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It’s a wonderful thing, committing to a fitness regimen and seeing your body grow stronger and more toned. However, along with these welcome changes, some individuals may notice the appearance of stretch marks. You might think stretch marks are exclusively reserved for periods of rapid weight gain or pregnancy, but they can actually appear whenever the body changes shape quickly, which includes periods of intense muscle growth from working out. However, don’t let this discourage you from your fitness journey! There are several strategies you can employ to prevent or minimise stretch marks from working out.
Firstly, let’s look at what stretch marks are. They’re essentially scars that occur when the skin is stretched too quickly and the collagen and elastin fibres break. They start off as raised pink, red or purple lines, before gradually fading to a lighter, silverish colour over time.
Now, here’s the good news. While stretch marks are a normal part of life and nothing to be ashamed of, there are ways you can help prevent them or reduce their appearance if they do occur. Let’s take a look at these now.
If you want to avoid stretch marks, the first rule of thumb is: don’t rush it. The key is consistency and gradual progression. If you’re weight training, for example, gradually increase the amount you’re lifting over time rather than going for significant weight increments all at once. By allowing your body to slowly adapt to the changes, your skin will have more time to adjust to the growth of your muscles, reducing the likelihood of stretch marks appearing.
Water plays a crucial role in maintaining skin elasticity. Drinking plenty of water ensures that your skin stays supple and better equipped to stretch as your muscles grow. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and more if you’re doing intensive workouts.
Just like every other part of your body, your skin needs essential nutrients to stay healthy. Vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as zinc and protein, are particularly important for skin health. Eating a balanced diet packed with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains will give your skin the nutrients it needs to better cope with changes in your body shape.
Keeping your skin moisturised can increase its elasticity and thus its ability to stretch. Creams and oils rich in vitamin E, cocoa butter, or shea butter can be particularly effective. Remember to moisturise the areas where stretch marks are more likely to appear, such as the arms, thighs, and chest.
Cardiovascular exercises help improve blood circulation, which can improve skin elasticity and keep your skin healthy. A good blood supply allows your skin to receive more oxygen and essential nutrients, keeping it nourished and more capable of stretching without tearing.
Dry brushing is a technique that involves gently brushing your skin with a natural-bristle brush. It’s believed to improve circulation, exfoliate the skin, and promote new skin growth, although the evidence is largely anecdotal. Dry brush before you shower, always brushing towards your heart.
While the evidence is mixed, some people find that topical treatments like Retin-A (prescription required), glycolic acid, and micro-needling can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Always test a small amount first to make sure your skin can tolerate it.
Remember, everyone’s skin reacts differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s always best to consult with a dermatologist if you’re concerned about stretch marks.
Lastly, keep in mind that your body is doing amazing things, and the appearance of stretch marks is a natural part of that process. Be kind to yourself and your body, embracing the changes that come with building a healthier, stronger you.