Muscle soreness recovery & 17.1
After being in the crossfit community for several years now, I’ve heard people talk more about muscle soreness than about anything else. Especially after 17.1 everybody was complaining.
So why does 17.1 and crossfit in general give so much soreness and how can you fix it?
The soreness is the result of muscle damage, there are two types of damage:
This is the result of training, by putting the muscle under lots of stress it damages. It can be a training with low intensity and long duration (endurance), a high intensity with a short duration (strength training) or a combination (crossfit).
This damage is necessary to become stronger, because the body adapts: it repairs the muscle fibers that were damaged and grows them even bigger to withstand heavier loads. You will become bigger and stronger.
Why does 17.1 and crossfit in general give you so much soreness?
Workouts consisting of lots of eccentric contractions tend to give the most muscle fiber damage and soreness. An eccentric contraction is when a muscle lengthens and simultaneously contracts, this in contrary to concentric contraction where the muscle shortens when contracting.
For example: during a biceps curl the upward movement is concentric whereas the downward movement is eccentric.
Eccentric contractions are often used to slow down a movement eg: the downward movement during a squat (or wallballs!) and slowing down the forward swing of the leg during a sprint.
17.1 consisted of burpee boxjumps and dumbbell snatches, two exercises in which there are a lot of eccentric contractions.
Burpee boxjumps: slowing down the pushup so you don’t drop on the floor, and absorbing the landing after jumping of the box.
Dumbbell snatches: slowing down the dumbbell from top to bottom aka not dropping the dumbbell on the floor.
Then there is secondary damage:
Due to the damage the body wants to repair itself, and the first stage of tissue repair is cleaning up all the damage, this is done by inflammation. The inflammatory response is a very complex biological process, consisting of many processes acting mostly simultaneously.
-An increase in local blood flow which causes redness and increased temperature.
-An increase in permeability making it more able to leak fluid and plasma proteins in to the injured tissue (swelling).
-Attracting multiple inflammation markers like bradykinin and prostaglandin which will trigger pain sensors and white blood cells who will start cleaning the damage.
Inflammation is quite aggressive and causes damage itself by harming ‘healthy’ muscle fibers. This is called secondary damage.
This is why we want to limit the inflammatory response, because more inflammation results in more pain and muscle damage. Research has shown that limiting the inflammatory response by NSAID’s (ibuprofen and diclofenac) results in a faster recovery.
Ever wondered why you experienced more soreness during the second day after the workout? This is due to the fact that the inflammation takes some time to reach its peak. This results in more swelling and pain signals during the second day.
But it is not recommended to consume NSAID’s (anti-inflammatory drugs) every day, because it is very bad for your stomach.
Because of that here are 3 tips (proven by research) to limit inflammation in a natural way:
1) Ice baths, often used in (pro)sport are a great way to decrease the elevated body temperature and local swelling. Most studies use the following protocol: 10min in a bath of 10degrees Celsius immediately after training.
2) Pineapple, Bromelain a substance only found in pineapple is an effective anti-inflammatory. Research has shown that a high doses of bromelain is just as effective as a NSAID. Besides that it is also one of the enzymes responsible for breaking down protein, making it essential to digest your proteinshake properly. Bromelain is found in the pineapple juice but the highest concentration sits inside the stem. The best way to consume the stem is by putting it in a blender or slowjuicer.
3) Ginger, as part of the Zingiberaceae family (just as cinnamon and turmeric) is also a very effective anti-inflammatory. Adding ginger powder to your (green) tea or smoothie is a great way to spice it up. Daily usage of 2-3 grams is recommended for the best results.
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Or to read full articles about muscle soreness and fast recovery with links to all the used scientific studies: