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Blackcurrants and Muscle Soreness: Avoiding the DOMS

Delayed onset muscle soreness is one of those things that you have to live with if you do exercise. In basic terms, the tightness in the muscles a day or so after doing something which makes your muscles tired is as a result of inflamation. There are various theories about why it happens, and I have my own. I am going to cover some of these ideas, and then research which though just released via the Daily Mail in the UK is actually dates back to research done 2nd September 2008. Well done the Mail for keeping up to date 😉

So what is soreness? Some have suggested that the stiffness is your body getting ready to exert itself again. Some suggest it is lactic acid build up, or even acid or other pathogen by-products which have somehow gone stale’ in the muscles. Others identify micro-tears in the muscle which the body then repairs and as it does so increases the size and strength of the muscle. Bottom line? Soreness means you have actually done some exercise, which is a good sign. It will also get less as your body becomes used to new activities until you may never notice it at all.

Various ways of removing the symptoms have been suggested. Sports masseurs boost circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids which will ease the symptoms. Recovery rides or spending a while on an exercise bike of stationary bike trainer may achieve the same thing, but if you are very sore then that might be difficult. Then there is alternative health which includes homeopathic DOMS remedies (consult an expert on this one) and acupuncture cures.

My own personal view is that I am not sure I want to get rid of my muscle soreness. The body is a clever old thing. If you have over exerted the muscle pain will be worse, and it means I have to not exercise quite as hard next time – I over did it. Think for a moment, the pain when you get a cut means you protect the injury. The inflamation in the muscles and soreness is perhaps supposed to be there. As long as your body isn’t over-reacting then many aches and pains are to stop you from doing anymore injury. If you are too sore too exercise, try some gentle exercise too ease the pain, but don’t try to do anything that will eliminate the pain so that you can push yourself again. That way you could do yourself a worse or more permanent injury.
That said, new(ish) research has suggested that a few grams of blackcurrent extract could help. Lyall et al. (2008)  has found benefits in short-term blackcurrant extract consumption

“Our findings, therefore, support the concept that fruit-derived supplements/foods may be of value for individuals undergoing regular exercise for training purposes or for those wishing to maintain general health and fitness.”


but there are caveats.

“it is still debatable whether fruit-derived supplements containing these antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory properties complement or counteract the adaptive health benefits achieved by regular exercise.”

The research used commonly available off-the-shelf blackcurrent (BC) health supplements.

So despite the Daily Mail’s slightly rash headline, which the BBC picked up as solid evidence, the jury is still out.
The result is that blackcurrants, like everything else, can form part of a well balanced diet, but you may still have to put up with aches and pains from time to time.


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