icon-account icon-glass

Popular Products

The Lean Protein
Whey protein powder for weight-loss.
The Energy Booster
Pre/intra-workout powder with BCAAs.
The Glow Booster
Collagen supplement for skin.

Inflammation And Muscle Growth: A Primer

15th January 2021

15th January 2021

By Shivraj Bassi

When you’re sore the day after a hard workout, it makes sense you’re happy your effort has had an impact on your body. If you’re looking to make muscle gains, it’s truly a no pain, no gain situation.

But have you ever wondered about the mechanism behind what causes your muscles to become inflamed and sore, and if you’re dealing with it in the best way? Muscle inflammation is crucial to your fitness journey, but too much of it can knock you off track. Here, we investigate what inflammation is and why it’s both crucial and detrimental to muscle growth

What is muscle inflammation?

This one’s fairly simple - inflammation is an immune system response to tissue damage, and its purpose is to remove any cellular debris from the location where the damage occurred and initiate tissue repair. 

Firstly, blood accumulates at the damage site, causing the symptoms of swelling, stiffness and heat. Secondly, white blood cells called neutrophils flock to the area and absorb the debris of the cells which are damaged. The last stage is when cells called macrophages migrate to the site to complete the clean-up process and stimulate the regeneration of tissue. 

Inflammation helps muscle growth

Inflammation is important and probably even essential for gaining muscle mass. Several studies point to some of the mechanisms that regulate muscle growth relying on inflammation to be effective. It also plays a critical role in muscle repair. Every workout causes microscopic damage to your muscle fibres and the inflammation process repairs this during your recovery period, which lasts around 48 hours after you finish your workout. Inflammation also promotes bodily adaptations such as satellite cell proliferation, which is an essential step in developing larger and stronger muscle fibres. 

A study in which young and active men took a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for eight weeks reduced resistance-training induced muscle growth by around half of what it would otherwise be. This shows that inflammation plays a key role in building muscle, and that taking anti-inflammatories in long term could lessen your response to training. 

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Inflammation hurts muscle growth

We’ve established that muscle inflammation goes at least some way to supporting those muscles you’re working so hard for in the gym. But it can also contribute negatively to your progress in several ways. 

Firstly, it’s that feeling we all know so well - delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Inflammation is the culprit behind all those times you’ve worked too hard during leg day and found yourself unable to walk up the stairs without a helping hand from a friend the next day. If you’re too sore to train, you’re not making gains, as simple as that. And as established, taking anti-inflammatories to push through the pain will result in you likely not gaining as much muscle as you would like. 

This means you should structure your training not about going as hard and fast as you can, but taking considered steps towards your goal, increasing the intensity of your workouts in slow increments. It’s all about balance. While you have to reach the level of training intensity that will elicit swole muscles, pushing too hard too soon will reduce not only the frequency with which you can go to the gym but the intensity at which you’re able to train. 

Excess inflammation is also something to watch out for. If you’re training hard seven days a week (you certified freak), the inflammation naturally caused by each workout won’t have time to resolve itself, and your muscles won’t heal between workouts. If this pattern persists, the body can enter a cycle of persistent tissue damage and chronic inflammation which can also affect your joints, as the pain from DOMS can change your normal movement patterns, placing unaccustomed stress on your joints and increasing the risk of injury. Injuries such as runner’s knee stem from this. In addition, as you grow older, evidence suggests that inflammation plays a role in muscle loss even if you’re physically active. 

How to use muscle inflammation to your advantage 

Inflammation is critical for muscle growth, but too much of it is bad and could even cause serious injury. The takeaway from this is that training should always be approached gradually, in short bursts which induce growth and strength without reducing the amount of intensity at which you can train. Rest is also critical to growing strong and healthy muscles, so don’t think that skipping your rest day means you’re lazy or are making slower progress - the opposite is true. 

To manage muscle inflammation a whole-body approach is required to not only maximise muscle gains, but to maintain them as you get older. To do this, we look to the usual culprits of staying active, working out, eating healthily and cutting down on things which can contribute to chronic inflammation such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. 

