Wednesday 16 May 2012

DOMS (not the fun kind)

This was going to be an achievements post, but then I got into rant mode. It happens. Twice in two days, actually. Enjoy.

Woke up tired and sore today. Annoying, but oh well.

I'm researching branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) to help mitigate the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) I get from working out. For some reason, I have both prolonged and intense DOMS. Most people, as it happens, get this for about 12 to 36 hours post workout, that is, starting 12 hours after a workout and going until 36 hours after the workout. So basically just the next day. For me, it seems I get it for around 12 to 60 hours post workout. This, amongst other things, makes for a really awkward work/rest cycle.

To put it more concretely, say I work out on Monday evening. Normal recovery would then allow me to work out on Wednesday morning. Personally, I'm still sore, and I certainly will still be sore this evening. I'll be okay probably tomorrow morning (Thursday). This leads to a cycle of something like this: Mon (eve), Thurs (morn), Sat (eve), Tues (morn), Thurs (eve), Sun (morn), Tues (eve), Fri (morn), Mon (eve) ...

Frankly, that's not going to work for me. There is the other option, of course, of doing only 2 workouts a week - but with a fixed group session on Friday evenings, that means I get only one chance a week to work on my fitness goals. I mean, exercise is exercise, and that's good, but I have goals.

There have been a few studies done on the effect of BCAAs on DOMS. It seems to be effective in some degree in reducing both the duration and the intensity of DOMS. As I understand it, the BCAAs act to reduce muscle damage during a workout, and also promote muscle repair post workout. It does mean swallowing a bunch of pills before and after, but well, I can deal with that.

Intensity of pain wise, my DOMS is also fairly severe. Usually, DOMS is related to the amount of effort you put in - it's basically caused by muscle damage and repair. Generally, your muscles will inform you during the workout how much damage they're undergoing, and from there it's generally easy to work out how sore you're going to feel afterwards. For some reason, I don't really get those signals. I can do a workout where I go nowhere near my maximum effort, feel nothing but nicely warm and loosened up afterwards, and the next day I'll be stiff and sore. If I actually go all out, the next day I'm lucky to be able to shuffle around, and sitting down and standing up become exercises in pain tolerance. And I'll be like that for the next four days. I wrote about this a while back here.

For mitigating my pain and recovery, the current things I'm doing are protein before and after; electrolyte solution during and after; no caffeine the same day or following day; calcium supplementation after; and low rep sets with heavy weights. Each of these things have helped a bit, dropping caffeine the most.

BCAAs are the only thing that aren't yet part of my regime, so here's hoping they help too.


  1. You aren't an elite athlete so I doubt consuming BCAAs is going to have a noticeable effect. Just eat a shitload after you work out and you won't feel so sore the next day

    1. ... you know, if just eating a lot after a workout worked, I wouldn't be sore today, considering how much I ate for dinner on Monday night as soon as I got home from the gym. Also, it isn't so much the next day that bugs me, it's the day after that which is getting me down.

      I know I'm not an elite athlete - on the other hand, I have a fair idea of what I'm doing to myself, and I am trying to build muscle. Not only that, I have a restricted diet, various medical issues, and most of the research I found was done on non-athletes. Your doubt vs scientific research? Sure, it may not work for me, and I'll waste a few swallows of water and whatever the cost of a bottle of it is. That's a pretty weak reason not to try.

  2. If it's any comfort, I have the same problem. I was still going "ow, ow" three days after my last decent workout (also, need to find time to do that again, grr).

  3. Yeah, I also said that you should must try the electrolyte supplements to keep hydrated. If you do not want to get the experience of dehydration then you should drink more water in a day to keep yourself hydrated.