The Best Supplements For DOMS

The Best Supplements For DOMS

Sometimes sore muscles can be pleasant: You worked hard and built new strength. But when you’re hobbling around, barely able to walk up the stairs, sore muscles are more of a pain in the gluteus maximus.

The good news is scientists have been fascinated by muscle soreness for years and research shows several strategies for recovering faster. This article summarizes key facts about muscle soreness and lists the most effective nutrition tools for improving recovery so you can get back to top form faster.

What Causes Muscles Soreness?

Certain forms of training cause muscle damage, leading to pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. This is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Motions that include the eccentric phase cause small tears in muscle fibers, which leads to inflammation. For example, downhill running or lifting that emphasizes the lengthening motion will lead to greater muscle soreness than motions that favor the concentric motion, such as running up stairs.

Interestingly, the experience of DOMS varies by individual. Some people experience little DOMS, whereas others get very sore, even after years of training.

Scientists have several theories for the degree of pain associated with DOMS:

One theory is that inflamed and swollen muscle fibers press on pain receptors, registering sensations of soreness.

A second theory is that phagocytic immune cells come to clean up damaged muscle tissue and further damage the tissue, causing pain.

Finally, some researchers think that free radicals that are produced by inflammatory cells in response to muscle damage aggravate the damaged tissue, causing pain.

The bottom line is that DOMS is inconvenient, so it’s worth the effort to have strategies for preventing it. Having an effective recovery plan is especially important for athletes or those who need to train frequently since it reduces strength and may increase injury risk.

What Doesn’t Work For DOMS

Icing & Massage: Common “treatments” for DOMS such as massage and ice are largely useless because they don’t restore strength and the impact on pain is fleeting. Although they may reduce pain while you’re doing them, the effect is small and short lived and doesn’t extend to a faster recovery of muscle function.

NSAID Painkillers: Although anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can reduce muscle pain, they won’t accelerate recovery or restore strength. Plus, they have a negative effect on hypertrophy because they inhibit the activation of satellite cell that allow for continued growth. NSAIDs also cause intestinal leakage and systemic inflammation.

Static Stretching: Static stretching before or after training will not reduce DOMS.

Warming Up: A cardio-based warm-up such as jogging are cycling is useful for raising body temperature but it won’t prevent muscle damage or have any noticeable effect on post-workout muscle soreness.

Foods & Supplements for Fighting DOMS

Although a complete prevention of soreness is unlikely, a variety of foods and supplements have been shown to reduce DOMS and some can help restore muscle strength and function. The most promising evidence shows the following are worth investing in (1):

1. Blueberry Juice
How It Works
- Antioxidants lower markers of muscle damage after intense training.
- Faster removal of inflammatory waste products, accelerating repair of damaged muscle tissue.
- Faster recovery of strength and muscle function.

Drinking blueberry juice before, immediately after, and at 12- and 36-hours of recovery significantly improved restoration of muscle strength as measured by strength tests compared to a placebo (2).

How To Take
- Consume 7 to 8 ounces of blueberry juice pre- and post-workout.
- Eating blueberries may also be effective though it’s unclear how much is necessary to overcome DOMS.
- Avoid taking with milk because the proteins in milk may impair absorption.

Similar Options
Black Currant Juice or other bright red or purple fruits, such as raspberries.

2. Tart Cherry Juice
How It Works
- Antioxidants lower markers of muscle damage after intense training, restoring strength and muscle function.
- A lower inflammatory response allows for less muscle pain and stiffness.

Drinking tart cherry juice daily for a week prior to a muscle damaging workout reduced pain and improved restoration of strength in experienced endurance runners who did a muscle-damaging downhill run (3).

How To Take
- Consume 12 ounces of tart cherry juice prior to training.
- Avoid taking with milk because the proteins in milk may impair absorption.

Similar Options
Pomegranate Juice

3. Pineapple
How It Works
- Protease enzymes inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory agents.
- Reduces pain and soreness.
- Improves muscle recovery and function.
- Improves work capacity due to faster recovery.

Consumption of 4.2 g/day of a protease supplement (from pineapple) for 4 days reduced muscle soreness, increased the pain threshold, and restored force production after a muscle-damaging downhill run (4).

How To Take
- Consume 4 to 6 g of a bromelain or protease supplement daily.
- Eating pineapple or drinking pineapple juice may also be effective but the required dose has not been established.

Similar Options
Supplements containing bromelain or proteases.

4. Beet Juice
How It Works
- Dietary nitrates and betalain compounds in beets have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that accelerate recovery of muscle strength and function.
- Accelerates return of peak power.
- Improves strength output in the absence of DOMS.

