Supplements for Muscle Soreness & Stiffness

Young man applying ointment to his shoulder

Sore muscles are common after hard exercise, in athletics and recreation alike. When a muscle group is subjected to unfamiliar or excessively strenuous conditions, it sustains temporary damage that triggers an inflammatory response. The soreness and stiffness associated with this are referred to as Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is sometimes inevitable after hard exercise, but a variety of supplements can minimize the severity of its symptoms.

Amino Acids for Rebuilding Tissue

Proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are then used as building blocks to repair and rebuild tissue in the body. Because of this function, amino acid supplements have been produced as a potential way of rebuilding damaged muscles faster and reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. According to a clinical trial published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,” amino acid supplementation may attenuate muscle soreness, though it bears no significant effect on stiffness and muscle function after exercise.

Creatine for Preventing Soreness and Stiffness

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that supplies energy to muscle cells, and it is available as a supplement for building muscle and ameliorating sore and stiff muscles. According to a study published in “Life Sciences,” creatine supplements reduce cell damage during eccentric exercise, an exercise in which a muscle lengthens in response to tension, and prevent inflammation post-exercise, making it useful in preventing soreness. Creatine has demonstrated this effect when taken in the days leading up to intense exercise.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Reducing Soreness

Gelatin capsules

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Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients found in sources like oily fish and flax seeds, but are also found in dedicated supplements. Omega-3 supplements are typically taken for heart health and healthy brain function, but a March 2009 study from the “Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine” suggests they are useful in diminishing the severity of muscle soreness from eccentric exercise. Subjects taking omega-3 supplements regularly show significantly reduced muscle soreness and stiffness 48 hours after exercise and beyond.

Other Supplements for Reducing Inflammation

Anti-inflammatory supplements function by reducing the muscular inflammation associated with DOMS, reducing soreness and stiffness. Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme blend found in pineapple and available as a supplement, is shown to be effective in reducing inflammation when taken for short-term relief. The ground root kava kava is shown to contain chemicals known as kavalactones, which are shown to relieve pain and facilitate relaxation, though kava kava may cause liver damage. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and specific supplements, has also been shown to be effective in decreasing the cumulative effects of post-exercise muscle soreness.

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