Jan 29, 2015
Ibuprofen and Exercise a Bad Mix?

For years, athletes have turned to ibuprofen as a pain reliever to combat muscle soreness, with some even taking the drug before exercise as a preemptive strike against tissue inflammation. However, in a new study published in the December issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands report that taking ibuprofen and similar anti-inflammatory painkillers before a workout yields no benefit, and instead may cause temporary intestinal damage.
For the study, researchers tested nine healthy, active men four times at Maastricht’s human performance lab. According to the New York Times:

During two of the visits, the men rested languorously for an hour, although before one of the visits, they swallowed 400 milligrams of ibuprofen the night before and also the morning of their trip to the lab. (Four hundred milligrams is the recommended non-prescription dosage for adults using the drug to treat headaches or other minor pain.)

During the remaining visits, the men briskly rode stationary bicycles for that same hour. Before one of those rides, though, they again took 400 milligrams of ibuprofen the night before and the morning of their workout. At the end of each rest or ride, researchers drew blood to check whether the men’s small intestines were leaking.

Kim van Wijck, MD, a surgical resident at Orbis Medical Center in the Netherlands who led the study, says the post-workout and post-rest checkups found that blood levels of a protein indicating intestinal leakage were much higher when bike riding was combined with ibuprofen than when the test subjects rode without the drug or took it without exercising. The testing also revealed that the protein levels remained elevated several hours after exercise and ibuprofen consumption.

The findings support similar results from a 2006 study conducted by researchers from Appalachian State University. In this study, researchers found that runners at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run who were regular ibuprofen users had small amounts of colonic bacteria in their bloodstream post-race.

Ironically, this bacterial incursion resulted in “higher levels of systemic inflammation,” David C. Nieman, a Professor of Health and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University, and who conducted the study, told The New York Times.

According to Nieman, an ultramarathoner himself, the runners who frequently used ibuprofen ended the race with higher overall levels of bodily inflammation after the race. They also reported the same amount of post-race soreness as runners who had not taken ibuprofen beforehand.

Nieman says based on the findings from these studies, athletes should reconsider taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, including ibuprofen and aspirin, before and during exercise.

“The idea is just entrenched in the athletic community that ibuprofen will help you to train better and harder,” Dr. Nieman told The New York Times. “But that belief is simply not true. There is no scientifically valid reason to use ibuprofen before exercise and many reasons to avoid it.”

According to the Times, van Wijck agrees.

“We do not yet know what the long-term consequences are” of regularly mixing exercise and ibuprofen, she said. But it is clear that “ibuprofen consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be strongly discouraged.”

Shop see all »

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
website development by deyo designs
Interested in receiving the print or digital edition of Training & Conditioning?

Subscribe Today »

Be sure to check out our sister sites: