How to Relieve Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Anna Karanina C. Tan, RN @AnnaTantrum
April 13, 2017  | Last Updated: April 13, 2017


Delayed onset muscle soreness refers to the muscle soreness that can cripple even the best of us about 1 to 2 days after a solid workout. Most people begin to feel sore about 6 to 8 hours post-workout, then usually feel the brunt of their delayed onset muscle sourness between 24 to 48 hours later, before it gradually fades away at around the 72-hour mark. All that is nice to know and all, but what if you’re one of those people who end up feeling like roadkill way too often, and for way too long?


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Welcome to the Extra Sore Club, my friend. I am your leader, and I say it’s about time we make some changes, invest a little bit of money, and make a stand (if you can manage) against delayed onset muscle soreness. Here are some of my tried and tested tips for how to help prevent, lessen, and relieve workout soreness:

1.    Don’t shock your muscles. Get real with yourself when choosing a workout program. If you’re a beginner, or you’re coming back from a long period of inactivity, ease your body into exercising. Whenever I’m coming from a long period of laziness, I like to ease myself into a regular jogging or easy bodyweight routine first. Once I feel I’m no longer huffing and puffing from minimal physical exertion, I either up the intensity or I incorporate another type of workout, such as a 20-minute moderate difficulty high intensity interval training workout.

While soreness feels like proof of an effective workout, severe and lingering soreness will actually reduce your fitness productivity for the rest of the week, and increase your risk of injury. One of my favorite FREE sources for workouts is Fitness Blender because most routines can be done without equipment, and the search filters make it easy to find the appropriate workout for the day, and for your ability.

2.    Don’t starve yourself. While you may be on a diet, your recovering muscles badly need nutrients to repair themselves in a timely manner. Take your post-workout snack or drink seriously, and know that a little protein-rich snack before bedtime can make a world of difference too. Reach for snacks that are rich in complex carbs, feature a healthy protein, and stay within the 150-calorie mark. My go-to post-workout snacks are super basic, but they’re delicious and they do the job:

  • Nut butter on apple slices or whole wheat toast
  • One or two handfuls of trail mix
  • Chocolate milk
  • Non-fat yogurt with granola or fruit
  • String cheese and whole wheat crackers
  • One Lara, Quest or Kind bar

3.    Get a massage or a foam roller. Massages and foam rolling help facilitate an alternative medicine therapy called myofascial release, which helps contracted, tired muscles relax, and boosts circulation and lymphatic drainage around the area. This decreases inflammatory activity, and helps hasten muscle recovery. I know massages tend to be too expensive to have regularly, but don’t underestimate the effects of a self-massage — even if you’re just kneading your legs or arms, with minimal to no pleasure. Check out this sweet 2-for-1 deal on foam rollers on Amazon, and these simple yet effective guides on how to foam roll properly.

4.    Try supplementing with glutamine. If you’ve never heard of glutamine before, in a nutshell, it’s the most common amino acid found in the muscles and is therefore a pretty critical building block for muscle recovery and maintenance. I bought a flavorless tub of glutamine powder from GNC for $35, and it’s lasted forever. I put it in my protein shake, or I just stir it in a glass of water and guzzle it down.

5.    Apply heat or cold as necessary. For general soreness, I like to apply ice packs to the area for 20 minutes at a time. This helps relieve swelling and calms the transmission of pain signals being sent to the brain by slightly reducing blood flow. Even though a hot compress or a hot soak feels so much more relaxing, it’s recommended more for tight muscles and stiff joints, such as in arthritis or a stiff neck.

Personally, I love the feeling of being a little sore for a few days after a good workout, but you should always heed your body’s signals. If the pain is excessive or persists, have someone who knows their stuff take a look at you, especially if you’re considering getting a massage too. What are your go-to solutions to keep severe delayed onset muscle soreness at bay? I’d love to hear them and try them out myself!


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