26 07 20 – Post Lockdown Nutrition with James Hudson, CFSA Nutritionist
Do I need to change my diet coming out of lockdown?
Part 2 – DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness
Nutrition to deal with DOMS
DOMS is that pain you get in your muscles usually 24-72 hours post session. Two ways to create DOMS are firstly, unaccustomed exercise and secondly, training the muscle with a large amount of eccentric movement (muscle lengthening or the slow/controlled phase of the movement). Even though some of us may have been buying home training equipment, it is unlikely we have kit that will match that at the gym. When we get back to training after lockdown we need to prepare for the DOMS because training at the gym will allow us to lift heavier weights and do movements that we have not done through lockdown (basically unaccustomed exercise with more heavy eccentric movement). That, combined with the fact that we are all probably going to go too hard in the first couple of weeks, is a recipe for some pretty serious DOMS! This begs the question, what can we do with our diet to help?
The main thing nutritionally that will help with DOMS is protein intake. Mastering the basics in terms of eating high protein foods periodically throughout the day will provide the best intervention to reduce the
impending pain. Good advice is to consume a reasonably high dose of protein in each meal or snack, aiming for around 0.3-0.4g/kg.BW (grams per kilogram of body weight), and have between 4-6 meals or snacks split evenly throughout the day.
Another consideration is the protein quality, by which I really mean the quantity of the amino acid leucine that is in the high protein food. Leucine is typically higher in animal sources of protein, so if you eat an omnivorous diet there is less need to stress about the protein quality. However, if you are eating a more plant-based diet, there may be some benefit to adding a BCAA drink (which are the 3 branched chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine). These BCAAs are usually in a 2:1:1 ratio providing more leucine as this is the most important amino acid for stimulating muscle protein synthesis, which will help repair our sore muscles. Alternatively just adding some additional leucin powder to your plant-based protein shake will help. Personally as I eat a more plant-based diet I have bought an unflavoured leucine powder (which is vegan friendly) and I add this to my recovery shakes to help optimise my protein quality in that feeding.
During DOMS there is inflammation so it makes sense that having foods which are anti-inflammatory could help. It is worth noting that not all studies investigating Omega 3s and DOMS have shown a positive effect. However some have, for example one study that reduced DOMS supplemented participants with between 1.8-3g for 7 days prior to the exercise. Most capsules are about 0.7 grams, so if you fancy trying this intervention take 3-4 caps daily in the week prior. Alternatively, you do not have to supplement, so why not try and increase your intake of oily fish, which you can remember with the SMASH acronym, (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring) in the week prior to your return to training?
Polyphenols are plant chemicals that are both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and are found in many plants. Similar to Omega 3s, not all studies with polyphenols show a benefit. One study had participants consume 250 mL of the polyphenol-rich pomegranate juice, twice a day for 15 days before unaccustomed, eccentric exercise and found a reduction in arm DOMS but not leg DOMS! Another study that reported some success, trialled 355 mL of cherry juice twice a day for 8 days. You are not going to do any harm trying these at home, however you may get a little sick of pomegranate and cherry juice! Incorporating more plant foods rich in polyphenols is likely to have a beneficial impact to your diet regardless if it helps with your DOMS or not. So you have got the green light to add some extra berries to your cereal and sip green tea as much as you like.
Researchers have been looking for other nutritional interventions to help reduce the pain that DOMS brings. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet supplement that will help although interestingly, there have been a few interventions that have worked in some cases and not in others. Although we cannot say with confidence that these interventions will work, we do know they will not have a negative effect. The fun thing about nutrition is you can experiment on yourself. Everyone is different so conduct your own nutritional intervention and see what works for you.
When we get back to the gym after lockdown DOMS are going to come with a vengeance. The good news is that by optimising your protein intake you may get away with suffering slightly less. Also, consuming some extra Omega 3s, and foods like berries and green tea that are rich in polyphenols, may help to get you walking normally slightly sooner.
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