Ever started a new training program or done a particularly challenging workout only to find that for the next few days the pain and stiffness leave you wincing whenever you lift your arms or get up from a chair? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.) This delayed response to unaccustomed exercise is termed delayed onset muscle soreness and has been shown to limit strength and exercise performance for up to three weeks.
DOMS results from disruption of muscle cells by mechanical stress, infiltration of inflammatory cells to the injured tissue and increased production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Although controlled inflammation after training is necessary for making gains, severe DOMS can stop you from training regularly or impede strength from workout to workout, thus limiting training intensity and halting progress. In other words, moderate soreness on occasion is OK. Feeling like you just got hit by a Mack truck is not.
One sure way to minimize soreness is to not overdo it in the gym. Another is to practice smart supplementation. A recent study published in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition suggests that a common supplement strategy for muscle gain also may serve to decrease DOMS. In this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, researchers from Japan tested whether taking a stack of 3.2 grams of branched-chain amino acids and 2 grams of taurine three times a day would decrease DOMS and muscle damage caused by high-intensity eccentric-resistance training.
The results were definitive: The researchers reported that markers of cellular muscle damage and subjective measures of DOMS were significantly reduced in those who took the BCAA plus taurine stack compared to a placebo. BCAAs and taurine are often combined in preworkout supplements (along with other ingredients, like caffeine), but they also can be purchased individually to give you more control over dosages.