Photo Credit: Gruber Images

By Dr. Luke Bucci & Jeff Feliciano


When you give everything while training or racing, it can take days to get back to 100%. In the meantime, you’ll be dealing with lingering discomfort and weakness caused by good ol’ DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and EIMD (Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage).

As complex as those initialisms may sound, they’re referring to something much more complex: your body’s ability to recover from scorched-earth exercise efforts – the actual process of tearing down and rebuilding your muscles. Post-exercise discomfort is, unfortunately, necessary, and tampering with symptoms like soreness and inflammation can negatively impact recovery; but there are nutritional shortcuts you can take to recover faster.

In this blog post, Dr. Bucci and Jeff Feliciano walk us through the process of recovery, including the integral roles that DOMS and EIMD play, and what you should – and shouldn’t – do in order to recover faster and realize bigger gains from your efforts.


Recovery is the catch-all term for the normal, natural processes by which your body adapts to extreme endurance exercise. Recovery starts immediately after extreme exercise and lasts for up to a week or more afterwards. It can be painful, annoying, and mentally and physically fatiguing. These universal feelings and findings are covered by DOMS and EIMD, which sound like terrible things that need to be rectified and avoided. After all, who wants DOMSoreness and EIMDamage? Well, all of us, it turns out.

We all dislike the hurting and the loss of performance we experience during DOMS and EIMD; however, if you really want to recover, you want that Soreness and Damage. What? Am I a sadist? Well, all endurance athletes are kind of sadists, but not for this reason! Confused? Don’t be – your body knows what to do for recovery so you become better than before.


The field of post-exercise recovery is slowly beginning to understand that the delayed-onset of soreness and muscle damage you experience after strenuous exercise – especially endurance training – is due to your body’s own repair, rebuild, and recovery processes more than damage directly resulting from extreme exercise. It’s the result of exercise, sure, because without exercise, DOMS and EIMD wouldn’t be happening. But it’s really your body’s choice. That’s right, recovery has been misunderstood, primarily due to research studies jumping to obvious-but-specious conclusions and not looking at the big picture of what’s going on in the body.

You experience DOMS and EIMD because your muscles are remodeling. And just like making an omelet or renovating a house, remodeling means tearing some things down that are obsolete, which we experience as that Soreness and Damage. Your sore, achy, and weakened muscles are becoming something better, remodeled into a stronger structure with more function, so you can withstand more exercise – this is a big but misunderstood part of exercise training.

That’s not to say exercise doesn’t directly cause damage. There is microscopic evidence of what looks just like and is obvious damage – myofibrillar tears, disrupted sarcomeres, fragmented microcapillaries, and many other obvious structural changes are present. But those are, thankfully, short-lived – they repair in a week or so, depending on myriad factors like your nutritional status.

The reality is that much of the biochemical and thus structural damage is self-inflicted. The exercise or even over-exercise did not melt or rip muscles apart – your muscular reaction to severe exercise did.

All those structural changes are being orchestrated by a cascade of inflammatory signals to unleash free radicals (oxidative stress) to destroy specific areas that need to be torn down to be rebuilt stronger. The small surge of free radicals produced by pushing exercise to extremes is amplified immediately post-exercise, triggering and redirecting the normal inflammatory cascade that starts the recovery process, and also the pain, loss of function and malaise that follows exercise. 

The complex nature of biochemical evidence of rampant free radical activity – hand-in-hand with inflammatory signals flying around – is becoming increasingly better understood, and it looks more and more like the culprit behind the muscle destruction derby following harsh exercise. Those biological demolition teams are closely followed by the construction crew in a precisely timed and regulated manner to reach the Promised Land of training progress and performance gains.


The remodeling/rebuilding metaphor helps explain why boosting antioxidant capacity too much can short-circuit recovery, training gains, and performance.  Using antioxidants to quench the free-radical (oxidative) storm following extreme exercise has been hit-or-miss for benefits, finding – paradoxically – both worsening and improvement of DOMS/EIMD. The remodeling metaphor also explains why strong antiinflammatories – including NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen – reduce pain but also slow recovery.

