Why Do My Muscles Burn When I Workout?

Find out why your muscles might be burning during your workout and what you can do to ease the pain.


Exercise can be beneficial for people of all ages and fitness levels, but it can also be uncomfortable. When your muscles burn after a workout — known as muscle fatigue — safe treatment options can help minimize this uncomfortable sensation and allow you to continue your routine or start a new one. Understanding why fatigue occurs during and after exercise can help you make healthy decisions about how to care for your body.

Muscle fatigue is caused by the breakdown of energy sources, the formation of lactic acid, and increased hydrogen ions in the muscles, all of which are the results of intense physical activity. During exercise, energy is created through the conversion of carbohydrates into ATP (adenosine triphosphate). As exercise intensity increases, ATP formation often cannot keep up with energy needs resulting in reduced power output from your muscles. Lactic acid is produced when ATP gets broken down for energy use and usually accumulates during high intensity exercises such as weight lifting, sprinting, or running long distances. This accumulation causes muscle fibers to contract more slowly or seize altogether leading to increased soreness and burning sensations post-exercise. Additionally, increased hydrogen ions produced during exercise cause decreased muscle pH (acidic environment) which leads to pain experienced during intense work outs.

Causes of Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is a common occurrence during and after intense physical activity, such as strength training and cardio workouts. This burning sensation comes from the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles. Lactic acid is produced as your body breaks down the glycogen stored in your muscles during exercise. Other causes of muscle soreness include dehydration, muscle fatigue, and microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. Let’s explore these causes in more detail.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the soreness and stiffness of muscles felt several hours or even a day or two after a workout. It is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers that occur with exercise and is an indication that your muscles are growing and recovering. DOMS can be reduced by warming up before working out, stretching after exercising and cooling down afterwards. As well, incremental increases in intensity are recommended to help reduce soreness.

Other causes of muscle soreness can include inadequate sleep, poor diet, dehydration or not properly warming up before exercise. Warming up allows the body time to adjust to the physical activity that is about to follow, promoting blood flow into the muscles and allowing for improved performance as well as reducing DOMS pain. Being properly hydrated before, during and after physical activity has been proven to aid in recovery from DOMS pain. Finally, a healthy balanced diet with nutrient-dense meals will help prevent muscle breakdown while you’re working out and replenish lost protein afterward required for recovery of muscle pain due to DOMS.

Lactic Acid Buildup

Lactic acid buildup is one of the main causes of muscle soreness after physical exercise. It is created when you work out and your body can no longer take in enough oxygen for its needs. In this situation, the body will begin to use anaerobic respiration, which produces lactic acid as a by-product. When this happens, it creates a burning sensation in the muscles and leads to post-exercise muscle soreness.

This type of soreness is caused by two factors – the depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles and increased inflammation in those muscles due to lactic acid production. Glycogen is a carbohydrate stored in our muscles that with be depleted during workouts that require high intensity or prolonged duration. When we exercise, especially at high intensity, these glycogen stores are quickly used up and without an adequate supply, our bodies are not able to generate all the energy they need resulting in fatigue and soreness. The lactic acid produced during anaerobic respiration causes irritation which leads to inflammation in those overworked muscles resulting in pain.

The best way to reduce lactic acid buildup is through adequate rest between workouts, hydration before and during your workouts and stretching before and after exercise routines. Eating nutritious foods with plenty of vitamins C & E such as leafy greens can also help reduce inflammatory responses caused by increased lactic acid levels which can speed up recovery time post-workout

Muscle Damage

Muscle soreness can be caused by damage to the muscle fibers, which can occur when a muscle is overstretched or contracted too forcefully during physical activity. You may experience pain during or immediately after your workout, and this type of muscle soreness is commonly referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This occurs when small tears form in the muscles due to excessive force or strain, resulting in inflammation and increased blood flow to the area. While this usually resolves within a few days as the damaged tissues heal, it can cause discomfort and stiffness that can limit range of motion and make everyday tasks more difficult.

Prevention of Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is a common result of an intense workout.The feeling of a burning sensation in your muscles is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It occurs when a muscle contracts and the muscle fibers tear, which causes the discomfort. Although muscle soreness cannot be completely avoided, there are ways to reduce the pain and help prevent the burning sensation. Let’s explore what these methods are.

Warm Up Before Exercise

Before you engage in any physical activity, it is important to warm up your muscles to avoid soreness and injury. A warm-up helps to increase blood flow and oxygen uptake in the muscles and joints, reduce muscle tightness, warm up the body, and mentally prepare for exercise. A few common examples of warm-up activities include dynamic stretching (actively moving your arms or legs in a full range of motion), light jogging or walking at a moderate pace, stationary biking for a few minutes, or dynamic bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges. Each activity should last five to 10 minutes depending on the intensity of the exercise you plan to do afterward.

Warm up exercises before more intense activities such as weight lifting should be done at a low intensity before gradually increasing your effort until you reach performance level intensity. This means that instead of lurching right into heavy lifting with weights or barbells, you start with lower weight where you can still perform the required movements at full range without strain. You may even want to do some foam rolling or massage therapy techniques to further relax any tight bands in overworked muscle fibers leading up exercise sessions. Remember that warming up is important not just for physical reasons but also for mental preparation so that you’re ready to work out comfortably while avoiding injury risk factors.

