Food and supplements to fight DOMS

Elena Casiraghi, Ph.D - Equipe Enervit
Scientists call them DOMS. To put it simply, a great muscle pain. The pain of the next day is a muscle soreness that affects most athletes. Every athlete, in his or her own experience with exercise, has undoubtedly experienced this type of discomfort, sometimes even pain, typical of the hours following intense or prolonged training. There are no real strategies to prevent them. However, there are foods that can help them recover more quickly and effectively. Let's try to understand more.

What are DOMS?

The term D.O.M.S. stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. It is described as pain that gradually gives way to a feeling of discomfort and soreness. It affects the muscles that have been subjected to a certain exercise. Usually it is felt intensely the day after the effort, it may be slightly higher in the following 48 hours and it decreases significantly and progressively. This time window, however, can be improved through our nutrition, as well as through when we decide to eat food or integrators based on our training or racing session.

How does DOMS happen?

This is a muscle pain that occurs between 12 and 48 hours after intense muscle activity. Main cause of DOMS is not attributable to a deposit of lactic acid in the muscles - as some athletes wrongly think - but to micro lacerations in the muscle tissue produced during training, especially through muscle contractions. It's nothing to worry about.

It is a physiological process, completely natural.

In 1998 prof. Enrico Arcelli demonstrated that these micro lacerations occur, in particular on the Z lines of sarcomere. We can rest assured, it's not irreparable damage. These micro injuries occur after almost every workout. They will repair faster than the neophyte in the most advanced and experienced sportsman - but let’s pay attention to our nutrition. It is necessary to distinguish between the annoying pains felt by the beginner and the DOMS of those who practice a constant and demanding physical activity.

Duration of the DOMS is correlated with the process of muscle reconstruction, they usually disappear within a maximum of 3-4 days after intense and/or prolonged physical activity.

Foods and supplements for athletes with DOMS

Swimming and cycling can help to resolve these microlesions more quickly. Nutrition is also a good help. In fact, this is something that must not be overlooked in any way.

Branched chain amino acids

There are three of them: leucine, valine and isoleucine. These are "essential" substances for the body. This means that our body is not able to synthesize them and must necessarily assimilate them through foods or supplements. Just to give you an idea, for a healthy, sedentary subject weighing about 70 kg, the recommended requirement of branched chain amino acids is 5.4 grams per day, of which 2.4 grams of leucine, 1.6 of valine and 1.4 of isoleucine. These substances are present in all foods that contain proteins, ranging from 15% to over 22%. If you have a varied and omnivorous diet, i.e. with all food sources there is generally no problem in reaching these quantities. Things change, however, when you play sports and have a diet that includes foods that are mainly or solely derived from foods of vegetable origin. The concentration of BCAA in these foods is low.

After exercising it is essential to assume leucine as it promotes the synthesis of new proteins, thus helping faster and more effective muscle recovery. The optimal amount of leucine to be taken after intense or prolonged effort should be 2-3 g. This concentration, in fact, helps to repair more quickly the microlesions in the muscles and responsible for the DOMS or muscle pain afterwards. For this repair process to take place more quickly and effectively, it is good to take the BCAA in the first half hour after the training session or race or, even better, when combined with a source of carbohydrates as the two substances taken in this way will enter muscle cells more quickly. These are molecules that you can take with food.

However, if you don't want to leave anything to chance and take only the substances you need as quickly as possible, then the advice is to rely on powdered recovery mixtures conceived for athletes and to be diluted in water.

Protein-based foods with high biological value

Treating the first half hour by taking BCAA and carbohydrates is essential. The recovery and therefore the repair of the microlesions must continue even during the meals that follow the end of the session. Here new "bricks" must be taken to reconstruct the damaged muscle fibres. For this reason, it is essential to consume foods that are a source of protein with a high biological value, i.e. rich in BCAA, such as chicken, turkey, rabbit or bresaola or egg white. For vegetarians and vegans, tofu is good.

Carbohydrate-rich foods

Branched-chain essential amino acids, high biological value proteins and carbohydrates. The D.O.M.S. in fact - in prolonged runs, for example - are manifested not only for the repeated landing phases of the foot added in the session, but also their onset is accelerated when there is no more glycogen in the muscle, exactly as it happens towards the end of these exits. Also, this applies at the end of a football match or a cycling or triathlon competition, for example. It is therefore a good idea not to show up at the start of races or long training sessions with few carbohydrates in the muscles and, if this happens due to close training sessions that do not allow complete regeneration of the glycogen, it is a good idea to act by preparing a sugar-based integration strategy - for example in the form of sports gels, energy bars or tablets.


That turmeric is a precious substance is now a fact. It is no coincidence that for thousands of years it has been used in the preparation of medicines among numerous populations. Curcuma Longa L. is rich in molecules called curcuminoids of which curcumin is the most active. In the past turmeric root was used to treat rheumatism, joint pain and swelling, wounds and infections, skin problems, intestinal disorders, as well as swelling of the lower abdomen, liver discomfort, inflammation, fever and arthritis. All this without knowing its mechanism of action. Today, thanks to numerous studies, much more is known and how curcumin works in the body is (almost) no longer a secret for scientists. For this reason, curcumin is still used as a highly effective active ingredient in modern medicine today.

Its action is to block triggers of inflammation. In practice, NF-kB (transcription factor also involved in the immune defense) and TNF-alpha play a central role in the inflammatory response. Nothing complicated. Just imagine these two factors as real switches that when in ON mode trigger inflammation.

Late muscle pain is a real state of inflammation that can affect every athlete.

An effective anti-inflammatory action is required to turn them off. Therefore curcumin, which seems to be among the most effective natural substances, acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These are essential fatty acids, which means that the body cannot function without them and must be taken from our diet, just like the BCAA. They have a powerful anti-inflammatory capacity and, therefore, if taken consistently, they can not only speed up recovery from minor inflammation and "heal" damaged tissues, but also reduce the extent of these microlesions in future sessions. The omega 3 fatty acids in fact have the ability to support healing inflammation. In other words, to "solve" inflammation more quickly thanks to the synthesis of substances called resolvins. In sport and, more generally, in situations where there is an increased need, it is possible to take them in the appropriate quantities from food supplements.

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