7 things to do if you're sore after a workout
Help your tender muscles heal with these tips and products.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Whether you’ve been working out your whole life, for the past six weeks, or somewhere in between, you probably know the feeling: Body aches brought on by an a longer-than-usual workout, an increase in weights lifted at the gym, or a new exercise class that reminded you about muscles you forgot you had.
Some people cherish that lingering felt-the-burn sensation—or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can be felt from 24 to 72 hours post-workout—while others wish to banish it as quickly as they can. No matter how you identify, it can’t hurt to know what to do to make it pass quicker.
1. Use a foam roller
You probably know that getting a quick post-workout stretch in can help loosen up your muscles. But you can intensify the benefits of your stretch by using a foam roller, which, according to Harvard Medical School, helps release tension in the muscles and makes them less sore and more receptive to stretching. We tested a bunch of foam rollers and like the LuxFit Premium High Density Foam Roller best, thanks to its firm-but-not-too-hard texture. It also works as a stabilizer for planks and an aid for push-ups and yoga poses, so you can use it to improve your form, function, and feel during and after your workouts.
2. Go deeper with a Rumble Roller
Foam rolling is great, but sometimes you need a more thorough massage. If you can’t justify a trip to your local masseuse, a good way to get similarly therapeutic effect is with a Rumble Roller Beastie. This myofascial release tool packs a big punch in a compact package to stimulate trigger points and loosen up tension in the muscles, which helps to speed up recovery time.
3. Stay hydrated
Another way to recover faster? Drink water. Doing so—during your workout, after your workout, and throughout your day—helps replenish fluids lost from sweating, flush out enzymes that can cause soreness, and make you feel like yourself again, whether you’re recovering from hot yoga, weightlifting, or a run.
Get your fluids with our favorite water bottle, the Brita Stainless Steel Filtering Water Bottle, a 20-ounce bottle with a secure lid and built-in filter that keeps water cold and tasting great all day.
4. Get enough sleep
If you want to ensure your soreness goes away as fast as possible and you get the most out of your workout, you’ll need to get sufficient sleep. According to Sleep.org, each stage of sleep has an important impact on your body and its recovery—during the N3 stage of NREM, blood flow to the muscles increases, which helps the tissue there regrow, and during REM sleep, the muscles relax, which helps offset tension.
To reap the benefits of each sleep cycle, aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night. Need help getting (and staying) asleep? We’ve tested a bunch of sleeping products, from light-blocking eye masks to just-fluffy-enough pillows to sheets that feel like a dream to a weighted blanket that creates a soothing effect so you can get your ZZZs.
5. Move around some—but not too much
No matter how sore you feel the day after a tough workout, resist the urge to lie prostrate on your bed until it goes away, and move around a little bit. This does not mean you should hit up your local CrossFit gym—instead, do something gentle that will still get your blood moving, like a brisk walk, gentle Pilates class, or restorative yoga.
The good news is that you don’t have to leave your house to do your recovery workout if you don’t want to. Instead, pick your restorative yoga video of choice on YouTube and pair it with our top-rated yoga mat, the Lululemon Reversible Mat, which offers unrivaled stability, tactility, and just the right amount of cushion.
To mitigate these effects in the future, don’t skip your cooldown. Do a five-minute active-recovery sequence at the end of every workout, such as some calisthenics, a cool-down jog, and a stretch. This boosts your circulation and helps the blood flow through your muscles, which could prevent that achy-sore feeling in the first place.
6. Eat a snack ASAP
Refueling about 45 minutes after a workout can help speed up recovery time, according to ACSM. What’s most effective is to eat a snack or meal containing a mix of carbohydrates and protein, like yogurt with fruit, a smoothie with whey protein, or whole wheat toast with nut butter. (The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for adults is .8 grams for every kilogram of body weight, according to Harvard Medical School.)
Or sip on this: A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that athletes who drank tart cherry juice for five days before, the day of, and for 48 hours after running a marathon recovered faster than those who did not. This is likely because tart cherries are a great source of antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation in the muscles and thus aids in muscle recovery after hard exercise.
7. Drink coffee
Yes, really: Your daily cup of coffee may just help reduce post-workout muscle soreness. In a study conducted at the University of Georgia and published in the Journal of Pain, researchers found that subjects who consumed “moderate” doses of caffeine—about two cups of coffee—before working out reduced muscle pain by up to 48 percent.
This may be because caffeine has some pain-killing properties and can be found in over-the-counter painkillers like Anacin, Excedrin, and Midol, according to the Cleveland Clinic. So, if you already drink coffee, it can’t hurt to time daily caffeine doses with your workouts.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.