A hard workout can be exhilarating and do wonders to increase your strength and endurance. But the post-workout muscle “burn,” which typically peaks between 24 and 72 hours after exercise can have an impact on your workout routine. Basically, sore muscles are inevitable after exercising strenuously. So why do your muscles burn after a workout? Here’s what you need to know.
Contrary to what many people believe, lactic acid is not the cause of post-workout muscle soreness. Instead, you produce lactic acid during the workout itself. Basically, when you workout your body is working at its greatest capacity. This prevents your muscles from being able to convert food into energy and causes lactic acid to build up in the muscles. As a result, your muscles burn while you exercise. According to various tests, this acid quickly clears from your system post-workout.
Instead, post-workout soreness is due to many small micro-tears in the muscle itself. This is a natural process that the body undergoes in order to build more muscle. The technical term for this muscle tenderness is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It refers to the two-three days it takes for your body to repair the muscle (and build more muscle). During this time, you likely feel sore and less able to work out at your greatest capacity. This is why endurance athletes often design workout routines to have light workouts between vigorous ones. It gives their muscles adequate time to heal and build.
Although stretching before a workout is a good idea, it will not reduce your likelihood of experiencing DOMS. The best way to reduce post-workout muscle soreness is to build up gradually to a higher workout level. In most cases, however, it’s unfortunately a “no pain, no gain” situation, and it is only by causing some minor muscle damage that you can really build muscle.
Some ways in which you can minimize the pain from your strenuous workout include treating yourself to a massage, icing the muscles, stretching, doing yoga and taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen. It is also important to stay active between strenuous workouts. Complete rest will only put you back at square one and you will lose the benefits you worked so hard to gain. Light exercise such as walking or swimming for no more than 30 minutes a day will improve circulation to your muscles, allowing them to recover more quickly.