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I am highly active guy, 6ft, over 235lbs, muscular frame; walk around 10,000 steps per day and gym 3-4 times a week. I know that such high level of activity will naturally put strain on my muscles but I would also have thought that my body would acclimatised to the load. However my body is almost always sore even after days of rest, still I experience DOMS after a strenuous activity and experience fatigue in my legs persistently?

Is it due to the fact that I am big thus my muscules requires a longer recovery time? Or sign of low testosterone? Would stretching routines alleviate the pain or do I need to eat more protein? Will incorporating ice cold baths diminish the pain—in keeping with routines of athletes?

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  • Please share your weekly workout routine in as much detail as you can. Oct 23, 2022 at 6:10
  • @DavidScarlett my routine include HIIT and strength based training (high load lower repetition) on compound exercises.
    – user63143
    Oct 23, 2022 at 8:23

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Is it due to the fact that I am big thus my muscules requires a longer recovery time? Or sign of low testosterone?

If you think you might be suffering from "low-t" I'd advice you to visit a doctor rather than asking strangers online. Having said that, commonly described symptoms of low testosterone do not seem to include higher susceptibility to DOMS. So, it's probably something else.

We know annoyingly little about DOMS, both cause and cure. One thing that is known is that eccentric exercises tend to cause more DOMS, though, so if you focus on the eccentric phase you may want to rethink that (assuming your DOMS is a problem to you - it's not harmful in and of itself).

And yes, you should experience less and less DOMS the more you train.

Would stretching routines alleviate the pain or do I need to eat more protein? Will incorporating ice cold baths diminish the pain—in keeping with routines of athletes?

I wouldn't bother with ice baths since they can actually be negative for your training results, and stretching can cause DOMS rather than cure it. Personally, I've experienced good results with sauna after workouts, as well as adding protein supplements - but it may well have been something else that helped, for all I know. (Nevertheless, a sauna is always nice, and protein is generally good for your gains, so no loss for me there.)

Science suggests you might get somewhat less DOMS from caffeine, taurine and Omega-3, and massage and light exercise can alleviate the pain.

Your DOMS could also be general fatigue. Are you eating enough (not just protein, but calories and nutrients in general)? Do you experience a lot of stress? Do you sleep enough?

Without knowing your training schedule, is hard to give more advice than "see what happens if you lower the training volume and then increase it gradually" - working out 3-4 times a week, you don't need to give absolutely everything you've got when you're training. If your strength training consists of full-body workouts, you could try changing to an upper/lower body split to give your muscles more time to recover.

Edit: from the comments...

How can athletes compete twice a week, train almost every other day, have insufficient levels of rest but still manage to recover insanely quickly? They tend to incorporate ice baths and do stretching and massages as part of their routines as advised by the best sports scientists. There’s surely something to learn from their routine

Yes and no. Professional athletes have their sports for their job, and they most likely have very good genetics for recovery, so looking at what they do isn't necessarily a good idea for us amateurs. If you're willing to spend all your time on training, you care about the absolute results, not the time it takes to get there. Having a day job, you're probably more interested in how to get the best results from spending e.g. 5-6h/week on training.

Let's break this down:

How can athletes compete twice a week... - far from all do; but yes, I guess some, like football players, do. They are competing against other teams which have played about as many games, so they are all equally worn down. You don't need to be best team in the world, or even at your best, to win, you just need to be best team in the match. Also, they do tend to get injured quite a lot...

... train almost every other day... - I'd say they train more than every other day, but then again, professional athletes will have worked very hard for many years to reach a high level of training volume tolerance. They also didn't start from zero and jumped into an elite training program; volume has increased gradually, and they adapt the volume to how much they can recover. There's the "stimulate, don't annihilate" strategy - better to have a high volume of relatively light training (from their perspective), than low volume of high-intensity training. To those of us who have a day job, this yields poor return on time spent.

... have insufficient levels of rest but still manage to recover insanely quickly? From what I gather, professional athletes take sleep and recovery time very seriously. They are almost always close to the edge of what they can recover from, but they have coaches, doctors and other staff who can make sure they don't end up on the wrong side. Again, this is a full-time job to them, and they (and their team) know what they can handle.

They tend to incorporate ice baths and do stretching and massages as part of their routines as advised by the best sports scientists.

  • Concerning ice baths, from what I gather it was a fad a bunch of years ago, which has long since peaked. The study I linked does show it can reduce DOMS, but at the same time reduce the efficiency of training (so basically it reduces the time needed for recovery because there's less to recover from). If you're playing an important game tomorrow, this might be a good trade-off, but as a nonprofessional, I want the maximum results from the time I spend in the gym. Waste of time to do a heavier workout than I can recover from, just to partially nullify it to aid recovery.
  • Massage does indeed seem to help against DOMS when it's already there, but it doesn't prevent it.
  • Stretching doesn't help against DOMS, but it can increase mobility. I'm not saying you shouldn't stretch, but it won't help with the DOMS.

I'd guess that DOMS is a relatively small problem to professional athletes, compared to fatigue management.

Finally, remember that not all things professional athletes do is backed by scientific evidence, but quite often chosen arbitrarily by them or their coach, based on their experiences and biases. This doesn't mean it doesn't work, but if no conclusive evidence has been found despite studies, it probably won't do much difference to the vast majority of people (or even to anyone).

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  • How can athletes compete twice a week, train almost every other day, have insufficient levels of rest but still manage to recover insanely quickly? They tend to incorporate ice baths and do stretching and massages as part of their routines as advised by the best sports scientists. There’s surely something to learn from their routine
    – user63143
    Oct 23, 2022 at 12:25
  • forgot to mention you. @gustafc
    – user63143
    Oct 23, 2022 at 12:26
  • @user63143 answer updated!
    – gustafc
    Oct 23, 2022 at 14:28
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There are several things that are more likely to cause DOMS than systemically low test.

In no particular order:

  • insufficient sleep
  • insufficient protein
  • a calorie deficit
  • high life stress
  • excessive accumulated fatigue from training
  • dietary deficiency of antioxidants
  • training dose is too high
  • novelty of exercise

Some of these things can cause a temporary drop in testosterone levels, such as sleep/stress/fatigue, but we wouldn’t look at that and blame low test for your soreness. We’d blame the things causing the soreness and the low test.

But could low test cause muscle soreness? Possibly. Women have low test and aren’t more prone to soreness. In fact, women are probably better suited to recovery from exercise than men. Why? Estrogen. Estrogen is important for muscle recovery. Women produce it directly, men produce via aromatization of testosterone, and low test might lead to less aromatization, which could effect recovery. But I would look at fixing common causes of low test as mentioned above, before looking at testosterone as the actual problem.

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