Understanding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS Have you ever adopted a new workout regimen, then ended up kicking your ass so hard that you became discouraged from the pain you experienced after your workouts? If so, you were probably taken by surprise when delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) set in. What often occurs is that people adopting new exercise regimens may become quickly discouraged, usually because they don’t understand why they are so sore, and will back off from exercising without ever getting a chance to maintain consistency. However, DOMS may be a beneficial signal that your workouts are challenging enough to make a difference.

DOMS typically develops between 24 to 72 hours after physical activity, and is considered a relatively normal and common result of activity that challenges muscle tissue. One popular but flawed theory is that the microscopic tears which occur in the muscle fibers after exercise, coupled with the release of lactic acid and protons, are responsible for the muscle soreness which characterizes DOMS. Mizumura and Taguchi determined in an important study that neurotrophic factors are produced by muscle fibers and satellite cells, and are critical for the development of DOMS symptoms. They also determined that damage to muscle fibers was not a necessary component of DOMS, further suggesting that a neurological cascade is what results in the post-exercise soreness.

For the most part, the aches and pains which characterize DOMS are assumed to be a sign that your muscles are adapting to the activity which caused them to develop in the first place. Rather than shying away from physical activity in the long term, the general recommendation is to take it easy for a few days, while still exercising, until the pain subsides. However, those of us who are gym rats and fitness freaks will tend to adopt the “Suck it up, buttercup!” mentality, powering through workouts as best we can while our bodies scream out in general agony.

So what can you do if you have DOMS and you want to lessen the severity and duration of the soreness? The truth is, not much. However, here are some suggestions which you might want to try. Keep in mind that none of these suggestions is proven to ameliorate DOMS, but none will worsen the symptoms either.

• consumption of plenty of water both during and after exercise
• consumption of a protein-rich meal after exercise
• glutamine
• cherry juice
• vitamin D supplementation
• compression garments
• Epsom salts
• application of heat

One thing to bear in mind is that if you are consistently working out at the same intensity, your muscles will become familiar with that intensity, essentially adapting to it. This phenomenon is called the repeated bout effect (RBE), and basically means that you will most likely notice a drop-off in DOMS episodes. If you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your workouts, the chance of developing DOMS will return.

Obviously if you believe you have a specific injury, and not DOMS, then get it evaluated and rest up.

REFERENCES
Mizumura K, Taguchi T. Delayed onset muscle soreness: Involvement of neurotrophic factors. J Physiol Sci. 2016 Jan;66(1):43-52.

Anti-Inflammatory Meds and Muscle Growth

NOTE: This was originally written for Oxygen Mag digital version.

There has been a heated debate over many years within the bodybuilding community about whether anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium hinder muscle growth. These medications inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins, which also play a role in muscle synthesis. All it took was one clinical study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism to put bodybuilders into a panic about reduced protein synthesis, and it didn’t matter that such results were found in laboratory rats. While there is some evidence to suggest that the anabolic signal is shut off when anti-inflammatories circulate in the bloodstream, nothing is absolutely conclusive, and what might be seen in the rat model might not necessarily be the case for humans.

While I will never advocate chronic use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents, I think they definitely serve a purpose when acute injury is present. When I find myself in the middle of disputes with bodybuilders who INSIST that a few days on such medications will completely destroy all their efforts in the gym, I simply shake my head in frustration. If you are injured and your lifting is adversely affected by the injury, whether it be a muscle strain, a ligament tear, or a minor disc herniation, you need to be aware that training through that injury, especially when it deranges your form and causes other body parts to compensate for the injury, will end up really messing you up over time. I honestly think that a minimal decrease in muscle mass over the course of a few days is preferable to the imbalance and asymmetry which usually occur when a bodybuilder foolishly pushes through heavy workouts despite an injury which has a domino effect on the body.

Common sense, and medical expertise, dictate that the inflammation must be removed from the area, most commonly through short term administration of anti-inflammatory agents, ice, and rest. Trust me, if you follow a regimen like this, you won’t lose all the muscle you have built over the years. Be sure to take these medications with food, and if you have any history of gastric ulcers. bleeding disorders, or kidney dysfunction, avoid taking them.

Remember that I am talking about DAYS, not weeks or months. This is one time when eating constantly has its benefits, since bodybuilders and fitness people can pretty easily fit in their medication administration with one of their meals. I know it’s difficult to back off from training, but if you truly want to HEAL, you must give the injured area time to repair itself. If you insist on continuing to train through the injury, especially, without any medications or other interventions on board, you can count on the injury either lingering or worsening over time.

