The day you exercised and even the day after you felt fine, but now your muscles are sore 2 days after a workout. It’s a maddening sensation, not to mention uncomfortably achy. But it also leads to the question: why the delayed onset? Why wouldn’t you just feel sore right away?
Don’t worry: this phenomenon is more common than you might think. It even has a name: DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Here, I’ll explain what DOMS is, how to cope with it, and how to help avoid it in the future.
What are some of the common symptoms of DOMS? Generally, it’s characterized by a soreness or stiffness in the muscles which has a delayed onset following a particularly strenuous workout.
DOMS is a little bit different for every individual. Often, the onset occurs after you have slept, but it may not reach its peak until later; hence the sensation that your muscles are sore 2 days after a workout. Happily, it won’t last forever: once you begin to feel the aches and pains, they usually abate within 24 to 72 hours, though it can last longer in some cases.
Why DOMS is a downer
While DOMS isn’t necessarily harmful to your health, it can definitely be annoying. It can cause discomfort, for one; nobody likes that harsh reminder of a big glute workout every time they get in and out of a chair.
For another, it can be discouraging. Particularly if you’re embarking on a new fitness challenge or exercise regime, it can make some people think “I’m not ready for this”. Of course, it should be noted that DOMS isn’t just a phenomenon that occurs in people who lack strength. Even the most elite athletes can experience DOMS. So if your muscles are sore 2 days after a workout, you shouldn’t be discouraged.
What causes DOMS?
The causes of DOMS aren’t completely understood. However, as this extensive study reveals, it seems that the theory that carries the most weight is that it is caused by myofibril tears (a fancy term for muscle strains).
In particular, “eccentric” contractions seem to be at the root of many causes of DOMS. Eccentric contraction is when you actively move a muscle while lengthening it with weight. A good example of this is the movement of a biceps curl wherein you’re slowly lowering the weight and the muscle is contracted to help control the release of the dumbbell.
Moreover, when you take it too far and challenge the muscles in a way they’re not used to, you tear the muscle. This “trauma” causes an inflammatory response as your body rushes to repair the damage. The swelling causes pain and alters the way in which your muscles fire, which is why you feel like you can’t move as freely or naturally when you’re suffering from DOMS.
You’ve got DOMS…now what?
The best initial course of treatment is to focus on restoration. Rest and employ anti-inflammatory measures. Ibuprofen may help in the short term, but don’t go too nuts as long term use can impair cell healing. Ice can help too, though in some cases, particularly on the back muscles, heat can help too.
Since your muscles are firing differently, you should avoid high intensity exercise for a few days if you’re feeling intense soreness. However, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid movement. Actually, low intensity movement such as biking or walking can help. However, you should avoid deep passive stretching, as it can exacerbate swelling.
Drinking protein shakes won’t help a ton if you have already over-done it in the gym, but, fueling with protein and/or BCAA’s before and after workouts can help A LOT by providing your body with the essential amino acids it needs to repair the damaged muscle cells. Make sure you purchase a whey or collagen based protein. Many vegetable based proteins such as soy and pea don’t contain the full amino acid profile necessary to build proteins so avoid those.
How to avoid DOMS in the first place
Once you’ve experienced DOMS, you’re probably not inclined to go through it again. Here are some proactive steps to avoid it in the future:
- Take it slow. While it’s good to challenge yourself, it’s also important to recognize your current fitness level and not take it too far too fast. When you work with a trainer in the New You 6 Week Fitness Challenge, you’ll be able to increase gradually and ask for advice about when you should take things to the next level.
- Be careful with eccentric exercise. As noted above, eccentric exercise is thought to put you at most danger of DOMS. Properly warming up and cooling down can help.
- Be balanced. Even if your goal is to increase butt strength, don’t ignore all the other muscles. A balanced fitness routine will help avoid straining specific muscle groups.
Conclusion: If your muscles are sore 2 days after a workout, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. DOMS can affect anyone, and it usually only lasts a few days. By staying on track with your fitness challenge, you’ll be able to increase your strength slowly and proactively avoid DOMS in the future.
Have you ever experienced DOMS?