15 Ways to Enhance Recovery & Reduce Muscle Soreness

*Diet & Exercise at your own risk. Article is for informational purposes only*

Watch this video, or read below!

Train MMA and/or BJJ?

How to improve recovery and reduce muscle soreness between Training Sessions

Stretching

Sod off Ted, I’m trying to stretch

I’ve updated a lot of this post in 2017, with some ‘whole food’ alternatives to supplement recommendations.
I mostly avoid supplements and powders etc where possibly now and for overall health and recovery stick to organic foods. Too many supplements focus on the time just before and after training, but an overall feeling of wellbeing and energy is needed for optimal recovery and performance both physically and mentally.

1. Krill Oil – The Omega 6 / 3 Ratio

If you eat too much Omega 6, and not enough Omega 3, it can really mess you up.
Have a look at this study
Krill oil is the most concentrated form, that I’m aware of, of Omega 3. Look at the EPA and DHA amounts when looking to buy an Omega 3 supplement.

edit – fish oil is just as good as krill oil, appears I was duped by the marketing hype. Krill oil apparently has more antioxidants etc, but EPA is what really prevents inflammation, and it is not superior in it’s EPA content

This reduces inflammation significantly, which is good for overall health, and recovery. Reduce omega 6 by consuming less vegetable oil.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium plays an essential role in muscle function.
Bath salts and/or a magnesium spray are the best ways to get the nutrient direct to your muscles (from what I’ve read).  Epsom salts can dehydrate quite a bit however, have a drink with a pinch of Himalayan salt during your bath.

Magnesium glycinate tablets are the best oral form of magnesium in terms of bioavailability.

3. Pre workout nutrition

Have a protein drink about 45 minutes before you train.
Some people advise having 15g of whey protein 20 minutes before you train; or 10g of BCAA.
Either way, just don’t leave it too long without food before you train – Don’t eat nothing for 3 hours, then train for 2 hours, and expect to recover within 48 hours.

For muscle soreness, Charles Poliquin suggests taking taurine and BCAA before and after training.  This should reduce DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness.

Whole food alternative – Egg / chicken salad 1.5 hours before
Banana and berries around 1 hour to 45 minutes before training

4. Intra Workout Drink

Try a protein shaker full of:
500ml water
5g glutamine
20g carb powder (maltodextrin and waxy maize)
pinch of pink salt

At university, we were told that carbohydrate drinks during longer training sessions, prevented any drop in immune function – here is a study done by one of the lecturers.

Quite a few strength and conditioning gurus, recommend adding glutamine to a drink to be consumed during training to offset any drop in immune-function.

Whole food alternative – pinch of pink salt in chlorine-free water and a small amount of fruit juice. For those looking for a base of wellbeing in order to enhance recovery, this may be a good option. Research does suggest that maltodextrin is superior for rehydration & recovery

5. Post Workout Drink

After a hard session, try:
50g maltodextrin or waxy maize starch
3g creatine (up to 10g of creatine, I only have 3 personally, to replace what I’ve used)
500mg Alpha Lipoic Acid
30g Whey protein, hemp or egg protein
A pinch of Himalayan (pink) salt.
5g BCAAs

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a strong antioxidant, that also has some insulin-mimicing properties, meaning that it increases the absorption of creatine and carbohydrate into the muscle cells.

Salt helps with rehydration (via osmosis (A Level Biology does have it’s uses)); and replacing electrolytes lost during sweating.

Maltodextrin is a source of high GI carbohydrates, which cause an insulin spike, which in turn will lead to efficient uptake into the muscles of both carbs and creatine.

Whole-Food Post Workout Drink
Again a whole-food alternative for those who wan’t to avoid supplements – A blend of – hemp seeds, bananas, oats, berries, a pinch of pink salt.

6. Foam Roller

Foam roll and stretch after you train.
Try and ‘roll’ your legs in an upwards direction. To stop toxins pooling in your legs.
This is basically a way of giving yourself a sports massage.  If you can afford a sport massage, then do that instead.

