Nobody likes feeling sore the morning after a workout. You were just trying to take care of yourself, maybe build up some muscle while you were at it.
It turns out post-workout soreness isn’t just some annoying morning-after side effect – it’s preventing muscle breakdown. Especially if you haven’t exercised in awhile.
A study published last month in Nature Communications confirmed what we already knew. Your muscles fully repair themselves after a few days, and the soreness subsides. But this isn’t just because of healed muscle fibers. It’s also because of a very specific biological signal, telling you it’s safe to train hard again.
Think of muscle soreness and fatigue as something like the engine light turning on in your car. Even though it might not seem like anything’s wrong, it’s your car’s way of saying, “Hey, maybe you should drive me less … and get me checked out, please?”
Muscle soreness doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong – yet. But if you continue to train as hard as you just did, and ‘push through the pain,’ you’re probably going to overdo it … and you’ll have to deal with the consequences.
To put it simply, there’s a huge buildup of calcium when you workout your muscles. This can actually activate proteins in your muscles that cause them to start breaking down. If you continue to overexert yourself, there’s no way for your body to stop this process – bad news if you’re trying to gain.
If you do ease off a bit, as you should, you’re pretty much safe. Your muscle fibers store the calcium in small holes, which disappear as your muscles heal and repair. Once the holes are gone, your body sends you the OK – you stop feeling sore.
MP’s Take: The more consistent your workouts are, the better. Working out puts a lot of strain on your muscles. It’s a good thing – that’s what helps you gain. Soreness happens when your body tries to warn you that your muscles are vulnerable to damage. If you go even a week without training, your muscles lose that resistance to calcium buildup you’ve accumulated. So stick to a schedule as best you can. Learn the most effective ways to handle post-workout muscle soreness to stay in shape and get results.