Macro-Counting & Muscle Soreness

This week's questions: What to eat for muscle soreness, and what to do about weight gain that cropped up after a diet. 
 
Relief for Muscle Soreness
 
Hey! Do you have any recommendations diet wise for post-workout soreness? I foam roll, eat nutritional food, and drink lots of water, but I'm always so sore I can hardly move the day after a workout. Is there something I could try to help? Thanks!
 
Workout nutrition will definitely help with soreness by speeding up your rate of recovery. You might consider a fast-digesting source of protein post-workout. Protein shakes would be ideal, and I've recently added them back into my own nutrition to help with recovery. 
 
Do you use any BCAAs? These would help reduce soreness. You can take them before or after working out. If you work out fasted, take them beforehand to preserve muscle tissue. Exercise actually tears down muscle, which is why recovery (via nutrition) is so important. BCAAs will act as extra "muscle insurance" and keep your body from catabolizing them.
 
Another option for workout nutrition is a good protein bar. I often eat one about 30 minutes before weight training. The one I'm using is right now is Biotest's Finibar. But there are other brands that are good too. 
 
Aside from workout nutrition, here are a couple other ways to reduce muscle soreness:
 
  • Try magnesium (you can find topical magnesium at any health food store, or you could try magnesium flakes or Epsom salts to add to a hot bath). You can find magnesium in capsule form too, but I'm not sure it's quite as effective for muscle soreness. It will help you sleep well and take a good crap.
     
  • Omega-3 supplementation will help you out too. Sometimes that lingering soreness is a sign of inflammation, and omega-3s are mother nature's anti-inflammatories. Ginger and curcumin also have anti-inflammatory properties, so you could try supplementing with either of those too. 
     
  • Continual soreness could be your body's way of telling you to back off a bit. It could be one of those things where you need to add more easy days to your workout regimen and give your body more time to recuperate every now and then. Swap a few hard sessions for some NEPA (non-exercise physical activity) like walking or easy yoga.
     
  • Another thing about soreness is that it can be debilitating if you're working out too infrequently. Judging from your question, I don't think this applies to you, but those who weight train randomly, i.e. "weekend warriors," will find that their bodies aren't adapting to the stress of weight training as well as they would with a bit more consistency. 
     

So to recap, consume something around workout time: either BCAAs, protein powder, or a protein bar designed for workout time. Second, enjoy some hot baths with magnesium -- at night because that stuff will make you sleepy. Third, try anti-inflammatory supplementation. And as always be cognizant about recooperation and taking it easy. 

Dani
 
 
Macro-Counting and Post-Diet Weight Gain
 
About a year ago I was working with a nutrition coach. I would send her my planned workouts and she would send me macros to hit each day. I only worked with her for a few months, but I kept up on following the macros on my own. About 7 months into it I felt as though my body hit a wall. My energy went way down and my periods became irregular.
 
So I continued to workout but started adding more carbs into my diet and did not count macros. The scale quickly jumped up about 10 pounds. And to this day I've struggled to lose those 10 pounds that my body added. This process totally messed with my head. Should I go back to counting macros as a strategy to lose this extra weight? Or is that the problem to begin with. 
 
It can all get so confusing trying to figure out what to do when I feel as though I have a healthy diet and I workout regularly but am not seeing results. Would love to hear your thoughts!
 
While IIFYM and other macro-counting plans do have their benefits, our bodies aren't calculators. So giving you a strict macro count based upon your workout is kind of absurd. Did you know that you can do a set of squats and I can do a set of squats with the same exact weight and burn a different number of calories? Even if we weighed exactly the same, the rate at which people use nutrients is not fixed. And in fact, your body can burn and use nutrients differently from one workout to the next even if you did the same exact exercises -- this is due to a lot of factors including the tension you’re able to place on your muscles (time under tension), the way you fueled for your workout beforehand, and the energy/focus/finesse you put into it.
 
So it appears as though the amount of macros you were consuming wasn't enough to sustain regular hormonal funtions. 
 
Calculating macros is a good way to get a ballpark idea of how much protein, etc you should be getting. Heck, I even calculate my macros once in a while, but it's not something I advise clients to follow strictly or on a long-term basis. 
 
Your appetite for nutritious food will indicate how much of what you need to eat. Sure, there are foods and beverages that can throw off the appetite, but when you remove them (as I suspect you did), your appetite auto-regulates and tells you how much to eat. 
 
Eating strictly by the macros can make you override those important hunger signals just to stay within a certain number. (Especially if you're aiming too low in an effort to lose fat.) Assuming you're healthy and active, when you feed your body nutritious foods, your metabolism will rise accordingly, even if you get more macros than what was recommended for you.
 
Now, it may be wise to consult a physician who can test you for any thyroid damage if you're concerned about that. But outside of visiting a doctor, what I'd recommend for you is to stop counting and start listening to your body. You may find a food journal helpful, but don't use it for the sake of adding anything up. Just use it to write down what you ate so that you can see how different foods affect your energy and appetite.
 
To make sure your nutrition is in line, base your food intake primarily on plants and animals. Then if you want specialized workout nutrition (protein powders, bars, etc.) you can add that too, but don't count anything, except maybe serving sizes of certain foods.
 
Before you worry about losing that bit of weight you put on, first focus on getting in touch with your appetite and feeding yourself the best and most nutritious things. A food journal can help you become more mindful about what you eat -- as well as how different foods affect you.
 
As for the weight gain, I'd actually recommend you ditch the scale and judge your progress using the mirror, the way your clothes fit, and the way you feel (i.e. energy, strength, etc.). Here's why: If you're gaining muscle because you're fueling yourself properly now and working out harder, then the scale is only going to discourage you from kicking ass. It's not going to tell you that you got leaner, fitter, and more muscular. It's just going to tell you that your weight went up, which is crap because that number can fluctuate based upon your cycle, your dinner the night before, and potentially your need to go to the bathroom.
 
You did mention that you increased carbs a while back. Whenever you bump up your carb intake, your body will naturally hang onto more water. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but carbs tend to make us more water-retentive, and the wrong ones tend to make us crave more. Now if you want to trim down, get picky about your carbs. Drop any junk food (obvious stuff like candy, ice cream, popcorn, cookies, you know the stuff), drop processed carbs (pasta, cereal, bread) and then get your carbs from nature: winter squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, quinoa, just to name a few.
 
Make your dietary intake consist of mostly whole foods. Then use strategic processed food (workout nutrition or the occasional treat) on an as-needed basis. And if you slip up, move on. Sometimes your body will ask for that bump of carbs/protein/fat because it needs it. And sometimes that bump will actually keep your metabolism revved up. 
 
Dani
 
(If you have any questions of your own, please feel free to get in touch with me HERE.)