Every day further from your youth reminds you that it’s you who’s responsible for your health. Why you wake up sore and stiff every morning has a good deal to do with natural aging, but there’s a toolbox of tactics you can use to fight morning stiffness and daily soreness.
In this blog, I cover what causes morning stiffness, what morning stiffness can tell you about your overall health, and then I’m going to give you the evidence-based strategies to prevent morning stiffness with diet, lifestyle, and supplements and explain why these strategies can work for you. Say goodbye to dragging yourself out of bed, and jump into your next day with these tips!
Stiffness in the early a.m. is a warning sign that your body is dealing with more inflammation than it can handle.
It’s important to pay attention to morning stiffness because it could be an early signal of more severe disease. If your first thought is “why am I so stiff in the morning?”, you might want to talk to your doctor to discuss potential issues from morning stiffness and soreness:
Just because you're asking “Why am I so stiff in the morning” or “Why do I wake up sore every morning”, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a severe disease. For the majority of people, the quality of your diet, sleep, and movement determine your muscle and fascia recovery, and joint function.
Even a seemingly small increase in stiffness and soreness can compound over the years, though, which means you should prevent the problem from getting worse now before your options are limited!
Inflammation is naturally caused by oxidative stress; your stressors can be acute, short term or they can be long-term issues.
Think of oxidative stress as a fire. If it happens in short bursts that your body can handle, your body's antioxidant system will put that fire out and build resistance to those triggers. If that fire smolders though, you end up with an uncontrolled burn that damages everything it touches ー this is called chronic inflammation.
Healthy oxidative stress comes from exercise, but unhealthy oxidative stress that lasts longer than it should is caused by a poor diet, not enough exercise, environmental triggers like living with air pollution, and even regular aging.
Acute, short term Inflammation is a necessary step forward to healing, but long term imbalance towards more inflammation and less antioxidant activity can lead to a.m. stiffness, soreness that lasts for days, and generally not feeling your best.
You might be surprised I am not saying what causes stiff muscles first, right? Well, there is a reason.
Fascia is a connective tissue found throughout your body, but it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It connects your other tissues, including your muscles, and it transmits mechanical and hormonal signals throughout your body. To be happy and healthy when you wake up requires healthy, and pliable, not sticky fascia.
Fascia is arranged in sheets that are supposed to glide against each other with almost no friction. It's when you're dehydrated, not eating right to feed your fascia, not getting enough exercise, or when your body is out of alignment, physically and emotionally, that causes your fascia to become "sticky." This stickiness refers to the fascia adhesions that cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.
Fascia has shown to play a crucial role in delayed onset muscle soreness especially after eccentric exercise. So what does it mean to you?
If you don’t have a daily movement routine - I am talking about more than walking ー your fascia becomes stiff. Your soft tissues need a full range of gentle and precise loading patterns to hydrate and lubricate properly.
A routine involving proper loading patterns to create shear and compression like to your tissues and muscles, you may be not only limiting your muscle soreness recovery but also the rehydration of your tissues.
And dehydration forces those fascia sheets to stick to one another, too. When fascia is hit by dehydration you can feel the effects directly. When the connective tissue that connects everything else in your body is stiff and loses its pliability, it impairs your posture, joint function, and well-being starting from the moment you wake up.
Another cause of adhesions is one ingredient in particular: sugar. Learn more about advanced glycation endproducts, crosslinked collagen, and connective tissue injuries in this article.
An unhealthy diet of fast carbs, processed foods, poor nutrition, and high blood sugar decrease the lubricants that permit you to move about your day pain-free. Get rid of this one ingredient and you’ll be doing your health a favor long down the road.
If you have stiff and sore muscles every morning after exercising, that tells me your recovery needs some assistance. And taking the non inflammatory nonsteroidal drugs to decrease the soreness will actually go against you in the long term. And it may be to your surprise, just like it was to mine years ago, when science clearly identified that holding long static stretches is not your best way to approach your body to recover faster. And more on that below.
Diet and nutrition play a significant role in determining whether you are forced to take a rest day or if you can get back to training your best.
If you have stiff hands or fingers in the morning then this could be a reason to talk to your doctor about arthritis. Osteoarthritis ー mechanical “wear and tear” on your bones and cartilage ー causes short-term morning stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis ー autoimmune inflammation where your immune system attacks your joints ー usually causes stiffness and soreness that can last longer through your morning.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends that you get a handle on arthritic morning stiffness by paying attention to your diet. A whole foods diet rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants from plants and healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil and low in processed foods has been shown to increase the lubricating chemicals in your joints and decrease inflammation to help you wake up feeling refreshed.
A healthy diet and lifestyle go a long way in optimizing your health, which includes reducing soreness and stiffness. From stiff ankles to a stiff back and neck, an integrated approach that covers each of the following will get you on your feet in no time.
Here's my list of the best ways to fight morning stiffness naturally. Make sure you get:
We already recognized that when you wake up stiff, sore and in pain, that’s your musculoskeletal system and connective tissues crying out for help. As the connective tissue that relays physical and chemical signals throughout your body, your fascia health is the key for healthy, mobile, pain-free joints and muscles.
Myofascial release using a Core Boot, foam roller, percussion massager (aka. a massage gun), or hands on myofascial release not only rehydrates your fascia, but physically works out the accumulated toxins and physical adhesions that cause fascia to tighten.
Adhesions, commonly called knots, are a clear sign of unhealthy fascia. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular movement, and properly rehydrating your fascia are each necessary to keep fascia healthy. You can’t just drink water to rehydrate your fascia, though. You need to make sure you absorb that water optimally and that the water you drink gets to the right places; we covered specific tactics in our last blog, check it out here.
How you eat determines your level of antioxidants you have to fend off inflammation. It makes perfect sense that your diet is one of the first things you should address to wake up refreshed if it’s runaway inflammation that’s causing those issues. The keyword here is: anti-inflammatory.
Diets that lead to better stiffness symptoms for people with arthritis are whole foods, anti-inflammatory diets. The Mediterannean diet is one of the most well researched. High in polyunsaturated fats in fish, mono-unsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil, and low in refined grains, added sugars and added fats, the Mediterannean diet is the most-studied diet out there. With positive side effects like weight loss, better blood sugar control, and with direct evidence to show that it may lower pain and inflammation, the Mediterannean diet, full of whole food fiber, vitamin, and omega-3 fatty acids, is the poster child for how nutrition can affect morning stiffness. Other diets like vegan/vegetarian, plant-based, and gluten free diets may also have a potential role in reducing stiffness and pain.
There are also specific nutrients you can eat if you want nutrition for muscle soreness. My team has poured over hundreds of references to give you the best recipes for promoting recovery and healthy sleep. Check it out here: Recover Every Layer of Your Body: 40 Science-Based Recipes For Better Sleep, Faster Recovery and Healthier Connective Tissues. There is no better resource for recovery nutrition out there!
Try to get these nutrients from your food, but if you can’t then make sure your supplement is quality certified and standardized.
Plant-based nitrates are the most reliable way to boost your nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is a critical vasodilator hormone, meaning it opens up your blood veins to allow nutrients and oxygen to flow to where they need to be. Nitrates from red beetroot, red spinach extract, and aronia berry extract have been studied to promote recovery, improve blood flow, and may play a role in reducing neuromuscular inflammation.
Importantly, plant-based nitrates deliver a massive dose of nitric oxide compared to other nitric oxide boosters like citrulline and arginine. Considering those less powerful sources of nitric oxide may be linked with reduced soreness, it makes me think that natural plant-based nitrates are going to take the lead for their role in helping you feel refreshed every morning.
If you want to eat your nitrates, go for leafy green vegetables over beets. Learn why on this blog.
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in your body, it makes up the majority of your bones, tendons, cartilage and fascia.
Joint cartilage ~ 70% collagen
Ligaments ~ 70% collagen
Tendons ~ 85% collagen
Fasciae ~ 70% collagen
Muscle tissue ~ 6% collagen
Bones ~ 90% of the hard part of the bone; 25% of the entire bone by weight. Yes collagen is present in every layer of your body, including your skin. Research has shown over and over that your body’s ability to make collagen goes down as you age.
Taking collagen protein goes back hundreds of years: bone broth is a natural superfood and a feature of traditional, sustainable, “nose-to-tail” eating. Recent scientific studies have solidified its role as an evidence-based supplement for stiffness due to exercise or arthritis, and for speeding up your recovery.
You can get collagen from bone broth, gelatin, and from sausage, but these sources are wildly inconsistent. Go for a standardized, certified collagen supplement backed by research if you think a collagen supplement can help you. Here’s our list of the best collagen supplements so you can decide for yourself.
The golden spice is one of the most potent antioxidants ever researched, but you have to take it in a certain way to get the benefits in and research.
Bioavailable turmeric has been shown to help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, arthritic joint pain, and improve mobility, pain, and recovery in athletes. All these reasons make it a top choice for addressing your morning stiffness.
Ginger has long been known for its heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have shown the effectiveness of ginger for fatigue, muscle pain, and general pain, making it a tasty choice to help you fight against inflammatory stiffness and pain.
Polyphenols are unique antioxidants only found in plants which are shown time and time again to be some of the most potent nutrients for health we know of. Aronia berry may have a unique immune system effect related to exercise, according to multiple studies, and elderberry can minimize soreness and pain after exercise thanks to its antioxidant polyphenol content.
Too much vitamin C and E, commonly touted for their role in reducing soreness, may actually prevent you from reaping the rewards of a hard workout. We dive deep into evidence-based reasons to supplement with vitamin C here; watch your dose!
Fiber supports a healthy anti-inflammatory system by promoting healthy gut bacteria and even by promoting weight loss. Fiber can also lower CRP, a marker of inflammation, in overweight people with arthritis. It may not sound obvious, but since you have more bacteria cells than human cells in your body, a healthy microbiome is a key player in determining your joint health.
It’s no surprise that a quality certified supplement (NSF Sport Certified) designed to help your recovery with the best science in mind is going to check all the boxes for helping you with soreness too.
Resync products are made from quality synergistic ingredients that have been studied to fight muscle soreness without giving up your gains, so that you can grab life by the horns day after day.
Resync is your one-stop recovery solution. Resync Recovery is a vegan recovery aid, Resync Collagen with Nitric Oxide adds the powerful benefits of collagen predominantly sourced from grass fed animals, and Resync Ready to Drink gives you an on-the-go solution to support your gut, heart and immune health.
If we learned anything from 2020, we know that it’s up to you to take charge of your health. Use these tips to make the best diet that fights inflammation post training, pain, stiffness, and soreness!
Want the practical details on how to eat and supplement to support your exercise, heart health, beauty, and energy? Subscribe to our feed and never miss our best content! If you want more, leave a comment or question below, and we’ll get back to you!
While other companies push clickbait and fake news, what we say is backed by research. When you have the right information, you are empowered to make the right decision, that’s why we break down complex science into practical takeaways you can use today.
If there’s something you want to know more about, let us know by contacting us or getting in touch on social media!
Helping you lead a healthier life,
The Resync Team
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Written by Barbara Depta and registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated on 4/26/2021.
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