How to Recover from Sore Muscles After Exercise

Whether you work out five days a week or are recently getting back into exercise, sore muscles can happen. You usually experience soreness most when you’ve done something your body isn’t used to. Thankfully, there are ways to help you feel better instead of pushing through the pain. You can also help prevent intense soreness in the future.

Taking time to rest and recover with the muscle soreness recovery tips below will benefit you throughout your health journey.

Light Stretching and Massage

Don’t underestimate the power of stretching your muscles, especially when they are sore after a workout! Some gentle stretching can really help release tightness—but the key word is gentle. Stretch to the point of feeling tightness, but not so much it’s painful.

You can also try using a foam roller (with help from a fitness expert) to massage the muscles or just get a regular massage. This can help break up knots and increase circulation in the sore areas.

Consume Muscle Recovery Foods

What you eat has an impact on all aspects of your health, including muscle soreness recovery. Here are some foods that can help your body build and repair.


Protein is vital for muscle building and maintenance after exercise. Strength training and intense workouts break down lean muscle, and your body needs protein to build it back up. This makes it one of the most important muscle recovery foods.

Eat something with protein and some carbs right after a workout. The recommended ratio is generally around 4:1 protein to carbs. That could be salmon with sweet potato or beans or grilled chicken with roasted vegetables. Some people like to have a post-workout protein shake.

Having a light protein-focused snack before you go to bed can also help your muscles repair as you sleep overnight.

Omega 3

Over-exercising, stress, and poor eating habits can all promote inflammation in the body. Omega-3s are helpful as anti-inflammatory foods after exercise and may promote muscle soreness recovery.

You can get omega-3 naturally from salmon, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds.

Proteolytic Enzymes

Proteolytic enzymes, also known as proteases, are digestive enzymes found naturally in foods like pineapple, papaya, kefir, and bacteria from kimchi and sauerkraut. You can also get them in supplement form.

Proteolytic enzymes help break down proteins into amino acids and digest those left over from immune system processes and other forms of healing. This may support recovery and protein digestion at any time, including after exercise.


It’s so important to replenish fluids in your body during and after exercise. Plus, if you work out while dehydrated it can lead to fatigue and decrease your body’s ability to heal and repair. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise, as well as throughout each day.


Getting enough sleep and rest is vital for any type of recovery—including muscle soreness recovery.

Lack of sleep can have a substantial effect on recovery and exercise performance, so do your best to make time for rest if you have muscle soreness. It’s your body’s way of telling you it needs some extra downtime.

Make Good Choices Before and During Exercise

If you’re reading this when you’re already sore from exercise, you obviously can’t reverse time and follow these tips. However, there are things you can do before the next time you exercise to help prevent too much soreness:

  • Have a high-carb, low-fat snack with some protein two to three hours before exercise.
  • Do enough warming up through stretching or light cardio (this helps prevent soreness and injury).
  • Stay hydrated throughout your workout. If you sweat a lot, you should also replace electrolytes. Foods high in electrolytes like coconut water, leafy greens and other veggies, and bananas are good choices.
  • Have some coffee or caffeinated tea before exercising.

Don’t Neglect Muscle Soreness Recovery

Like with any pain in the body, muscle soreness is telling you something. Contrary to popular belief, extremely sore muscles do not always mean a better workout.

On the other hand, mild soreness is often a sign you’re getting stronger—and the longer you perform a type of exercise, the less soreness you’ll typically experience. By following the tips above, you may be able to reduce your soreness in any situation and care for your body before, during and after exercise.

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