Do you ever experience pain post-workout? This can be the result of tissue inflammation, which is the body’s natural immune response to training. Within a few hours after a workout, the immune system triggers a series of reactions to help repair tissue damage to muscles and the joints. The first phase of the inflammatory response is the accumulation of blood at the site of the muscle damage, which can cause swelling, heat and stiffness. Next, white blood cells migrate to the site and collect debris from the damaged cells. Lastly, macrophages step in to finish the clean-up and stimulate tissue regeneration. It usually takes about 48 hours for recovery, unless you have experienced a serious injury. Since this is an immune response, there is some resistance developed during this process— termed the repeated bout effect— which provides protection during subsequent exercise sessions.
In essence, it is thought that the immune system responds better each time you exercise, providing protection against muscle damage. In addition to tissue inflammation, joints can also start to feel the pain of repetitive and intense workouts over time. Joints, just like muscle tissue, experience damage during exercise, undergoing a similar inflammatory response to repair damage. However, joints are not as resilient as muscle tissue, and over time the lubrication and cartilage that protects the joints begins to wear thin, causing stiffness and pain.
Managing inflammation post-exercise can help you recover faster, enhance your training adaptations, perform better in workouts and avoid overuse injuries. Unfortunately as we get older our bodies take longer to repair themselves, thus it is important to adapt our workouts as we see fit to avoid developing any serious injuries later on down the road. In fact, if you continually train hard, you may not be allowing your body adequate time to heal muscle damage between workouts. The result can be chronic inflammation and pain.
What can we do to limit post-workout inflammation in the muscle and joint without compromising our workouts? For starters, use some common sense and adapt your training program. If you know a certain exercise bothers your joints or causes pain, simply don’t do it. Find another exercise that can work the same muscle group in a different way. After all, would you rather train or be injured?! Secondly, if you are going to train hard, go slow. Don’t jump into a workout of 4-6 reps if you have been only training 12-15 reps for the past year. Ease your body into the workout, allowing your immune response adequate amount of time to keep up— remember the repeated bout effect. Your body can handle tissue stress equal or lesser to your previous workout. Only workouts that are harder than normal can cause post-workout inflammation and pain. Lastly, invest in a few great supplements to help keep your inflammation under control. Here are a few you should consider using post-workout.
Avocado combined with soy unsaponifiables is a natural extract of phytosterols including beta-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol. Benefits include maintaining healthy joints and cholesterol levels. Research has shown that this combination is more effective at decreasing pain, improving joint mobility over traditional glucosamine and chondroitin.
Dosage: 300 to 600 mg per day.
Extracts of boswellia have been used to treat osteoarthritis and joint pain to reduce pain and inflammation of the joint.
Dosage: 300 to 500 mg with extract standardized to 30 to 40 percent boswellic acids taken 2 to 3 times per day.
This is a primary structural component that exists with cartilage in the joints. It’s commonly combined with glucosamine and used to treat osteoarthritis and joint inflammation.
Dosage: 500 mg taken three times per day.
Fish oils contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that have an ability to block the production of cytokines that are involved in the inflammatory response. By taking fish oils you can reduce post-workout inflammation.
Dosage: Two to four 1,000 mg soft gels, taken one to two times daily before meals
Glucosamine is a structural component found in cartilage and is involved in flexibility and mobility of joints. This amino sugar has been shown to slow cartilage degeneration and repair connective tissue. It can also increase sulphate uptake and boost the body’s natural joint lubricant production of synovial fluid.
Dosage: 500 mg taken three times per day
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that has been shown to aid in recovery, reduce protein catabolism and increase protein metabolism. Its presence is found in the blood, gut and the skeletal muscles and is used as a main source of fuel for the immune system. Supplementing with glutamine essentially reduces the amount of glutamine that is robbed from the muscles cells to fuel immune function. As a result, supplementation may help to reduce the amount of muscle deterioration that occurs during training, because the glutamine available in the muscle cells will be utilized for protein metabolism and reduction of protein catabolism.
Dosage: 5 g per day after workouts.
Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM is a pure, non-toxic, naturally occurring element. It supports healthy cartilage and connective tissue in the body, but also supports healthy skin, hair and nails.
Dosage: 2,000 mg taken two times per day.
Shark cartilage contains high amounts of calcium, chondroitin and glucosamine. It can reduce inflammation and joint pain.
Dosage: 5 to 10 g, taken one to three times per day.
UC II or undenatured collagen type II is predominantly isolated from chicken cartilage. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis, including decreasing cartilage deterioration, reducing pain and inflammation.
Dosage: 500 mg taken three times per day.
Vitamin C helps protect muscle cells from free radical damage brought on by a workout by acting as an antioxidant itself and by helping generate other antioxidants. Vitamin C can also help regenerate vitamin E back to the active state.
Dosage: 500 to 1,000 mg per day.
Abel-Tawab M, Werz O, Schubert-Zsilavecz M. Boswellia serrata: an overall assessment of in vitro, preclinical, pharmacokinetic and clinical data. Clin Pharmacokinet. 2011; 50(6): 349-69.
Angermann P. Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables in the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Ugeskr Laeger. 2005 Aug 15; 167(33):3023-5.
Black C, et al. The clinical effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements in slowing or arresting progression of osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review and economic evaluation. Health Technol Assess. 2009; 13(52): 1-148.
Chuang-Ying Y, Lei Z. Effects of shark cartilage polysaccharides on the secretion of IL-6 and IL-12 in rheumatoid arthritis. Pharm Biol. 2012; 50(12): 1567-72.
Crowley DC, Lau FC, Sharma P, Evans M, Guthrie N, Bagchi M, Bagchi D, Dey DK, Raychaudhuri SP. Safety and efficacy of undenatured type II collagen in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a clinical trial. Int J Med Sci. 2009; 6(6):313-321.
Debbi EM, Agar G, Fichman G, Ziv YB, Kardosh R, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11:50.
Kaminski, M., and R. Boal. An effect of ascorbic acid on delayed-onset muscle soreness. Pain. 1992; 50:317-321.
Lippiello L, Nardo JV, Harlan R, Chiou T. Metabolic Effects of Avocado/Soy Unsaponifiables on Articular Chondrocytes. Evid Based Complement Alternative Med. 2008; 5(2): 191-197.
Maheu E, Mazieres B, Valat JP, Loyau G, et al. Symptomatic efficacy of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial with a six-month treatment period and a two-month followup demonstrating a persistent effect. Arthritis Rheum. 1998 41(1): 81-91.
Medline Plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/
Rowbottom DG, Keast D, Morton AR. The emerging role of glutamine as an indicator of exercise stress and overtraining. Sports Medicine.