Everyone’s making their new year resolutions now, and I’m no different. Here’s a look at what I resolve to do/change in 2018!
Anyone who has exercised a day in their life is familiar with those aches and pains you get during workouts. And then of course, the ‘morning after’ pains — those groan-inducing aches that can almost make you rethink working out in the first place. Well, those aches have a name – DOMS.
DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s essentially caused by tiny tears that occur in the muscle fibre during workouts. Before you freak out about ‘tears’ in the muscle fibre, let me be clear — that’s completely normal. During intense workouts, tiny (like, microscopic tiny!) tears are caused in the engaged muscles. The body then works to rebuild these muscles, a process that burns calories. That’s essentially how exercise works to help you build muscle and burn fat even post your workout, by the way. Your lesson for the day!
Coming back to what DOMS is all about. According to studies and observations, DOMS is noted as being caused more by eccentric portions of resistance exercises than concentric ones. Eccentric muscle movements are those in which the muscles are lengthened — for instance, the lowering motion during a bicep curl. Conversely, concentric muscle movements are the ones where the muscle is contracted or squeezed, like the lifting/curling motion of a bicep curl. The reason for this is that eccentric training causes greater muscle fiber and connective tissue disruption, and greater release of enzymes associated with muscle damage.
Let me throw some science at you now. During exercise, damage occurs not only to the muscle fibres themselves, but also to the muscle cell membrane, known as the sarcolemma. This causes a small amount of inflammation or swelling in the affected muscle. The pain of DOMS is often not just the pain of tears in the muscle tissue, but of the edema or inflammation that follows the workout.
Now I know a lot of people who equate the pain of DOMS to a successful workout — “Oh man, my quads are killing me, I totally crushed those squats”, or “Man, my abs hurt when I laugh, I guess those crunches are doing their job!” This isn’t quite an accurate way to judge the success or efficacy of a workout, though. You can have a perfectly good workout without feeling DOMS, and you can feel DOMS without a truly optimal workout. The whole ‘No pain, no gain’ adage is frightfully misleading!
DOMS is, however, one indicator of possible future hypertrophy. When the body heals muscle tears, much like white blood cells battle an infection, the tears are reinforced with slightly stronger muscle tissue than the original. In this roundabout way, localised inflammation – a source of DOMS – leads to a growth response that increases the ability of the muscle tissue to withstand future damage!
That said, I must emphasise again — DOMS is NOT to be considered a direct marker of a successful workout. I know a lot of trainers who will have you believe that soreness is the goal, and that it signifies you’ve truly worked your muscles. For want of a better term, that falls under the category of ‘bro science’. Training with DOMS as the end goal can leave you feeling dissatisfied with your workout, or even straining yourself to the point of injury in your quest for soreness.
Different bodies also experience DOMS differently. But it commonly sets in within 8 to 12 hours of a workout, and stays uncomfortable for about 36 to 48 hours, post which the discomfort eases.
Is there such a thing as too much soreness? Indeed there is. All too often, I see participants and clients push themselves far too hard, not realising they’re doing more harm than good. Let me put it this way — if you can’t comb your hair the day after an upper body workout because you’re in too much pain, you went too far. That level of soreness likely means you’ve caused muscle damage beyond what your body can repair in a day. Should that happen, rest the area. Pushing through the pain is not heroic, it’s foolhardy.
And of course, the million-dollar question — Can anything be done to ease DOMS? Absolutely! A great way to start is with a hot shower post your workout. The heat gets the blood rushing to your muscles, and helps speed up recovery. If you’re bathing rather than showering, adding salt to your bath water has been known to help. Gentle massage and stretching can also improve circulation, and ease some of the cramping. If you’re very uncomfortable, taking an OTC anti-inflammatory like Combiflam or ibuprofen can help, too — just don’t make a habit of it.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, one of the best ways to ease muscle soreness, is to exercise. A little light cardio gets the muscles warm and the blood pumping, which accelerates muscle regeneration. It’s important to note, however, that this works only for regular DOMS that doesn’t cripple you. If you have intense soreness (like being unable to comb your hair or sit in a chair), then simply rest and try the earlier tips.