Consumption of 1.75 liters (2.8 g of phenolic compounds) of beetroot juice in the 48 hours following a muscle-damaging plyometric workout resulted in faster recovery of strength and peak power (5).

How To Take
- Consume 8 oz. (250 ml) post-workout, and then at 2 hours, 8 hours, 24, and 48 hours post-workout.
- Eating beets (200 g of baked beets or 2 medium beets) may also be effective though more research is needed.

Similar Options
Cooked beets

5. Curcumin
How It Works
- Phytonutrients help clear inflammatory cytokines that cause pain and damage tissue.
- Reduces pain.
- Restores muscle function and strength.

Supplementing with 200 mg for 4 days of curcumin decreased muscle pain and markers of muscle injury at 48 hours post-workout (6, 7).

How To Take
- Consume 200 to 400 mg of curcumin daily

Similar Options
Topical curcumin may also be effective if applied immediately after and at 12 hour intervals after training until soreness is gone.

6. BCAAs
How It Works
- Branched chain amino acids reduce muscle breakdown in response to muscle-damaging exercise.
- BCAAs reduce inflammatory markers such as creatine kinase.
- Improves muscle recovery and function.

Supplementing trained men with 20 grams of BCAAs before and after training for 7 days reduced muscle soreness and improved recovery of strength compared to a placebo group (8).

How To Take
Low doses of BCAAs don’t appear to have any effect on BCAAs but high-dose supplementation (20 grams twice a day or 200 mg/kg over a 48 hour period) is effective for DOMS and strength recovery.

Similar Options
Free Form Amino Acids

7. Taurine
How It Works
- Has anti-inflammatory effects on muscle and connective tissue.
- Improves the water content of muscle fibers, reducing muscle damage.
- Improves calcium homeostasis in the muscle, supporting contraction force.
- Decreases muscle pain.

Supplementing with 50 mg/kg of taurine for 21 days decreased muscle soreness and improved function at 48 hours after a muscle-damaging biceps curl exercise of 3 sets of 15 reps at 80 percent of the 1RM (9, 10).

How To Take
- Consume 3.5 to 8 grams of taurine daily after workouts.
- Combining taurine with BCAAs may improve muscle recovery and offset tissue breakdown from intense training.

Similar Options
Recovery supplements that pair taurine with BCAAS, protein, or other nutrients such as curcumin or bromelain.

8. Fish Oil
How It Works
- DHA and EPA in fish oil improve immune cell response to damaging exercise, reducing inflammation in muscle tissue.
- Decreases muscle pain.
- Improves range of motion and decreases stiffness.

Supplementing with 3 g of DHA fish oil for 9 days reduced ratings of muscle soreness after 4 sets to fatigue of eccentric-enhanced biceps curls at 120 percent of the 1RM in untrained women. A similar dose of EPA has also been shown to decrease soreness (11, 12).

How To Take It
Consume 2 to 3 g of fish oil daily. Both DHA and EPA alone and combined have been beneficial for reducing muscle soreness after intense training.

9. Caffeine
How It Works
- Blocks pain receptors in the brain.
- Restores muscle strength and function by acting on the CNS.
- Decreases muscle soreness.
- Improves strength and endurance performance regardless of muscle damage.

Supplementing with 5 mg/kg of caffeine pre-workout and at 24 and 48 hours post-workout decreased pain by between 26 and 48 percent in female trainees (13).

How To Take It
Consume 3 to 5 mg/kg of caffeine prior to training and on subsequent mornings after muscle-damaging workouts.

Similar Options
Caffeine supplements or coffee can both be used to supply caffeine. Two-and-a-half cups (20 oz.) of strong coffee will provide adequate caffeine for a 70 kg individual.

How To Put This All Together?

The best approach to muscle recovery is to experiment and figure out what works best for you. Picking one to three supplements to help you overcome soreness and get back to top form faster will allow for better performance and greater gains. Here are some ideas for protocols:

  • Pick an antioxidant-rich fruit that has anti-inflammatory effects and pair it with a protein-based supplement to minimize pain and prevent muscle breakdown:
    • Blueberry juice with BCAAs
    • Tart Cherry Juice with Taurine and/or BCAAs
  • If you are dealing with systemic inflammation, curcumin with fish oil may be beneficial because both have shown significant therapeutic health effects for chronic ailments.
  • If you are competing or going for PRs, using caffeine is a good choice because it can significantly enhance strength and endurance performance while also helping you get over severe DOMS.
  • If muscle mass is a priority, pineapple juice, bromelain, or protease supplements combined with BCAAs or Free Form Amino Acids are a good choice.
  • For endurance athletes, loading up on beet and tart cherry juice can help overcome soreness while also improving performance and work capacity.




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