Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain you feel the days following a new or particularly intense work out, and it has been a hot topic in the literature lately. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also reduce performance, which is why it’s an area of interest for athletes in particular. Researchers published a study this month in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition covering the effects of supplementation on DOMS.
The cause of DOMS isn’t completely known, but the most accepted theory is that it results from micro-tears in your muscles from exercise. This microscopic trauma then causes inflammation which, in turn, results in pain. Although the specific causes are not well understood, we do know that DOMS causes several characteristic responses. For example, there are blood markers like inflammatory cytokines (molecules that regulate inflammation) that can tell us the extent of the DOMS. And of course, there’s the pain itself, which we call a subjective measure.
DOMS is associated most significantly with eccentric exercise. The eccentric phase of a movement occurs when you lower the weight, or resist its pull against gravity. In this study, the researchers created DOMS by using an intense eccentric workout, using at least 100% of the participant’s one rep max. This is possible because you can handle more weight on the eccentric portion of the exercise than you can on a normal lift with both an eccentric and concentric portion.
In the study, researchers chose supplementation with BCAAs and taurine to help reduce the incidence of DOMS. Since DOMS not only hurts, but can also reduce your strength, the idea was that these supplements may accelerate recovery. BCAAs are abundant in the muscle and may play a major role in regulating protein synthesis, the process of repairing and growing muscle. So, naturally, they may also play a role in reducing the causes of DOMS by repairing the tissue faster. Taurine has been shown to protect cells against the cytokines that can cause damage and inflammation to the cells. So the taurine could, theoretically, prevent the root cause of DOMS.
The participants of the study were all subjected to an eccentric workout to induce soreness and then put into one of several groups. One group took both taurine and BCAAs together, another group took one or the other, and a third group took only a placebo. The participants who took BCAAs received 3.2 grams and those who took taurine received two grams. They did this three times daily for two weeks before the exercise protocol and again for three days after. The researchers assessed feelings of soreness, muscle swelling, and several blood markers.
The researchers found out that the combo of taurine and BCAAs significantly reduced muscle swelling and some of the blood markers for damage, beginning two days after exercise. Incidentally, this is also when some people are the most sore. These results indicate supplementation of taurine and BCAAs is indeed effective if you take them consistently and three times per day. As to the performance improvement from the reduced DOMS, another study is needed.
1. Song-Gyu Ra, “Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10:51, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.