7. Myofascial Release

If you have a knot in your muscle(s), try putting a pilates ball or lacrosse ball in the muscle. Hold it for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

8. Yoga

Awesome for flexibility, functional strength, and refreshing the body and mind.  For longevity I really recommend doing some kind of yoga.  Your muscles will get tighter and tighter over the years if you don’t, especially if you do weights as well.

9. Nutrient Dense Diet

Thinking about just macronutrients, like proteins, carbs and fats is old school.
Think about all the different micronutrients you need, and get it from unprocessed, ideally organic and locally sourced produce.
Garlic, tuemeric, ginger, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, oily fish etc.


10. Stretch & Move as much as possible

If you sit down for your day job, you should stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors and chest everyday.

Stretching etc. may not directly reduce muscle soreness from lactic acid and muscle damage caused from a hard session, but it will prevent stiffness, general aches and pains and muscle cramps and spasms that occur with tight muscles and poor posture.

Your lymphatic system (and venous return) relies on movement to work, and if you sit down all day in an office, it will be unable to drain waste products from muscles etc.
Make sure you go for a walk, or move and stretch at your desk as much as possible.

Alternatively – sit on the floor to watch TV instead of on the couch – keep stretching and moving.

11. Contrast Showers

If you can’t get to a cryotherapy chamber, try contrast showers.  2 minutes or so on freezing cold, then 30 seconds of hot water.
Repeat 2 or 3 times.

12. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods, avoid inflammatory foods


Eat more:
Ginger
Tumeric
Cherry juice*
Garlic
Onions
Red cabbage
High magnesium foods such as spinach, squash and pumpkin seeds and fish such as Mackerel
Try arnica or oregano oil to treat sore parts of the body topically
Try Pineapple for its bromelain content (I’ve just ordered some bromelain as a supplement, and will update as to how effective it is for recovery)

Eat/Consume less:
Alcohol
Caffeine
Deep fried foods
Artificial sweeteners and additives
Sugar
Vegetable cooking oils (too much omega 6 is very bad)
Dairy
Processed meats

Too much carbohydrate, even if all low GI and complex, can cause inflammation. Evidence is still mixed as to whether athletes should eat high carb or medium carb/medium fat based diets.
Consider dropping some carbs if you suffer from inflammation and poor recovery though.

*Cherry juice has recently been touted as the food/drink with the highest anti-inflammatory properties. More info here. Looking at the research you need about 400ml per day – or you can use the dried version or tablets.

cherry juice for recovery

Selfie Wanker – with cherry juice concentrate

 13.“All Disease Begins in The Gut.” – Hippocrates

If you are prone to inflammation in general, like I am (asthma, sinusitis, hayfever sufferer etc); then you may well have issues with an inflamed gut.

Try taking glutamine and/or aloe vera oil first thing in the morning, and use nettle as a natural anti-histamine (histamine causes phlegm an inflammation as part of the primary-immune response).
I’ve also started adding turmeric to my protein shakes, and take a probiotic/fibre drink.

An inflamed gut plays havoc with your immune system, making you very prone to inflammation. Here is a study if you require further information.

If you are not fighting in the UFC, and can buy cannabis (legally of course), there is a lot of research emerging on how it reduces inflammation in the gut and can help with the likes of Crohn’s disease and even (I digress slightly) offset sickness/nausea during chemotherapy.

The benefits of cannabis use, on inflamed bowels and inflammatory bowel disease(IBD) is pretty extensive:

CONCLUSIONS: Three months’ treatment with inhaled cannabis improves quality of life measurements, disease activity index, and causes weight gain and rise in BMI in long-standing IBD patients.
Study Link

I’ve not tried it myself, but a number of people have told me that VSL 3 is the best probiotic supplement to try.