L-Carnitine Tartrate For Athletic Performance

I am personally a big fan of l-carnitine supplementation. This amino acid compound, consisting of lysine and methionine, can be found in a couple of different forms. This article discusses L-carnitine tartrate, which is the form known to benefit athletic performance and recovery.

There are a couple of important points to consider when supplementing with carnitine. First of all, insulin must be present in the body for carnitine to enter muscle. One way of taking carnitine is to ingest carnitine with carbs so that there is an insulin release, but another effective option is to ingest carnitine with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids optimize cell membrane health, thus making cells more sensitive to insulin. Carnitine serves as a delivery system for fatty acids, so if carnitine levels are high, more fatty acids will be shuttled into cells to be utilized for energy.

Conversely, when carnitine levels are low, fewer fatty acids are moved into the cells and are instead stored as fat. Supplementation with carnitine before intense exercise, especially cardio, will switch the focus on burning fat rather than utilizing glycogen stores, resulting in longer sessions before glycogen stores are depleted. In addition, the presence of carnitine inhibits production of lactic acid, so recovery from intense exercise is more rapid.

Carnitine is not only an excellent performance supplement, it also serves as an excellent means of addressing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, characterized by diabetes, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol, can be countered by carnitine’s ability to induce fat loss, prevent atherosclerosis and minimize the development of diabetes. After several months of carnitine supplementation, carnitine levels reach a level at which energy production and performance are enhanced. For this reason, it is best to consider carnitine an essential supplement in your daily regimen rather than as something taken only periodically.

Take 500 to 2,000 milligrams of l-carnitine tartrate daily, along with omega-3 fatty acids, for best results.

How To Keep Cool At Night

The one part about summer which I never miss is the endless string of hot nights which keep me tossing and turning. In an effort to keep the ambient temperature as comfortable as possible while I slumber, I have tried many different methods to cool down, and some still do the trick quite nicely. Thankfully, the mercury should start dropping soon, and the blazing hot nights will abate.

Here’s what has worked nicely for me in my quest for a cool sleeping environment:

1. Central A/C is always set for a certain temperature. We have it set at 77 degrees because at 78 degrees or higher, the entire household (there are four of us) bakes like incubating baby chicks.

2. The ceiling fan in my bedroom is always on. There’s nothing I can do about the fan placement, and often lament the fact that the fan is positioned over the foot of my bed instead of over my head, but the bedroom is huge. If I owned the place I live in, I would install three ceiling fans in line so that I could stay cool in bed, sitting in front of the television, or sitting at my desk on the other side of the room.

3. I have two sleek tabletop fans on my nightstands which are wonderful on hot nights. They have a slim profile, and are relatively quiet.

4. I always use 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, which have more of a tendency to stay cool than sheets which are a lower thread count or made of synthetic materials.

5. I have a cooling mattress pad on my mattress. The brand I have, PureCare Frio 11 Inch Cooling Mattress Protector, is acceptable but not great.

Frio Cooling Mattress Pad

Several other bloggers have recommended the Slumber Cloud Nacreous Mattress Pad which is available at slumbercloud.com, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it does a better job of cooling than the Frio.

6. When I was dealing with the worst of my perimenopausal nights sweats, I would place an ice cold gel pack between my shoulder blades and sleep on my back so that I could maximize the surface area which came into contact with the pack. After two summers of using gel packs on a nightly basis, I am thrilled that I haven’t had to resort to such craziness this summer.

7. On the hottest summer nights, I will take a tepid shower before retiring. The shower ritual cools core body temperature and primes the body for more restful sleep.

8. I will often kick a foot or an entire leg out from under the covers to cool down. This has been scientifically proven to decrease core body temperature. Some researchers even recommend that people sleep with their feet completely unencumbered by socks or bedding.

What did NOT work for me was a bed fan. I had seen the BedJet Climate Comfort Cooling Fan and was intrigued by it, but the steep price ($300 and up) caused me to lose interest quickly. When I learned that there was a Brookstone version of the bed fan, and that it was $99, I quickly purchased it, only to be so disappointed by the performance that I returned it. Even with the lightweight sheets I have on the bed and a simple coverlet (no blanket, no heavy comforter), and with the fan cranked up to the maximum setting, the device spewed out just enough air power to keep the toes of one foot cool.

I am intrigued by the Breezy Buddy fan-cooled pillow and wish I had known about this product when I was in the throes of hormonal night sweats. However, I no longer need such a device.

If you are looking for ways to cool down your bedroom, you might want to try a few of the suggestions I have discussed here. Here’s to a restful and cool night’s sleep!