Feeling Sore After a Workout? Don’t Do These Things if You Have Muscle Pain or Joint Pain

sore muscles

Working out in the gym, beginning a new workout routine, or taking up a novel sport can both challenge and support the body. While exercise is regarded as one of the best ways to maintain your physical and psychological wellbeing, sore muscles and aching joints are an inevitable result of new and strenuous exercise.

You might find yourself in dire need of muscle pain relief after a workout.

Sore muscles may make you want to throw in the towel on your exercise routine, but rest assured, there are ways you can reduce, even avoid, post-workout tenderness. And we assure you that if you stick with your new routine, post-workout muscle pain will more than likely dissipate as your body adjusts and you will see the effects of your hard work in no time.

There are actions you should avoid to reduce exercise-induced muscle pain. Before we get started on the actions to avoid, we’ll start with identifying the cause of post-workout muscle and joint pain. In addition, we’ll provide easy lifestyle choices to avoid and take to support your sore muscles.  

What is the Exact Cause of Post-Workout Muscle and Joint Pain?

muscle pain relief

Sore muscles after a workout can set in after beginning a new exercise routine or raising the bar on a current regimen. The medical term for this is delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. When you put in a hard workout, very small, microscopic tears in your muscle fibers can occur (this is the pain you feel when your muscles are sore), which cues your body that there is damage that needs to be repaired.

Then, as with any injury to the body, the inflammatory process kicks in. Healing cells and chemicals rush in to aid repair. This triggers swelling and tenderness typically within 24 hours, which can last for several days.

Because this type of muscle soreness is related to the inflammatory process, you can take anti-inflammatory steps to encourage muscle pain relief.

Read on to learn simple lifestyle choices to avoid as well as their alternatives, when possible.


Don’t Make Your DOMS Worse With Inflammatory Foods and Dehydration

Generally speaking, the foods we eat can both heal or harm the body. An overall healthy diet can benefit us in a multitude of ways, but an anti-inflammatory diet specifically can help reduce inflammation and aid muscle pain relief.

Inflammatory foods can exasperate post-workout muscle soreness. Additionally, common foods that may increase discomfort due to their inflammatory effects include sugar, omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid imbalance, trans fats, gluten, and excessive alcohol.

Reducing inflammation in the body is an easy, holistic approach to reducing DOMS and utilizing food to speed up your post-workout recovery.

1. Don’t eat too much sugar (or complex carbohydrates)

Most of us know that a high sugar diet can lead to extra body weight and obesity, but too many teaspoons can also elevate inflammation. A 2014 study showed that drinking a beverage sweetened with 50 grams of fructose elevates hs-CRP, an inflammatory marker identified in a blood test.

Many packaged and processed foods and beverages contain high amounts of sugar, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Common high fructose corn syrup foods include:

  • Bakery goods like bread, doughnuts, cookies, and cakes
  • Pre-made foods like pizza and TV dinners
  • Salad dressings
  • Soda
  • And even some nutrition bars and cereals

Instead, stick to natural, whole food sources for your carbohydrate intake, like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you’re looking for an alternative sweetener that can actually aid your workout recovery, try mānuka honey.

This type of honey is an ideal post-workout superfood, due to its ability to support healthy inflammation and its lower glycemic index compared to pure glucose or sugar. It is ideal for restoring glycogen levels lost from a workout as well as supporting recovery from exercise-induced inflammation—not to mention, it is chock full of vitamins and minerals, such as essential B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, and potassium, all of which strongly affect athletic performance and help speed up recovery.

Additionally, research published in Pharmacognosy Research showed that mānuka honey contains 22 amino acids, including all 9 that must be consumed through food.

You can also sweeten your foods and drinks with stevia, a plant extract that scores a 0 on the glycemic index and has a low-calorie count. Just remember that a little goes a long way.

2. Don’t consume too much omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods

While it may seem odd, not all fats are created equal. Many scientists and health professionals believe the skewed omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio consumed by most people in the Western world is harmful and inflammatory.

When we were cave people, we ate roughly equal amounts of each fat type. Now, we consume around 15 times more omega-6 than omega-3. This matters because when out of balance, omega-6 encourages inflammation, which can trigger physical discomfort.

While both fats are essential to a healthy diet, it all depends on the source.

Processed foods like cured meats, cakes, fast foods, and snacks like potato chips and power bars might contain excessively high amounts of omega-6 fats. If you feel sore after workout, avoiding processed foods with omega-6 fats may facilitate a faster recovery.

If you insist on a fatty snack, try these low to moderate omega-6 healthy snacks instead:

  • a handful of almonds, sunflower seeds, or cashews
  • avocado on spelt or buckwheat toast or crackers
  • edamame beans

3. Don’t overly indulge in saturated fats

Diets high in saturated fats from meats, dairy, and trans fats have also been shown to cause low-grade inflammation in the body, which can exaggerate post-workout muscle soreness. Processed foods, particularly those that are fried, tend to be high in trans fats and should be avoided.

To keep inflammation at bay, eat anti-inflammatory foods containing healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado.

4. Don’t overdo it on the bread

A gluten-free diet is followed by many, including those without Celiac disease. But have you ever wondered if this style of eating might aid muscle recovery?

Gluten includes the proteins found in a range of grains including barley, rye, wheat, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). Research shows that opting for a gluten-free diet can reduce inflammation, muscle pain, and back pain. As an added advantage, it may reduce fatigue, too.

But it doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite meals and snacks altogether. Simply try changing your diet up a bit with gluten-free replacements, just be wary about sugars and excessive carbs.

Collard green wraps on blue and white plate
Photo courtesy of Ted Eyton/ Kaiser Permanente

Gluten-free or low-gluten snacks and meals to try instead:

  • Collard green wraps
  • Corn tortilla shells
  • Quinoa with steamed veggies
  • Spelt (While low on gluten, it’s not suitable for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities)
  • Lentil or vegetable chips
  • Seaweed chips
  • Mixed nuts (preferably unsalted)

5. Don’t forget to hydrate

You probably learned elsewhere that water makes up for more than half of the human body and that you cannot live without it. But did you know that dehydration can lead to subtle problems that can affect your muscles, including producing inflammatory responses in the body?

That’s why it’s important to remain hydrated and replenish your body with liquids after a workout. Since you also lose salt as you sweat, a sports drink containing electrolytes is recommended. However, watch the sugar content.

Don’t Forget These 5 Essentials to Support Your Sore Muscles 

If you feel sore for several days after a workout, you might consider quitting. Don’t! As you maintain consistency, your muscles will adapt and thrive. This is simply par for the course.

If you experience pain that prevents you from carrying out daily activities, you likely pushed yourself too far, too soon. Back off and build up gradually. The discomfort shouldn’t last beyond 72 hours.

Besides avoiding certain foods, don’t forget these things before you begin strenuous exercise.

  1. Make sure you warm-up and cool down sufficiently. This includes stretching for a minimum of 5 minutes before and after your workout. It is also imperative to warm your body up with some low-intensity cardio activity, such as walking on a treadmill or using the elliptical.
  2. Take cold baths or showers. This can help numb the pain temporarily and give you some much-needed relief.
  3. Use a topical pain reliever. Naturally derived topicals like CBD MEDIC™ Active Sport Ointment or Active Sport Stick provide pain relief quickly by directly targeting the source of discomfort with cooling and heating sensations of menthol and camphor.
  4. Take supplements that support muscle and joint health. Turmeric and ginger are both known to support healthy inflammatory processes and joint health. You can include them in your diet or use Charlotte’s Web™ CBD RECOVERY GUMMIES to support recovery from exercise-induced inflammation.
  5. Use a foam roller. If you feel sore muscles kicking in a day or two after your workout, the continued pressure and rolling motion over sore muscles can help diminish built-up lactic acid and speed up your recovery time. You can also do this immediately following your workout as a preventative measure.

*Remember: If your muscle soreness begins during or immediately after exercise, it is not delayed onset muscle soreness. It takes time for the inflammation related to this to settle in. That’s why the word “delayed” is in the name. Pain that occurs during an exercise can be a sign there is a problem. Stop the activity and seek professional advice before serious joint or muscle damage occurs.

Don’t Let Muscle Soreness Keep You Down

Working out in the gym brings a raft of health benefits. Finding ways to continue exercising, safely and comfortably, are crucial for both your physical and psychological wellbeing. The steps discussed in this article will enable you to settle sore muscles and harness your fitness.

<<Ease Your Pain and Get Better Workouts>>

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment. Seek medical assistance for any injuries. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The products mentioned in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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