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DOMS Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

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There is a lot of confusion about Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Most people think that when their muscles get sore a day or two after a workout that they are still getting rid of lactic acid build-up in their muscles. This is not the case.

Lactic acid build-up is cleared from the muscles within an hour after an exercise session. Lactic acid is what gives you the burn while you are working out, and as long as you’re breathing, oxygen will clear out lactic acid fairly quickly after you train.

What the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is, is a symptom of minute muscle micro-tears. It usually hits 24 to 72 hours after exercise and is thought to be mostly due to the lengthening aspect of anaerobic (resistance) training on the muscles. Aerobic training should never make you sore. It doesn’t cause micro-tears and if you are truly aerobic there shouldn’t be any lactic acid build–up either. Anaerobic exercise on the other hand......

Prevention is key in avoidance of DOMS. Always warm up before you go to the weights. This doesn’t mean stretching, it means range of motion exercise and some aerobic warm-up. Stretching happens at the end of a training session, in order to retain or improve flexibility and also to help avoid DOMS. Stretching should happen after your muscles are warmed up, not before, because this alone can exacerbate the onset of DOMS.

Using foam rollers is also a great idea before you hit the weights, because the foam roller can help break apart the tight fascia surrounding the muscle fibers and help facilitate a more full range of motion. A fuller more complete range of motion will allow greater blood flow and nutrient delivery to the working muscles.

There are some nutritional hints that help reduce DOMS. One very effective strategy is to eat red beets or beet greens or other dark leafy greens before and after your workout. The reasoning behind this is that these foods increase the nitric oxide content in the muscles because they contain nitrates.

Nitrates convert to nitrites in your body and these compounds increase blood flow allowing for more energy, oxygen and nutrients to the tissue. Branched chain amino acids taken before a workout also have been shown to have significantly increased rates of protein synthesis, suppress muscle breakdown and lessen DOMS. Branched chain amino acids are best consumed before you work out to have this beneficial effect.

Although in the past athletes and weight trained work out individuals took non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, but it has been clearly demonstrated that such over the counter pain killers can actually impair muscle protein synthesis and can also damage your liver if consumed over the long-term.

A metabolite of the Amino Acid leucine called HMB (Beta Hydroxy Beta Methyl- butyrate) effectively prevents breakdown of muscle protein. It is termed an anti-catabolic agent which means it is helpful in workout situations as well as in situations where muscle wasting could occur, such as when bed rest is necessary or when a limb is casted or in a sling.

It is recommended to take HBM at 1 to 3 grams daily about 30 minutes to 45 minutes before the workout. It is 20 times more effective than leucine in preventing muscle wasting, but leucine is better for muscle synthesis (building). Leucine is also much cheaper and more easily found. Some sources indicate that HMB should be taken consistently for at least a month before significant results occur in terms of lessening DOMS.

Other nutritional strategies for reducing the muscle soreness is the use of protease enzymes. This practice has long been advocated, however, more recently, the addition of piperine, an extract from black pepper has been shown to boost the absorbability of the enzymes by up to 60 percent.

To combat DOMS with activity, a light training session for the sore muscles is shown to be effective because it boosts blood flow to the affected area. I know that sounds brutal, especially if you are really sore, but this is a light workout, that will help your body adapt at a faster pace.

Happy training!!

Fair Oaks Ranch resident Dr. Jane Riley, Ed.D., M.S., B.A., is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, Certified Nutritional Adviser, Certified Behavior Change Specialist and a Certified Orthopedic Exercise Specialist (National Academy of Sports Medicine). She can be reached at or 808-212-8119.