Pace Yourself During Exercise

It can be tempting to overdo things when first starting a workout regimen, but pacing yourself is an essential part of preventing or reducing muscle soreness. Stressing your muscles too much can lead to overexertion which can result in inflammation, pain, and tissue damage. To prevent this from happening, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts over time. Warm-up routines should always be done before beginning a more vigorous exercise program. This will help your muscles get used to the movements and help avoid overexertion and resulting soreness afterwards.
Staying hydrated during exercise is also important for avoiding muscle pain, as dehydration will cause more fatigue and leave your body vulnerable to injury. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after each exercise session in order to keep your muscles from getting dehydrated and sore afterwards. Nutrition is another important factor – your body needs the proper nutrients in order to develop new tissues that result from physical activity. Eating food rich in carbohydrates and protein before exercising will provide the necessary energy for an effective workout with less post-exercise pain afterwards.

Cool Down After Exercise

It is important to take the time to cool down after exercise in order to prevent muscle soreness and improve performance. A cool-down after your workouts should consist of low intensity physical activity such as walking or gentle stretching for at least five minutes, allowing your body to adjust from the higher intensity levels of work. This can help maximize performance, reduce pain and aid in faster recovery time.

Stretching can further help to prevent muscle soreness by reducing tension in your muscles, improving flexibility and range of motion, and assisting with post-exercise recovery. Different types of stretching may be advised depending on what type of activity you do — dynamic stretches before workouts, while static stretches are often recommended afterwards. Stretching should be done with slow and sustained movements, giving careful attention not to overstretch your muscles or joints so that they become strained or injured.

Another way to help prevent muscle soreness is with massage therapy which has long been used both pre-and post-workout in athletes of all levels. Massage works by increasing circulation, breaking down adhesions between muscles and connective tissue fibers, decreasing inflammation associated with intense physical activities. The massage will provide benefits such as improved range of motion due to decreased tightness in the tissue as well as improved mental clarity when performing at higher levels for an extended period of time during competition or training sessions

Treatment of Muscle Soreness

Many people experience muscle soreness after intense workouts. Muscle soreness is caused by an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle which can result in pain and discomfort. There are many ways to treat this kind of soreness, such as massage and stretching, to help alleviate the symptoms. In this article we will take a look at how to reduce the discomfort caused by muscle soreness after a workout.


Massage is a great way to treat muscle soreness caused by exercise. After an intense workout, you can use massage to help relax the muscles and treat any existing soreness or discomfort. Massage has been found to reduce stress levels, increase blood circulation, and improve oxygen flow in the body. It can also reduce the production of chemical substances associated with inflammation, thus helping to reduce soreness in the muscles.

Additionally, using massage techniques after a strenuous workout can help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Proper technique as well as varying pressure applied during your massage session can target specific points on your body and provide great relief. To ensure that your massage session is an effective one, it is best to seek out an experienced massage therapist who understands your condition and provides treatment tailored specifically for you.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is a popular method for muscle soreness treatment, as it increases blood flow to the affected area, along with other benefits. Heat therapy can reduce stiffness and swelling while reducing pain by dilating the blood vessels in the muscles. This allows more oxygen and nutrients to flow through, which helps repair the damage caused by intense exercise.

Applying heat to an injured or sore area can be done in several ways. A hot water bottle or moist heat compress works well for home treatment of muscle soreness, and should not be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time. It is also important to keep the temperature at a comfortable level and not too hot while using heat treatments. Other forms of heat therapy such as a heating pad or paraffin wax dips can be used as well, but should not exceed 10-15 minutes of use per session per area.

Professional treatments such as ultrasound therapy or thermoplasty are also available for further relief from muscle soreness when needed, and may be best for particularly stubborn or recurring pain issues. But don’t forget—along with proper heat treatments—giving your body time to rest and recover is essential to prevent long term damage from overtraining!


Stretching is an important part of your workout and can help reduce the feeling of soreness in your muscles. When stretching, be sure to do it slowly and smoothly with minimal bouncing. Also, avoid putting yourself into positions of discomfort as over-stretching can cause damage to your tissues.

Static stretching is when you take a muscle group to its furthest length and hold it for a pre-determined period of time. Dynamic stretching involves moving your body through its range of motion under tension. Ballistic stretching involves quick, bouncing movements that increase the range of movement in a joint or muscle group. This type of stretching should only be done by experienced athletes.

Stretching after exercise will reduce the amount of lactic acid build up that occurs and promotes blood flow, relaxation and improved range-of-motion. Additionally, greater flexibility may mean improved performance during future workouts as well as decreased risk for injury due to tissue overload or overexertion while exercising.


In conclusion, muscle burning is a natural part of working out and is typically caused by lactic acid buildup. The best way to combat this feeling is to ensure that your body has enough fuel in the form of carbohydrates and electrolytes before a workout as well as during. Additionally, short periods of rest during a workout can allow the lactic acid to be released from your muscles, helping you to continue past any burn feeling. Ultimately, soreness from increased cell regeneration the next day is normal in low intensity, steady activities like walking and running. High intensity activities such as interval training, resistance exercises and plyometrics can lead to more pinpointed muscle pain but will encourage muscle growth over time. Ultimately, if your muscles are becoming severely painful during or after a workout, you may need more rest or need to adjust the intensity of your workouts.

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