Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is very familiar to most of us who have been working out for any length of time. Usually it only really happens when we take an extended break from our workout routine. It also happens when we start using a new piece of exercise equipment.

Any "new" thing that challenges our bodies is a good thing but we can, and usually pay for it. We have all experienced our days of soreness but what causes it and what can I do to speed up my recovery?

DOMS describes a phenomenon of muscle pain and soreness that is felt 12-48 hours following exercise, particularly at the beginning of a new exercise program, after a change in sports activities, or after a dramatic increase in the duration or intensity of exercise and subsides over the next few days.

Symptoms can range anywhere from tenderness in the muscle to severe debilitating pain. The soreness is a normal response to unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process within the body but how does this process occur?

Your body breaks down carbohydrates to produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) via the Glycolytic System. (ATP is the principle energy compound in most cells and the energy is stored within the phosphate bonds.) There are two other systems that provide energy to the system (Phosphagen and Oxidative).

The Phosphagen system produces ATP mainly for high-intensity activities like weight-training and sprinting. It kicks in at the beginning of the activity, usually between 0-6 seconds up to 20-30 seconds.

The Oxidative system is only one that is aerobic and its primary function is to provide ATP for low-intensity activities such as cycling, long distance running and swimming for longer than 3 minutes. This system doesn't just use carbohydrates for fuel. It also uses Fats and Proteins as well.

The Oxidative system doesn't typically use proteins as a fuel source very much because it doesn't want to break down muscle tissue. This is also the system for the dreaded Krebs Cycle which we have all memorized and forgotten a hundred times (also known as the Citric Acid Cycle and/or the TCA cycle).

For now, I am only going to address the Glycolytic system and its production of Lactic acid.


The primary function of the Glycolytic System is to break those carbohydrates down and produce ATP. The energy that it provides is primarily used for moderate to high intensity activities (30 sec up to 3 min).

It does this by either the Fast or Slow method and the Fast Glycolysis is where the Amino Acid Pyruvate is converted to lactic acid. (NOTE: Lactic Acid is different than Lactate. Lactate is not believed to be fatigue-producing. It is converted from lactic acid and is the indicator of lactic acid production and clearance only because it is the only one that stays in the blood long enough to be checked.)

The lactic acid produced during fast glycolysis creates a negative feedback (interferes) with the Calcium release from the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum. (I am presuming a lot with just hitting the high parts of the topic. I want to keep the information as "vanilla" as possible instead of going into great depth on each topic.)

Lactic acid interferes with actomysosin formation (the complex when the actin and myosin bond) and Glycolytic enzyme activity which results in fatigue. That is a lot of information to just tell you that the carbohydrates that your body uses for fuel results in lactic acid which causes you to get sore.

Through training, your body learns to better utilize this system, and/or you get use to the lactic acid build up and you stop being sore after doing the routine for some time.