In case you’d rather not have to deal with DOMS at all, well… sorry bro, that isn’t really an option (unless you simply stop exercising, which should not be an option!). The best precaution to minimise DOMS is to ensure you warm up properly before any workout. Ensuring your muscles are warm and stretchy helps minimise the damage they endure during your routine. So work up a good sweat, and maybe even add a little foam rolling to loosen up more, before you head for those weights.
Now that you understand DOMS a little better, go forth and conquer that workout! And if you have any of your own personal remedies for the post-workout pain fest, leave them in the comments so other people can give them a try 🙂
A whole month of the low carb diet, and goodness, so many changes! But we’ll talk about my progress in a bit. First, let’s talk about the food!
Breakfast was a Peanut Butter smoothie, and it was yummy as ever! It really is a lovely drink to start the day with, and the fact that it’s loaded with protein just makes it better.
Lunch was the Ultra Low Carb (ULC) Rotis with Chicken Korma. The rotis were as good as they usually are, and the chicken korma was yum! Had a lovely, almost homemade flavour to it.
This was also a day I wasn’t feeling too great (ugh, PMS!), so I made myself some coconut milk coffee around mid-morning. I’m quite liking this version of coffee. It’s super creamy! Have you guys tried it yet?
Dinner was Chicken Tikka skewers with Mint Chutney. These were very tasty, but honestly at this point in the diet, the skewers are getting a little monotonous. Not bad at all, but yes, a tad boring.
Today was the Guava Smoothie again. A few of you asked me on Instagram whether the Guava Smoothie genuinely tasted good, and I must say, it really does. The smoothie is very creamy, and the guava flavour is fresh and delicate.
Lunch was a big block of cheese. It was labelled ‘Aubergine Chicken Parmigiana’, but it was so much cheese I could barely see any of the aubergine or chicken! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all. It was beyond delicious, and probably the only way I could ever eat aubergine.
I mean, look at it!
Dinner was the ULC Cheese & Chicken Paratha, and man, this one’s a goodie. Here too, they’re super generous with the cheese! I usually pop it in the microwave for 30sec just to get the cheese all melted and gooey before I eat it. Mmmmmm!
Today’s smoothie was the Mango one, and this one’s probably ranks in my Top 5 for Grow Fit’s smoothie collection. The flavour is fresh and not synthetic like so many mango drinks usually are. It’s almost like having a mango milkshake for breakfast (speaking of which, I’m missing Elco so bad!)
Lunch was the ULC Chicken Cauliflower Falafel Wrap. This one really wasn’t great, and I couldn’t finish more than half of it. Needed a lot more flavour, and it was way too dry for my liking.
Dinner made up for lunch’s disappointment, though. The Aachaari Chicken was wonderfully spicy and tangy, and paired really well with the ULC Rotis.
The Strawberry Power Smoothie is probably my third favourite, after Coffee and Peanut Butter. So I was more than happy to start my day with it!
Lunch was Chicken Shaslik with BBQ Sauce. While this was another skewer recipe, this one avoided the monotony I mentioned earlier by incorporating BBQ sauce. The resulting skewers were juicy, with a nice smokey flavour. Delish!
Dinner was a chunk of cheese again. They called it Cauliflower & Chicken Au Gratin, and I juuusstt about managed to find some cauliflower and chicken under all that glorious cheese! Man, if all keto food is this good, I could get used to this diet.
This glorious Saturday started with an Orange Smoothie. Not one of my favourites, but it definitely isn’t bad.
Lunch was PIZZAAA! *does happy dance*
I swear, I look at each week’s menu and check for when there’s pizza, because this is THE BEST GODDAMN PIZZA I HAVE EVER EATEN, and you can quote me on that! If there ever were a meal to convince people to try the keto diet, it is this.
I went out for dinner with old friends from school, and they were awesome enough to pick an Italian restaurant so I could find keto-friendly food. We headed to Toscano’s, where I ordered the Grilled Arabian Sea Bass with lemon-caper butter sauce and grilled vegetables. It’s normally served with roasted potatoes too, but I asked for extra grilled veggies instead. I also had a glass of Sula Chenin Blanc, which I sipped on through the night.
After a super restful sleep (despite sleeping later than usual), I awoke on this lovely Sunday to my favourite, the Coffee Power Smoothie. Great way to start a Sunday, I must say!
Lunch was Ema Datshi, a Bhutanese dish. This got J super excited, because he grew up in Bhutan! It was a mix of veggies and chicken in a spicy, hearty, coconut milk soup. It was my first time ever trying this dish, and I freaking loved it! (Note to self: Plan a trip to Bhutan soon!)
Dinner was… wait for it… chicken biryani! It was cauliflower-rice biryani, but honestly, you wouldn’t have guessed it wasn’t rice. It was really flavoursome, and the chicken chunks were tender and perfectly spiced. Yum!
The final day of week 4!
Breakfast was a Thandai smoothie. Not one of my favourites, but that’s because I’ve never really liked the flavour of Thandai.
Lunch was ULC Rotis with Chicken Paneer Curry. An interesting mix, the curry had a very Butter Chicken flavour to it. Much yum!
Dinner was Cheese Grilled Chicken. A delicious end to my keto journey with Grow Fit!
Yes, my nutritionist has now switched me from a low carb keto diet to what is known as ‘carb cycling’, which can be summarised as switching between low carb and burst of carbs. This process is said to help build lean muscle faster, when combined with more protein intake (which I’m already on).
Before you think that this means keto is a bad idea, allow me to clarify. I’m being switched to this pattern because my workout routine is fairly intense, and I was losing muscle mass. My nutritionist assures me that this change in my diet will allow me to continue to lose fat, without also losing muscle. And I trust her. 🙂
Now that we’re done talking about the food, let’s get down to how the diet has made me feel. I think 4 weeks is a decent measure of time to judge these sort of results, and so here goes.
Let me start with the most measurable change, my weight. In just 4 weeks, I have lost a bit over 3 kilos. Since I know that could easily have been water weight, I also got a BMI body scan done at my gym, which showed that I had lost 1 kilo of fat in a little under a month! Anyone who has been trying to lose fat knows that that is pretty great to accomplish in such a short time. Even my trainer was astonished!
There are less measurable benefits of the keto diet too, of course. My skin has become so clear, soft, and radiant, that I’ve been receiving compliments on a near daily basis. My energy levels are great, and I no longer feel any sort of slump by afternoon. In fact, I barely drink coffee anymore, that’s how high my energy has been!
I also sleep much more soundly, and wake up less groggy. My digestion has improved significantly, as well. I find I’m no longer bloated by the end of the day, and rarely have any acidity or flatulence. And my PCOS has been considerably reversed!
So what’s my verdict? In all honesty, I would recommend the keto diet for people looking to lose stubborn body fat, manage their blood sugar, and/or combat inflammation. In just 4 weeks, I’ve seen a massive amount of positive results in those three areas. I cannot comment on long-term effects or sustainability, because I have not tried it myself. That said, I know several who have been on keto for months, even years, and have zero complaints. The results are there for people to see.
It is difficult, I will admit. I had the luxury of Grow Fit sending me my meals, but had I been preparing my own food at home, I know I would have found it far more difficult to stay committed. While keto food is delicious and not always difficult to prepare, some ingredients can be expensive or hard to source (Erythritol, for instance).
It boils down to your commitment, and how strong your willpower is. You will find it difficult initially, and possibly even later. But as with anything related to health and fitness, you need to stay focused if you’re in it for the long haul.
Of course, ALWAYS remember to consult a professional when you’re looking to change up your nutrition. They’re called ‘professionals’ for a reason, and are the best people to guide you. No amount of internet research can substitute in-depth education and experience.
Will you be trying the keto lifestyle? Let me know in the comments! And remember, if you’re interested in trying out a meal plan or any of the foods from Grow Fit, you can use my coupon code TGF15 for a flat 15% discount.