Most athletes recognize it. You step out of bed in the morning after leg-day and your legs feel as if they can snap any moment. Going to the bathroom after a tough squat session? The last 20cm to the pot, you better drop, because controlled down is no longer there. Annoying, but secretly, muscle pain is also nice. It gives you the feeling that you are super tight in your skin and you really went to the limit in your training. But is muscle pain actually useful too?
How does muscle pain develop?
There are two types of muscle pain; muscle pain that develops during training and the notorious muscle pain that only comes around 1-2 days later. The muscle pain that develops during training is caused by an accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles. This lactic acid stimulates the nerve endings, giving a pain stimulus to your brain. Lactic acid is a waste product that is generated when making energy from glucose (sugar).
The late form of muscle pain is due to small cracks in your muscle fibers. As a result of this damage, an inflammatory reaction occurs which is experienced as pain in the body. When you have muscle pain, it means that damage has occurred in the muscle cells. Particularly if you increase the weight in eccentric exercises (such as deadlift, squat, good mornings etc.), muscle pain develops. And so, for example, a firm descent of a mountain with a heavy backpack cardiorespiratory is a breeze, but very muscle pain is sensitive to the calf muscles.
‘A sore body today is a strong body tomorrow’
Besides the fact that muscle pain can be very annoying, it is especially very useful. If you have been heavily trained and have experienced a good training stimulus (overload), there will be a temporary reduction of the load capacity due to the effort. After the end of the effort, your recovery starts. The energy reserves are replenished, chemical equilibria are restored and the microscopically small damage in your muscles and connective tissue is repaired.
With a correct overload and sufficient recovery time, this recovery process continues to a higher level than before. The result? A muscle that is stronger than before your heavy training. This recovery to a higher level is also called super compensation.
Without sufficient recovery time, a training has no positive effect. But what is a good recovery time for you? Unfortunately, each individual has different recovery times and is also very dependent on the duration, intensity, and size of the training.
In practice, I usually use the following guidelines:
- For intensive strength training, a recovery time of 48 – 96 hours.
- For long-term training sessions (> 1 hour) a recovery time of + – 48 hours.
- For short-term training sessions (<1 hour) with a high intensity, a recovery time of 24 hours.
What helps to make your muscles recover faster?
You can, of course, positively influence your recovery. Recovery starts with taking the right nutrients after training. Especially proteins, but also carbohydrates are important here. Assume about 20 – 25 grams of protein after a heavy workout. Carbohydrates are needed to replenish your energy and glucose supply.
Recovery in the form of a massage promotes blood flow to your muscles. More blood to your muscles means that there is more oxygen going to make you recover faster. Good reason to look after your boyfriend after an intense strength training
Drinking enough water also promotes recovery. At least two, preferably three liters per day. Especially on training days it is important to drink enough.
I also take magnesium tablets myself to promote my muscle recovery. This water-soluble mineral is essential for energy production and works against muscle spasms. If you sweat a lot, you lose a lot of vitamins and minerals (think of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, sodium, and potassium). That is why your sweat also tastes salty and bitter. To prevent a shortage of these minerals, you can choose to swallow magnesium before and / or after training.
Moral of this story? Muscle pain is useful! Provided you allow yourself sufficient recovery time. It is physically impossible to train maximum strength for three consecutive days. Plan your workouts carefully so that you can perform at every training session. Quality over quantity :).