Too many antioxidants can slow the triggering of inflammation, and thus, slow the entire recovery process. Too much antiinflammatory activity can likewise blunt the start of recovery, lengthening the process, and risking a less successful repair, rebuild, and recovery. They may address symptoms, but they’re also killing the free-radical demolition teams by interfering with inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids, making rebuilding no better than status quo and limiting performance gains. 

Your body knows what it is doing, and it’s not only normal, but healthy and preferable to experience the discomfort of DOMS and EIMD to improve. Now you know why. Your body has a balance of oxidation and inflammation that it uses wisely during the initial phase – the demolition part of our remodeling metaphor – of the recovery process.

Rally Cycling athlete mixing Ultragen


Even though DOMS and EMID are good for the recovery process, endurance athletes need to actually get past them to full recovery ASAP. We want those processes to play out, but we want to get through them and back to 100% faster than they would play out on their own.

Fortunately, many human studies have laid the groundwork for recovering optimally from grueling, exhaustive, long, and devastating exercise. In the simplest terms, you need to treat recovery like you treat your performance: Feed it!

You need to treat recovery like you treat your performance: Feed it!

SOLUTION #1: Start immediately!

Post-exercise, you have a roughly 30-minute window to pour in nutritional support to reach as speedy a recovery as possible. Immediately make and consume a recovery drink like Ultragen as directed to start the process right.

SOLUTION #2: Hydrate!

Just like performance, your body needs adequate and consistent hydration in order to more easily move around all those signals, cellular trash, and rebuilding nutrients. That’s why Ultragen is a drink mix – it gets absorbed quickly, which means the most important and needed nutrients get absorbed quickly, too.

SOLUTION #3: Refuel!

Again, just like performance, carbs are needed for the fast energy they bring to remodeling and rebuilding tissues. Human studies have found that carbs are more important than protein for recovery – when breaking down tissues, the amino acids are still there, but your tissues need energy to reuse them for protein – the basis of cell, tissue and muscle structures. Carbs themselves are positive signals and regulators of the repair process.

SOLUTION #4: Fortify!

Every rebuilding effort needs building materials, so protein and its component amino acids are right behind energy for healthy rebuilding. The presence of particular amino acids, especially BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine), also are key regulatory agents justifying your body’s effort to repair. A fast-digesting protein like whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrolysate are rich in BCAAs and send amino acids faster into the bloodstream than other proteins or even equivalent amounts of amino acids. Restoring normal blood amino acid levels also supports your brain neurotransmitters so your head gets back in the game, also helpful for better sleep which is extremely important for recovery.

SOLUTION #5: Activate!

Electrolytes, vitamins and minerals – the instigators. A steady exogenous supply of essential micronutrients makes sure that your rebuilding tissues can activate and utilize fuel and building blocks and receptors and transporters for cell repair.

SOLUTION #6: Resuscitate!

Your gut suffers from extreme exertion, especially in long-duration exercise, and you want your gut to bounce back immediately to supply your aching body with needed nutrients to speed up recovery processes. Glutamine is a primary fuel for gut lining cells and immune cells that help orchestrate the rebuilding and repair processes. And your gut gets first dibs on everything you swallow, so it can bounce back faster than the rest of you.

SOLUTION #7: Rescue!

There are other nutrients that can help improve recovery. First Endurance’s HALO contains easily absorbable omega-3s and curcumin, a polyphenol with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Both have multiple human studies of speeding recovery by damping DOMS and bringing earlier return to normal muscular function. When used as directed – not in excess – the omega-3s and curcuminoids in HALO amplify the rebuilding signals the body wants, decreasing soreness to a more manageable level while speeding up repair. Likewise, adaptogens in Optygen and OptygenHP have a large number of individual molecules that are part of the regulatory signaling processes of repair, and studies have shown superior corresponding recovery from exercise.


Embrace the post-exercise pain and malaise – it needs to happen for you to start the recovery process, and too many antiinflammatory or antioxidant interventions can treat symptoms but blunt the effectiveness of recovery. Instead, focusing on the right nutritional practices can help your body rebuild, repair, restore, recover and be reborn faster.



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May 10, 2023 — Luke Bucci

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