hour after an intense workout

According to Arent, you can speed up the recovery process by giving your muscles the nutrients they need to fix themselves.

He suggests eating a snack with 20 to 40 grams of protein and 20 to 40 grams of carbs within 30 minutes of an intense or long workout.

Protein and carbohydrates are both important for different reasons when it comes to working out and recovering. Protein is important for the amino acids needed to rebuild muscles, while carbohydrates play a key role in replenishing the fuel stores that are used up during a workout.

4. Later on: Sleep

Arent says that sleep is very important for many reasons, one of which is that it aids in the recovery process after exercise. “It may not seem like it has an immediate effect on [muscle soreness], but it can be useful for sure,” he adds.

A review from Sports Medicine suggests that NREM sleep increases protein synthesis, which helps to repair damaged muscles.

Sleeping can help your muscles recover from exercise. Although the direct scientific link between sleep and post-exercise recovery is not clear, it is likely because sleep involves many difficult physiological functions to separate.

We know that a lack of sleep can contribute to higher levels of inflammation. Inflammation may not be a factor in DOMS in particular, but it does contribute to some muscle soreness. Getting serious rest can help alleviate that.

Sleep is the most effective way to improve recovery, according to Aschwanden. She says that a lot of pro athletes are big nappers and it is really important to prioritize sleep because that is when your body does the hard work of recovery. If you are not getting enough sleep, you are not giving your body the chance to recover properly.

It is important to get enough sleep after working out, to allow the body to recover. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep.

5. The day after a tough workout, do light exercise

If you have sore muscles, it’s important to rest them. However, that doesn’t mean you should spend the day on the couch. Try to get some gentle movement through activities like restorative yoga, an easy walk, swimming, or cycle, or even light resistance training.

The key to success is to avoid working out intensely using the same muscle groups on back-to-back days. Instead, on a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being maximum intensity), Schroeder recommends going for an effort level of 3.

The goal is to get the blood moving to the sore muscles to deliver oxygen and nutrients needed for repair, without causing more damage to the muscle tissues.

6. You may want to steer clear of NSAIDs

If you take painkillers when you’re injured, you might not be able to rebuild your muscles properly.

NSAIDs such as Advil and Aleve can help to reduce pain associated with muscle soreness, but they may also impede muscle growth.

A small study published in the August 2017 issue of Acta Physiologica found that taking the maximum dosage of over-the-counter ibuprofen is said to have negative side effects on those trying to resistance train and build muscle over 8 weeks.

7. Do an active cooldown

Spending some time cooling down makes your muscles recovery-ready.

A study from 2018 found that runners who spend time actively recovering (decreasing their activity by 50% instead of resting completely) at the end of their workout could go three times longer the second time they ran.

They believe that the reduced soreness was due to improved blood circulation, which reduced the amount of lactate in the blood (a by-product of metabolism that causes muscle soreness).

Many products are advertised as being able to cleanse the blood or remove waste products from muscles, but this is actually done through circulation.

8. Drink some tart cherry juice

Tart cherry juice contains a high amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. According to a 2020 study, long-distance runners who drank the juice for eight days experienced less muscle pain.

Cherries have anti-inflammatory properties similar to mushrooms which can help reduce muscle soreness. However, it is important to be aware that tart cherry extract can contain a high amount of sugar.

9. Get a massage

A 2012 study found that a post-exercise massage significantly reduces pain by reducing the release of cytokines, compounds that cause inflammation in the body.

In addition to making you feel good, massage also helps to promote cell function and repair by stimulating mitochondria in cells.

One of the most popular recovery techniques among athletes is massage, but there is not much scientific evidence to support its effectiveness from a physiological perspective. However, massage can be helpful because it feels good and provides a way to relax and check in with your body during a break.

10. Use a heating pad

Heating pads may be a better option than ice baths for recovery in the long run. “The idea behind heating pads is that they increase blood flow because it is a vasodilator (opens up your blood vessels), and is thought that it could help flush some of the byproducts or inflammation related to muscle soreness out of the muscles,” says Lawton.

Heating pads can help with recovery by making you feel relaxed and increasing circulation to the area where you need to flush out waste products.

11. Try compression gear

The purpose of compression gear is not simply to demonstrate the results of your workout. A study from 2017 found that it can also reduce muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery. This is because compression attire constricts your muscles, which prevents fluid buildup and increases blood flow.

The removal of this enzyme helped to ease the pain felt in the muscles.

Although compression gear might help improve circulation, Aschwanden points out that athletes usually don’t have poor circulation, to begin with. The best way to increase circulation is to do a cool down or some light exercises. However, compression gear can make people feel good even if there is no scientific evidence to support its use.

. You should eat foods that are high in antioxidants and protein within the next day or two.

Your protein shake after working out does more than just refill your muscles.

A 2017 study found that protein aided in the recovery of muscle function in the 24 hours following a workout filled with eccentric contractions.

Adding antioxidants to your post-workout meal helps improve recovery time. Include foods like chicken or fish for protein, and pomegranates or kale for antioxidants.

Some muscle soreness is a good thing, but it shouldn’t last for too long

Torn and inflamed muscles don’t sound great, and we usually want to minimize inflammation in our lives. However, some degree of inflammation can actually be a good thing, serving as a signal for muscle growth and repair.

If you help your muscles recover quickly from any damage, they will likely grow back even stronger. According to Arent, it is not that we necessarily want to avoid inflammation, but rather keep it under control as soon as possible.


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