Q: I'm a healthy woman who makes it to the gym about four times a week. I do a combination of cardio and strength training, but I often feel fatigued and sore afterward. Do you have any suggestions?

A: One of the most important things to understand about exercise is that even though it provides one of the most important health benefits, your muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress in the process. For example, running downhill or lifting weights results in microscopic muscle tears, causing damage to the muscle fibers. This, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, contributes to the muscle soreness often experienced after workouts.

Your soreness is commonly a result of your body producing metabolic waste and free radicals during exercise. Free radicals are unstable molecules that attach themselves to tissues in order to create stability. When this occurs, tissue becomes damaged. The body's first line of defense against this damage is inflammation, which results in the all-too-familiar feeling of muscle soreness.

One of the best things you can do to prevent/minimize soreness is to provide your body with a constant source of efficient, absorbable, quality antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that attach themselves to free radicals, making them stable before they bind themselves to tissue and cause inflammation. Certain antioxidants, when present in your body, will even prevent free radicals from forming. Some antioxidant-rich products may also contain energizing properties to aid in your workouts.

Keep in mind that not all antioxidants are created equal. In general, it's best to seek out antioxidants from liquids and, even better, raw whole food sources, which also help eliminate metabolic waste. I suggest that you look for products containing the Brunswick Seal. Brunswick Labs, used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a company that sets the global standard for determining the amount and quality of antioxidants in products.

Another important factor in preventing soreness is warm-up and cool-down. Just ten minutes of simple breathing and stretching will help prepare your body for what is comingand enable your muscles to slowly relax again at the end. Remember, almost everyoneeven elite athleteswill experience muscle soreness at one time or another. It's simply a result of working your muscles to a point that will eventually make them stronger and better able to perform the task the next time around. If your soreness becomes uncomfortable, though, several remedies such as increased antioxidants, ice, moist heat, and proper rest may help provide relief. And as always, be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise regimen.

A graduate of New York Chiropractic College with advanced training in rehabilitation, Dr. Randi I. Ross has been working as a chiropractor/wellness advisor and physical rehabilitation consultant for more than two decades. Over the years, she has treated many famous athletes and personalities in the Metropolitan New York area. Ross also serves as a coach to chiropractors around the world and heads a global distribution company of a wellness product. A feature writer for MMA Authority Magazine, she can often be seen speaking on many platforms on antioxidants and wellness.