It might make walking up stairs and lugging groceries more arduous, but the soreness you feel after a workout is necessary for progression. Why? To strengthen your muscles you need to induce muscle damage — a so-called micro trauma — during your workouts; this causes the fibers to repair themselves and become stronger and denser in the process. Don’t reach for ibuprofen just because you’re barely able to wiggle your way out of bed however. Not only have pain killers like ibuprofen been shown to be ineffective, but some studies say it may even reduce the ability of muscles to repair themselves. The truth is there’s nothing that will completely alleviate your pain, but there are some ways to mitigate it. Here’s a look at nine natural ways.
1. Watermelon juice
Watermelon juice has long been touted by athletes for its ability to help with post-workout muscle soreness, and the effect was bolstered in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The soothing effect is attributed to the amino acid L-citrulline, which is thought to improve athletic performance by helping get more oxygen to muscles, allowing them to repair themselves faster, and potentially increasing muscle protein. Remember however to always opt for pure, unsweetened watermelon juice like WTRMLN WTR.
2. Pomegranate juice
Pomegranate is beloved for being an antioxidant-packed juice, and now preliminary research is showing it may help decrease muscle soreness. One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, for example, gave 17 resistance trained men either pomegranate juice or a placebo. Pomegranate juice was supplemented twice daily after high-intensity exercise involving both the arms and the legs. Strength and muscle soreness measurements were made at baseline and six predetermined time periods post-exercise. There wasn’t a statistically significant improvement in leg strength, but arm strength was significantly higher post-exercise with pomegranate juice compared with the placebo.
3. Protein and carbs
It’s crucial to get a mix of protein and carbs into your system — ideally within 20 minutes of completing your workout. Protein will provide the amino acids essential for the muscle-building process, while carbohydrates will give your body fuel to repair the muscles you’ve damaged in the process of working out.
4. Listen to music
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a team of Israeli researchers had 10 people complete a series of six-minute sprinting workouts. After 15 minutes, blood lactate concentrations (which is used to measure muscle fatigue), dropped about 11% more among sprinters who listened to music compared to those who didn’t. The runners who listened to music took about 120 more steps during the 15-minute cool-down period, and that low-intensity movement is thought to be the key to helping speed up their recovery times.
5. Epsom salt baths
Epsom salt has been shown to help alleviate muscle pain and inflammation when combined with hot water. When you bathe in epsom salt, the salt’s minerals (namely magnesium and sulfate) are quickly and effectively absorbed through the skin, which brings on near-instant relief, though not necessarily long-lasting relief.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that people who drank a blueberry smoothie prior to and after working out had significantly less muscle soreness. The thinking is that the blueberries’ natural compounds lowered levels of muscle repair-blocking free radicals in the blood.
7. Topical solutions
8. Foam rolling
Many studies have shown that foam rolling, a form of self-myofascial release, enhances recovery. If you don’t have a foam roller on hand, a tennis ball can also be an effective tool.
9. Omega-3 fatty acids
Load up on foods rich in omega-3 fats like chia, hemp, and flax seeds. Nuts (especially walnuts) are also a great source for these fatty acids which will help speed up recovery and reduce inflammation.