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More the Soreness, better is the muscles growth?

Biswajit sahoo
Biswajit sahoo
A couple of days back one of my clients mentioned that nowadays he is no more developing any muscles. Upon asking the reason for him reaching this conclusion, he replied that earlier when he used to work out he would have a lot of soreness in his body which he doesn't feel now.

Do you have the same notion?
Many lifters have this common belief that the more is the muscle soreness, the better is the muscle growth.
So, does muscle soreness is directly proportional to muscle growth?
To have a clear point of view on it, we first need to know about DOMS and what causes DOMS after a workout?
DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It is a slight muscle discomfort and sometimes severe pain which is experienced after 7-8hrs of unaccustomed or strenuous exercise & it peaks after 48-72 hrs later.
Well, some think that soreness is due to the formation of lactic acid or lactate in the muscles. However, lactate goes from your muscles soon after your workout. So, when you perform a new movement which you have not done before, it leads to inflammation even if it is a single exercise. The reason for this is the same defence mechanism which causes swelling or pain when there is an injury in our body.
Inflammation is the response of our body to an injury. As a part of the repair & recovery process, it produces immune cells. These cells then produce substances that make certain nerve ending more sensitive. When you move these nerves it sends signals to the brain which are interpreted as soreness [1,2].

Do the muscles grow when they are sore?
After a strenuous gym workout, you feel your muscles sored. You might be thinking that today you have done an effective workout, right?
But it is exactly not the case. There is very little evidence which shows that muscle damage is required for muscle growth.  Researchers have found that both high soreness & low soreness program lead to the same magnitude of increment in muscle mass as well as muscle strength [3,4]. So it is only the total work done during training that impacts muscle remodelling. Muscle damage is not mandatory for its growth, it may accelerate the process.[5].

Is it good to workout when Muscles are sored?
There is evidence which shows DOMS may negatively affect workout by altering motor patterns. This could reduce muscle activation in the next workout session & may hinder your progress too. But exercising while having DOMS doesn't seem to make muscle damage worse, but it may hinder the recovery process.

How can DOMS be reduced?
Best way to recover from DOMS is to slowly progress in new exercise program & allowing the muscles to adapt to the new movement.

Evidence has shown that foam rolling & massage helps to reduce the soreness to an extent.

Supplements to reduce DOMS:[6]

Caffeine: In a recent study by  Hurley et al, it is reported that caffeine has the ability to reduce DOMS. With a dosage of 5mg/Kg /BW, they found a beneficial effect of caffeine on soreness. So you can ingest caffeine 1 hour before your strenuous workout which may decrease overall soreness level.

Taurine- It is found in muscles & has several biological functions. In a study on 10 males for 21 days, researchers measured the effect of 50mg of taurine. They found that there is a remarkable reduction in DOMS & oxidative stress markers after exercise.

Omega 3 fatty acid also has a positive effect on reducing DOMS.

To conclude, DOMS neither can be considered as a marker of good workout session nor its marker of muscle growth.

References:

1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6392811

2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2852643/

3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29489727

4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21270317

5.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22344059

6.https://www.strongerbyscience.com/doms/