Product Spotlight

Other Insights

Innermost Investigates: The Truth On Power Plates
Vibration or ‘power plates’ are commonly met with a healthy dose of scepticism. And to be fair, standing on a plate and shaking, at first, doesn’t sound like the most effective method of exercise. What most people aren’t aware of, however, is that vibration plates were developed over 50 years ago by Russian cosmonauts to prevent the loss of muscle mass in space. They continue to be used to this day in space missions, even by NASA. If vibrating plates are good enough to be used on spaceships, then perhaps they’re good enough for the gym.  Innermost is here to investigate the benefits of using vibration plates (on Earth). We’ll answer all your burning questions including: What is a power plate? What does a power plate do? Do power plates work? And how do I use a power plate?  What is a power plate? How do they work? A vibration plate (often called a ‘power plate’) is an exercise machine that sends high-speed vibrations through the entire body. This stimulates your muscles to automatically contract up to 30-50 times more per second than usual. To maximise stimulation, vibration plates move in multiple directions simultaneously – up and down, left and right, front and back. As your body naturally attempts to stabilise itself against the shaking, it engages lots of muscles (many of which aren’t engaged during conventional exercise). And since this stabilisation occurs automatically, you hardly feel it.  8 benefits of vibration plates Ok, so new muscles are engaged a lot more than usual. That sounds great. But what are the actual benefits of power plate exercise?  Saves time Your muscles are working harder, so it takes less time to reach the same goals, cutting down on your workout time. Remedial therapist and Power-Plate specialist trainer Mark Andrews call power plates “the microwave of fitness”. Low impact Power plate exercise is considered low impact, making it suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It is also low impact on joints and ligaments – making it a great form of exercise for people who want to ease into exercise – for example, if you’re a bit older or recovering from an injury. Fat-loss benefits Power plates are a fat burn booster, but at the end of the day, the most proven method for fat-loss is correct nutrition and a calorie deficit. Innermost also offers nutritional supplements for healthy and sustainable fat-loss including The Lean Protein, The Define Booster and The Tone Capsules. Muscle strength and toning benefits Since so many muscle groups are working at the same time and 30-50 times more than usual, your muscles will strengthen and tone even from just standing on a power plate. Improved circulation Vibration plates can be used as a massage tool, which increases circulation in the massaged body parts. Increase core strength, stability, and balance All exercises on a vibration plate forces your body to engage its core to balance and stabilise. Certain exercises such as press-ups or planks (see 5 power plate exercises below) amplify this benefit even more. Increase Flexibility According to the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, using a power plate when stretching (before or after a workout) is more effective than stretching alone. At-home If you’re working from home, too far from a gym, or simply enjoy the convenience of home workouts, you can purchase a power plate to use in the house. A personal power plate and power plate move are both relatively compact pieces of equipment so can fit easily into your home. You can check out more options here. How do I use a power plate? 5 power plate training exercises Plank Get onto the floor and place your forearms onto the power plate. Gently move your knees away from the power plate until your back is completely straight. When you feel confident, have only your toes touching the floor and lift your knees off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. Press up Similar to the plank, except your hands are on the power plate, shoulder-width apart with your arms out-stretched and locked at the elbows. Again, your back is straight, and you can start with your knees on the floor. When you are confident you can lift your knees off the floor and have just your toes touching the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. If you can, gently bend your elbows to bring your body down close to the power plate and then straighten your elbows again to bring your body back up – congratulations you’ve just done a press-up on a power plate! Leg crunches Sit in the centre of the vibration plate. Place your hands behind you on the edge of the power plate and bend your elbows to help you gently lean back. As you lean back, lift your legs off the ground to counter-balance yourself. The lower half of your legs (below the knee) should be parallel to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Squat Stand on the power plate with feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward. Using out-stretched arms that are parallel to the floor to balance you, gently bend your knees to bring your body down. Hold for 30 seconds. Then gently straighten your knees again to go back up. Keep your back straight at all times. Lunge Stand one ‘stride’ (long-step) away from the power plate. Then, with one leg, take one long step onto the power plate, keeping your toes forward. Gently bend the leg that is on the power plate at the knee, keeping the other leg straight at all times (you should really feel a stretch in the straight leg). Hold for 30 seconds. Then step off the power plate and change legs (i.e. if you stepped with your left leg first, now step with your right leg). So there you have it, a power plate is a space-age exercise machine that boasts lots of fitness benefits. If you’re looking to level up your exercise routine then this is a great option for you. Next time you’re in a gym give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised! Sources: Is whole-body vibration a good way to lose weight and improve fitness? The 8 Best Ways to Exercise With A Vibration Plate All You Need to Know About: Power Plates The Power Plate: A Space Age Relic Inspires a New Form of Exercise - The New York Times (nytimes.com) Read more
Ashwagandha, Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng... What Is It?