Also see the FODMAP diet if you have gut issues like IBS and bloating. It’s a long list of foods to cut out or reduce if you have problems. It’s difficult, but it’s the most effective way so far to prevent IBS. Avoid onions and garlic if you suffer from bloating…

14. Baking Soda


This is a great addition to your training bag. Start off with 5g and build up to about 15g pre training. I tried 25g once and had the sh!ts, so build up slow on the dosage.
It is touted as being able to increase power output and also enhance recovery:

“Quadriceps torques were higher in the presence of NaHCO3 (baking soda) … the peak, residual, and recovery (after 40 min)”
Study Link

You need about 0.3g of baking soda / sodium bicarbonate per kg of bodyweight to get real performance benefits.  This will give you the shits if you go ahead with this amount first time. So build it up, with at least 1 litre of water.
Note – it may effect digestion, by lowering stomach acid & pulling water into the gut etc so avoid around meal times

It’s also great before grappling sessions as it increases muscular endurance quite a bit in my experience.

Baking soda, somehow, alkalises the muscles. The alkaline diet in general is becoming more & more popular in MMA & BJJ. It certainly won’t do you any harm.

AlkalineFoods

nom noms alkaline goodness

15. Adaptogens 

I’ve recently started using ginkgo biloba as it is said to help offset any damage incurred to the brain through head trauma from sparring, playing football etc. and found it great as an anti-inflammatory. There is loads of research for ginkgo biloba as an anti-inflammatory – here is one study.

Adaptogens, such as gingko biloba are said the offset the effects of physical (and mental) stress.

Adaptogens include:
– Ginseng
– Rhodiola
– Ashwaganda .  Here’s some information on wikipedia.

16. Meriva curcumin.

Curcumin, found in tumeric, bound with choline (or something similar) increases its bioavailability.
This is the best anti-inflammatory of any type I have tried.

17. Wim Hof Breathing

Wim Hof Breathing and cold showers.  Helps reduce acidity of the body and enhance recovery.  Apple Cider Vinegar is also said to make the body more alkaline.  Slightly bro-science-ish but personally, I find that the breathing and cold showers in the morning help.

There is also some evidence that cold showers may help with stress in general and even depression.

18. CBD Oil

I recently bought a Medipen (review on the vape pen here)

So far, so good –  On Thursday I was having trouble sitting at my desk in work, in fact, I had to kneel down at one point, as my back was going into spasm.  Pelvic tilt probs.

In the evening my medipen came, after I worked out how to use the thing, I haven’t had any problems with my back (or neck).  The research is quite robust too.

Update – I’ve started using the dropper form of CBD and find it just as effective as vaping

It is becoming increasingly clear that cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands play a crucial role in the regulation of the immune system. Exogenous cannabinoids have been shown to suppress T-cell-mediated immune responses by primarily inducing apoptosis and suppressing inflammatory cytokines and chemokines.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828614/

Great news for anybody with auto-immune problems/over-active immune system problems like IBS, Chron’s etc.

19. Kava for Muscle Relaxation

You can go about enhancing recovery in 3 main ways

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing muscular tension

There’s a few other factors, like keeping mobile to keep the lymphatic system working, but those are the main 2.
In terms of reducing muscular tension, Kava is king.
It’s also the best non-pharma product for treating anxiety. Just make sure you buy it from a reputable supplier who uses just the root and not the whole kava plant.

More information on kava or ‘kava kava’ here.

Check Kava is not banned by your sports governing body too!

Quick Summary – Enhancing Recovery

Supplement with Turmeric / Meriva Turmeric (as recommended by Dr Rhonda Patrick)
Invest in an adaptogen like ashwagandha & Gingko biloba
Try baking soda – try not to shit yourself – try 3-5g in a glass of water to start
– Take care of your gut health – probiotics, apple cider vinegar etc.
Foam Roll
 Magnesium supplement or spray. I’ve found the calm drink excellent but have switched to magnesium glycinate as it’s less acidic.

For immediate noticeable effects:

  • Baking soda – 5g in glass of water (not before meals. Build up to 15g if you can)
  • CBD vaporiser
  • Smash the fish oil (10g a day) and turmeric
  • Magnesium Drink
  • Drink kava
sports nutrition ebook

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2 Responses to 15 Ways to Enhance Recovery & Reduce Muscle Soreness

  1. Drew says:

    Nice article! Ive read and heard alot about mentioned things to do and eat to stay alkaline and have good gut health for inflammation, but this is the most informative article of them all. Thanks so much and keep up the good work!

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