5 Food Sources That Bring Trashed Muscles Back From The Dead And Ready For More

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By Eric Buratty | Published May 1, 2015

Given the large number of texts and emails I receive from sore clients after following my workouts or other intense training programs, I thought I’d put together some info that would finally help you recover faster, and remain motivated about achieving your fitness goals.

Whether you’re new to exercise or you’re an elite-level athlete, you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon known as delayed onset of muscular soreness—often abbreviated as ‘DOMS.’

When taken for granted, DOMS can impact strength, muscle mass, performance, motivation to train and even increase injury risk (17).


Overview of DOMS & What to Expect After Challenging Workouts

DOMS is most commonly a result of localized/micro-trauma to muscle tissue during an eccentric contraction (3).

However, it generally shows up whenever you move more than you’re accustomed to—or place stress on a certain muscle area that you normally don’t use much.

So it should make sense that, the more of a beginner you are, the faster DOMS will settle in after a challenging workout.

Likewise, the more healthy and active you already are, the slower DOMS will settle in after a challenging workout.

Depending on which category you fall into, the DOMS window will generally be the strongest between 24-48 hours after an intense workout.

Comparing recovery time between fit and unfit person

Comparing recovery time between fit and unfit person

Injury Risk as it Relates to Your Ability to Balance Stress and Recovery

Injury Risk as it Relates to Your Ability to Balance Stress and Recovery

Before highlighting some key fuel sources that encourage faster recovery, though, there are two other factors to consider when determining the extent to which DOMS will occur for you.

The first factor reflects your rate of adaptation to a given stimulus (19).

This simply refers to your rate of training progress—relative to your baseline activity level(s).

If you lack training experience, you may find it difficult to balance frequency and intensity well—which will leave you surprisingly sore—even after finishing some of the best-programmed workouts of your life.

If you have more training experience, soreness still shows up a bit for muscles you regularly use—but sneaks up even more when exercise selection, order, rep range, energy systems and rate of perceived exertion are modified.

The second factor reflects your level of exercise post-oxygen consumption—often abbreviated as ‘EPOC.’

This simply refers to how much effort you put into your workout recovery from a nutritional/dietary standpoint to allow for greater oxygen intake/uptake in your bloodstream—to ultimately support muscle repair.

If you have been previously misinformed of what eating a healthy diet is all about, you will have a much slower recovery capacity than someone who is already feeding their muscles nutrient-dense fuel sources on a regular basis (6, 23, 24).

This brings us to some really good news: you do have more control than what you think for mitigating soreness from current and future workouts.

This really is the key difference between those of you who want overnight success and those of you who have chosen the path of a healthier lifestyle.

Your 5 Major Fuel Source Categories that Bring Trashed Muscles Back from the Dead and Ready for More


1. Kick start your recovery by staying hydrated with beverages that partition essential nutrients towards muscle cells instead of fat cells (4, 10, 12, 13) .

  • 2-4 L. Cold Water (depending on intensity of activity and personal hydration requirements), 1-2 C. Herbal/Caffeine-Free Tea in Hot Water, 1-2 C. Chilled Coconut Water


2. Reduce soreness by minimizing acute inflammation around joints & tendons with antioxidant/enzyme-rich sugar sources. (1, 5, 6, 14, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

  • 1 C. Tart Cherry Juice or Frozen/Fresh Cherries, 1 C. Frozen/Fresh Pineapple (NOT canned), 1 Tbsp. RAW Honey


3. Repair localized muscle trauma with highly accessible, complete protein sources to facilitate protein synthesis (7, 9, 15, 18).

  • 3-5 Omega-3/Cage-Free Eggs, 6-8 oz. Wild-Caught Salmon (filet), 1 C. Quinoa (cooked measure)


4. Prevent chronic physical and mental inflammation with plant source omega-3 fatty acids (6, 11, 18, 23, 24).

  • ½ C. Raw/Unsalted Tree Nuts or Seeds (e.g., walnuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds), 1 Avocado


5. Reinforce a positive adaptation response for current and future workouts with immunity-boosting fiber sources (2, 6, 14, 16).

  • 1 Colored Bell Pepper, 1 C. Mushrooms, 5 C. of ANY Cruciferous & Leafy Greens (e.g., Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli)


Practical Application & “Minimum Effective Dose”

What’s the smallest dose that will prevent excessive soreness?

  • Consume AT LEAST ONE of the recommended servings/portion sizes from EACH CATEGORY on a daily basis for best results.

Yes—this means eating these foods on your regular training days AND your “off” days.

Try not to get too caught up into the timing of when you consume these foods/drinks.

Learn to listen to your body.

Additionally, try not sitting for extended periods of time right after a challenging workout—or even worse, going full potato for a few days afterwards while throwing back some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.

A reasonable suggestion I offer to my personal clients is to sit in a squat position or walk around for five (5) minutes for every 60 minutes spent in an office chair or car seat.

This suggestion can serve as a stand alone activity, or it may be used to supplement your regular workout routines.

Stretching is encouraged as well, but there is no official evidence on its ability to prevent soreness yet (8).


At the end of the day, DOMS will sneak up on you at some point—regardless of whether you’re new to the whole fitness thing or if you’re already healthy & strong.

This is because the degree of DOMS experienced depends on your genetics, muscle area(s) trained, hydration, nutrition and sleep habits.

While it’s understandable why some people might associate soreness with increased muscle mass and overall progress (19), the truth is that soreness is not necessarily the best indicator of a “good” workout.

So, until you can commit to viewing food as fuel and disciplining yourself toward meeting the baseline recovery requirements highlighted above, don’t act surprised when soreness sneaks up on you and impacts your training or aesthetic goals.

When all else fails, just remember that, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! 😉


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