Are you looking for supplements to reduce soreness?
If you are training frequently and pushing your body to its limits, you know what muscle soreness feels like. As long as the soreness decreases after a day or two, there is nothing to be concerned about and to be honest, we often associate soreness with hard work. It feels good to be able to feel we have worked hard in the gym and our efforts will bring results.
However, if you are dieting or training heavy frequently, chances are you are not recovering properly. If you are sore for more than two days, this can affect your strength levels, sleep, mood and hormone levels. It can also contribute to reaching the dreaded weight loss plateau and lead to water retention. Seeing the numbers on the scale going up instead of down is very depressing.
As my body has trouble recovering as well, I have found ways to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery. The following supplements to reduce soreness are recommended by sports scientists and have shown to benefit reducing muscle fatigue. In addition to that, it is extremely hard to overdose them, so you don’t have to be concerned about your health.
Supplements to reduce soreness
What are “BCAA’s”?
The term “BCAA” stands for “branched chain amino acids”. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 21 amino acids in total. Of these, nine are considered essential. This means that our body cannot synthesize these amino acids and function properly without them. Think of essential amino acids like essential fatty acids. We could not survive without them.
Of these nine essential amino acids, also called EAA’s, Leucin, Valin and Isoleucin are the most important. When someone mentions the term BCAA’s, they basically refer to these three amino acids. As the name implies, their biochemical structure is more complex in comparison to the other amino acids. BCAA’s are the building blocks of our muscle. In fact, 33% of our muscle tissue is made up of these three amino acids.
Thus, as we train and tear down muscle fibers, BCAA’s can be utilized nearly immediately for muscle protein synthesis and other functions.
Food high in protein contains plenty of amino acids. Complete sources of protein, with all nine essential amino acids, are eggs (egg whites), chicken breast, quinoa, sweet lupine and Whey Protein. All other protein sources lack one or more of the essential amino acids.
Oftentimes, people engaging in frequent high intensity training fail to get in enough essential amino acids with their diet. If you are eating fewer calories to lose weight, chances are you are not getting your daily requirements of amino acids.
What are the benefits?
According to the latest research, data shows that BCAA supplementation before and after exercise can significantly reduce muscle damage and promote muscle synthesis. Thus, it is one of the most effective ways to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness.
In addition to that, BCAA supplementation has been shown to boost immune system. BCAA’s seem to benefit the cellular part of our immune cells and improve function and activation of Th1 lymphocytes, which is beneficial to fight virus, some kind of bacteria, parasites and detecting cancer cells.
How to choose the purest BCAA’s
While choosing a BCAA supplement, I always prefer the powdered form. Tablets often contain other ingredients, such as gelatin or cellulose, which can affect the proper digestion.
In addition to that, I definitely recommend purchasing a lightly flavored and sweetened BCAA, as they taste extremely bitter on their own. In this matter, there are a lot of products overloaded with artificial sweeteners out there. I have been using MyProtein BCAA’s. They are the only ones I can have without stomach pain and actually enjoy drinking as well.
(I also tried drinking unflavored BCAA’s and adding stevia flav drops to them, which I prefer!)
Glutamin is an amino acid as well. Some BCAA powders contain Glutamin but most of them don’t. If you are an athlete and have to deal with extreme muscle soreness but cannot take additional rest days, glutamine will be very helpful for you. Take it after your workout along with your post-workout meal and you should be able to perform better and sleep better as well.
I personally don’t use Glutamin, as my BCAA’s show great effects already.
This is another amino acid that has shown to be very effective in reducing soreness and boosting athletic performance. ß-Alanine is not used for muscle-protein synthesis but it acts as an intracellular pH buffer. As you may have heard, when muscle fibers tear, lactic acid is released. As the name says, this increase in acids in our body does not only contribute to muscle soreness but has also negative effects on our health.
Did you know that cancer cells love acidic environments?
Thus, we need to eat food and/or take supplements to neutralize the pH of our body.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to increase vegetable intake and the best supplement for this is ß-Alanine. It binds the H+ molecules and helps reduce acidic levels in our body.
Some of its other effects are:
- Increased muscular strength and power
- Increase in muscle mass (Muscle is repaired faster)
- Increased aerobic endurance (as lactic acid levels decrease)
- You can train longer and harder
I have tried ß-Alanine for about two months and was very pleased with its effects. I am sure this supplement is great for anyone strength training, athletes or people who are dieting. With reduced caloric intake, muscle recovery is often slowed down. Thus, ß-Alanine can help you push harder during your workouts, even when dieting.
Studies have shown that citrulline-malate is very effective for reducing muscle fatigue. Scientists found that it increases the outtake of ATP, the energy equivalent in our body, by 34% and speeds up muscle recovery by 20%. It is especially beneficial for anyone engaging in longer duration workouts, anywhere from 45 – hours of training.
