Every athlete has experienced muscle fatigue. A tough game, a hard run, a long tennis match. It feels good while you are doing it, but the next day can be painful. Your body is screaming for recovery, and you should listen!
Watching the many games the soccer players had to play over the last couple weeks at the World Cup in Russia was exciting and fun. But for most of those players it also meant to challenge their bodies over and over again for a 90 or sometimes 120 minute game. The average soccer player at the World Cup runs a 10 K on the field, and that does not take into consideration fouls.
It comes as no surprise that most National Teams are stacked with a team of trainers, doctors and physical therapists. ,,The medical staff is just as important to our team as our strategy is to win a game”, says Didier Deschamps, the French Natioal Team coach.
But how do you recover after a taxing physical event? What is the best way to help your muscles heal from fatigue? – We first need to answer what muscle fatigue really is?
It is generally defined as a decreased ability to perform muscle actions. If you have muscle fatigue, you will likely have a hard time getting a specific muscle to continue working, even if you attempt to change the type of activity you are trying to engage in.
Here’s a more specific look at what we know about muscle fatigue causes:
Lactic acid: This acid is released during physical exertion and used as energy. When the body has used all the lactate it can handle, the remaining lactate is stored in the muscles, which leads to increased acidity in the muscles. This acidity causes muscle pain, soreness, spasms, and cramps. Lactic acid can build up when a process called anaerobic respiration occurs. This happens when oxygen is used up and decreases to the point where cells start respiring anaerobically.
Mineral deficiencies: Minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes are required for muscle function, but if a person is deficient in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as other important nutrients, it can lead to muscle fatigue and cramps. This is why whole-food sources and drinks, as well as supplements, are so important to athletes.
Not warming up: The most common cause of muscle fatigue and soreness is a failure to warm up properly before physical activity. Sudden physical exertion can shock the muscles since they have been in a restful state. By gently warming up, you send the muscles a warning signal, increase blood flow, and increase oxygen levels.
Now that we know what causes muscle fatigue, we want to provide you with the answer of how to treat muscle fatigue.
1. Rest, rest and more rest
In most cases, muscle fatigue is something that doesn’t require a lot of attention. In fact, it is often just a matter of resting for 24 hours. Depending on the severity of the fatigue, rest may be needed for a couple of days. Resting is important because it allows your muscles to recover and repair themselves. If you are looking for a cure for muscle fatigue, check out some of the tips below.
Warm up/cool down: Before exercise, make sure you take time to stretch your muscles and warm up. After your workout, you should also perform stretching exercises. The general rule is to do dynamic stretches before a workout and longer sessions of static stretches after a workout. An example of a dynamic stretch is walking lunges. Static stretches are any stretches that are held in a challenging, but comfortable position for 10 to 30 seconds.
Hot and cold therapy: Some experts suggest placing an ice pack on the area that is sore and then switching to a hot pack. It is important to make sure that you don’t apply ice directly to the skin, and that you leave it on for no longer than 10 to 15 minutes.
Eat enough: Since muscles need energy in order to function well, you have to get enough protein and other nutrients. Consuming fresh, wholesome food every day is important. Some people turn to protein shakes or other supplements. There are individuals who believe that eating protein right after a workout can help repair microscopic tears in muscle tissue and build new muscle.
Massage: Getting a professional massage can help loosen tight muscles, which can cause weak muscles. Communicate with the masseuse so they know what may have caused the muscle tightness. This will help them choose the right massage technique to use on you and what muscles to target.
Cream: Some people find that cream containing methyl salicylate helps relax and energize the muscles. This cream is a topical analgesic commonly found in arthritis and muscle rubs.
Ginger: Ginger capsules, tea, and extracts can be consumed to relieve discomfort in muscles. In heated and raw form, ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory properties with a pain-relieving effect.
2. Get back into it
Once your muscles feel a bit better, start thinking about getting back into your exercise routine. Try to take it easy in the beginning, that way you can avoid injury, because tired muscles do have a tendency to get injured more easily. If you are an athlete you should always consult with your coach or a physical therapist to make sure you follow the right path to a good recovery.