Whether your fitness routine revolves around endurance training or high-intensity intervals in the gym, post-workout muscle aches are a common side effect. Those aching limbs are not only unpleasant, they also disrupt your training and make it more difficult to maintain a regular fitness routine.
While it’s important not to overdo things and risk real physical damage, anything you can do to soothe the aches away is welcome. Here, Gabriel Patterson, Toronto-based fitness trainer and nutrition coach, shares six tried-and-true cures for muscle aches.
1) Cherries to the Rescue
Dark cherries are packed with antioxidants, including anthocyanins and cyanidin. These substances repair muscle damage at a cellular level, healing the minor tears and inflammation behind most post-workout muscle aches.
After each workout, either eat fresh cherries whole (the darker the better), or drink unsweetened, additive-free juice.
2) Homemade Flexible Ice Pack
Ice is great for numbing pain and reducing inflammation to give muscles a chance to heal. To make a flexible, reusable ice pack, soak an ordinary bath sponge in a 50/50 mixture of water and rubbing alcohol. Place the sponge into a sealable plastic bag while still wet and put it in your freezer. The alcohol will stop the sponge from freezing solid so you can wrap the cold compress comfortably around the affected area. Once it’s warmed up, simply re-freeze the sponge and continue to reuse it.
3) Drink More Water
Muscle aches are often caused by a buildup of lactic acid and other toxins in tired muscles. Water helps flush these substances out, so drink plenty–both during both exercise and throughout recovery. Avoid “sports energy drinks” that contain caffeine, as these will only make dehydration worse.
4) Prepare With Caffeine
However, caffeine does have a role to play in effective workouts. Drinking a cup of strong coffee before exercise helps improve stamina, mainly by releasing fatty acids which are then converted into energy. This lowers the stress your muscles are put under and reduces the amount of toxin buildup throughout your workout.
5) Use a Vapor Rub
Menthol-based decongestant rubs designed for chests are also great for spreading on aching muscles. They’re made from the same basic ingredients as muscle rub products, but cost a lot less if you buy a discount brand.
6) Eat Spicy Food
Several spices are known to speed up healing and reduce inflammation. Gabriel Patterson recommends a spicy curry filled with turmeric, garlic, and chili as an effective cure for aching muscles after vigorous exercise.
The turmeric contains curcurmin, an antioxidant which reduces inflammation. Garlic contains sulfur and selenium, both of which help relieve swelling and tenderness. Lastly, chili contains natural painkillers and boosts circulation to deliver oxygen to overworked muscles.
However, if every workout leaves you in severe pain, take a look at your training routine. You may need to take a different approach so you don’t risk long-term harm.
But, if mild-to-moderate muscle ache is just an unwelcome drag on your workout performance and recovery, Gabriel Patterson’s expert tips above should help ease your pain.