How do muscles grow and why do they hurt after you work out?

Are you just starting your fit-journey? Or did you push it to the limit at the gym? Chances are, you will be feeling sore the next day! A big leg-day and the next days you are reminded of your workout every time you stand up. Did you ever wonder where this soreness comes from, and what the secrets are to building muscle mass? We gathered the answers.
Musculous maximus

Different types of muscles

There are around six hundred muscles in the human body, that take up 30 to 55% of our body mass. There are three different types to differentiate. At Body Worlds you will come eye to eye with all of them, after reading this blog you will be able to point out which are belong to which category!

- Smooth muscle

Your automatic nervous system controls the smooth muscles, you do not control them, they move involuntary. This type makes up your organs, bloods vessels, skin and other areas. They are in between your organs and make sure they are functioning properly.

- Cardiac muscle

This type is specific to the hardest working muscle in your body: your heart! The cardiovascular system controls the pumping of blood through your body and contracts involuntary, controlling your heartbeat. Since the heart is a muscle, you can train it to keep it healthy! Cardio workouts are focused on improving your endurance and fitness. Exercises like running, swimming, biking - basically, anything that gets your heart rate up for an increased period of time. Even a night of dancing can be a good way to do so, as you can read in our previous blog about partying and your health. A good heart health improves longevity and your quality of life. Decreasing the risk of heart diseases.

- Skeletal muscle

Last but, certainly for bodybuilders, not least: the skeletal muscles. In contrary to the cardiac and smooth ones, the skeletal muscles move voluntary, you control how and when they move! This type moves your bones and support the skeleton, hence the name. They get bigger and stronger by training them.

Why increase your muscle mass?

Maybe your reasoning for working out is to look like a Sports Illustrated Magazine cover, but a fit body is much, much more than just looks. Looks might even be the least essential part of a strong body. Taking care of your muscles improves your overall health significantly.

- The skeletal muscles protect your bones. By training them you are more able to take a punch. Doing so, you are also building stronger bones.

- It helps prevent diseases. The increased protein in your body helps your immune system fight sickness.

- Working out is not just good for the body, it is good for your brain to, as it releases feel-good endorphins! Making you feel happier, and more energized.

- Muscles increase your metabolism, causing your body to burn more fat.

- You are more able to do everyday tasks without tiring yourself out. When you are stronger you are less limited in what your body is able to do!

How do we grow our muscles?

Time to hit the gym! The only way to grow your muscles, is by working out and training them! The size increases when you challenge the muscles to cope with higher resistance or weight. This process is known as Hypertrophy. You can do any strength building exercises that you like, just make sure you are challenging yourself.

When you are putting strain and stress on your muscles, they experience microscopic damage. You are quite literally tearing them up. This is needed for growth! The affected cells release molecules called Cytokines. The Cytokines help your immune system to repair the damaged muscles. Your body repairs them and build them up stronger than before every time. This damage-and-repair cycle is what makes your muscles bigger and your body stronger.

More strain > more damage > more Cytokines > stronger body!

Your body adapts to your new lifestyle. Telling it that it needs to be able to complete the workouts you are doing with more ease.

Why do our muscles hurt after a workout?

You finished the previous step, you did your strength training. What comes after, is the soreness. After reading that you are damaging your muscles by working out, you may understand why you are feeling so sore after a workout! Especially in the beginning, when your body is not used to the movements, you will feel it. Every time you are doing a session that your body is not used to, it has to adapt to the feeling. 

What can we do about the soreness?

Is there a cure for the muscle aches? Not really, but the more you workout the more your body gets used to it! Always start your workout with a warm up and end it with a cool down.

Exposing your body to cold can help against the uncomfortable feeling of the soreness. The cold reduces swelling. Heat on the other hand, helps promote recovery. It relaxes the muscles and increases blood flow.

When you are done working out you can do some light exercise, like going on a walk, to increase blood flow to the damaged muscles. This will give them oxygen an nutrients that help with the healing process. Take it easy and let your body do the repairing work!

The diet for strength building

It is time to feed the damaged muscles. Proper diet is part of a strength building regime. Your body uses protein to grow, therefor it is important to take in enough protein. Studies state that for a normal person, their food should contain 0,6 times their body weight in protein. If you are trying to build your body and increase your strength, then aim for 1,6 times your body weight. Protein is mostly found in peas, tofu, lentils, beans, vegetables and animal products.

 Besides eating good, whole foods, containing essential amino acids, another important part of a proper diet for your muscles is sleep! It takes energy and time to repair the damaged muscles. Sleep and rest are essential for growth and a strong body.

Are you someone who likes feeling the soreness, as a sign that you worked hard? Or are you trying to find any way to not feel this? At least now you know where it is coming from!