I have tried Citrulline along with ß-Alanine, as both are combined in sports nutrition products. I can definitely claim that my muscle soreness has increased since I finished my samples and I had more energy to train when I was taking them, even after a long work day at the clinic.
Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium
These minerals are not only key to prevent and reduce muscle soreness but also have multiple other health benefits. I have prepared an article that explains in-depth how much you may need of these, so I will keep it short here.
While these minerals can be found in many foods, we actually only digest about 50% of it. If you are engaging in frequent sports activities and sweat a lot, you may benefit of a magnesium and potassium supplementation. Science has shown that supplementation of magnesium and potassium in individuals with healthy kidneys has no adverse effects. I would recommend not to go over 350mg/ day to prevent diarrhea.
Effects of magnesium deficiency
- Muscular symptoms: Cramps, spasms, weakness
- General fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Apathy, confusion
- Insomnia, irritability
- Poor memory, reduced ability to learn
In the early stages of magnesium deficiency you might experience tingling, heart changes, such as rapid heartbeats, nausea and continued muscle contractions. I have already explained in my “Insulin resistance” series the importance of magnesium to balance your hunger hormones as well. Thus, supplementing magnesium is not only beneficial for those training but also for those struggling to lose weight.
Check your potassium levels
Exercise results in a release of Potassium ions from contracting muscles. These ions are crucial for proper muscular function and contraction. As our heart is a muscle as well, this intracellular decrease of Potassium affects our heart functions as well. Following exercise there is a recovery of intracellular K+ concentrations in previously contracting muscle and plasma K+ concentrations rapidly return to resting values. However, if you engage in frequent heavy strength training and sweat a lot, chances our your body is not able to fully restore its intracellular K+ levels. Research has shown that K+ loss is a major factor associated with muscle fatigue. This does not only weaken your legs and upper body, but also your heart. Thus, supplementing potassium is recommended for very active individuals, as well as people taking certain medications, such as Antibiotics, Cortisol and medication to reduce gastric acid levels.
Get stronger with calcium
Calcium is needed for those engaging in strength training. In general, muscle-building reduces risk of osteoporosis. However, if you are training heavy and frequent, this can lower calcium levels in our body, as our muscles use Calcium to contract and work properly.
As a reaction, our body sets the calcium stored in our bones free to use for energy. This is why it is recommended to supplement calcium for anyone engaging in heavy strength training. Until the age of 60, 250-500mg/day is sufficient to significantly reduce soreness but also increase bone density.
Other factors you should not forget
The supplements mentioned above are very effective at reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery. However, you should never forget to have a look at the basics first, before starting to take these.
The importance of water and sodium
Make sure to drink a lot of water during the day, especially during your workout. I recommend drinking at least 2.5 liters of water (or a gallon, 3 liters) and not going over 4 liters (maybe 5 on an extremely hot day).
In addition to that, don’t cut out sodium. Salt gets a bad reputation in the dieting world, as everyone fears to retain water and gain weight. However, if your sodium and water intake are balanced, there is nothing to fear.
Everything in moderation will teach your body to use the sodium to improve cellular function. In addition to that, low sodium levels do not only increase muscle soreness, but your sleep will suffer as well, your heart and brain functions get affected and you will get moody and depressed.
The dangers of a low-carb diet
Lastly, anyone dieting will experience increased muscle soreness. To repair muscle, we need adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Thus, if your caloric intake is reduced due to weight loss goals, you will experience muscle soreness.
In this case, the supplements mentioned above will hopeful help reduce some of the soreness. However, I would also like to add that this is one of the main reasons I never drop the calories, or rather carbohydrates, too low for anyone I am coaching. Research has shown that muscle fatigue correlates directly to a decrease of our body’s glycogen stores in our muscles and liver (where we store carbohydrates).
Thus, I would rather increase your calorie burn with more activity, as that has far more health benefits as well. I want you to focus on getting stronger to prevent diseases and eat just as much food as is needed to lose fat but still gain muscle.
Treat your body right
It is just 10 more minutes but will help you not only to reduce soreness but also to prevent injury. Make sure to invest in a foam roller to use before and after your workout and stretch thoroughly after your workout.
I hope this guide on supplements to reduce soreness is helpful for you. Make sure to talk to your doctor first before starting to take magnesium, potassium or calcium supplements. While it is very hard to overdose these minerals (despite all myths circulating about calcium supplementation), it is crucial to know how much your body really needs. Also, I recommend to focus on getting in as many nutrients as possible with your food and using supplements to complete your diet.
As I already mentioned, I will publish a thorough list of foods helping us to reach our daily requirements of vitamins soon!
If you liked this article, please leave me a comment and share it! I am sure others will benefit from knowing which supplements are worth taking.
Now I want to know: Which supplements are you currently taking?