Several questions have come my way asking about issues with aches, pains, either with headaches and/or cramps; much of the time is associated with dehydration, please ensure you’re replenishing your fluids before, during and after your training.
I’m always hesitant to recommend using ibuprofen otherwise known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (i.e. Advil, Motrin). Some runners/athletes use before, sometime during and after competition in order to compete at the highest intensity or duration of the event. What happens? The NSAIDS prevent the body from manufacturing prostaglandins (which is a substance that your body naturally produces to act as mediators for physiological functions which include protecting the stomach lining and regulating blood pressure. Prostaglandins also intercede pain and inflammation.
- What NSAIDs do is block all Prostaglandins (both that cause pain and protect the stomach lining) which can trigger stomach upset otherwise known as gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding; the risk of stomach upset or “GI bleeding” increases with long term use of NSAIDs.
- Okay so will NSAIDs work on Athletic Performance or will it prevent or reduce muscle soreness? Several studies have found little actual performance benefit of taking ibuprofen and have also found that it may mask pain, which can lead to risk of injury.
- Study ONE: concluded that taking 400 mg ibuprofen 4 hours before running reduced the perception of muscle soreness but didn’t actually prevent muscle cell injury as which indicated by creatine kinase (a protein found inside muscle cells that are released when they are injured).
- Study TWO: cautioned the use of NSAIDs during ultra-distance exercises (i.e. running ultra-marathons, Ironman Triathlon), due to increased risk of exertional hyponatremia (electrolyte disturbance when your body is not getting enough sodium/salt or the sodium intake is lower than normal; lack of sodium is not direct cause but indirectly promotes hyponatremia). Researchers believe that this effect is likely due to altered renal (kidney) function. The issues related to altered kidney function in athletes can lead to poor fluid transportation and restriction leading to dehydration and hyponatremia, and of course the extreme: Kidney failure.
So does NSAIDs used during sports affect performance?
- Using NSAIDs does not affect performance, muscle damage, or perceived soreness, but associated with elevated indicators of inflammation and cell damage.
- Studies further showed using NSAIDs has no positive effect on sports performance. It may cause a serious health risk in some endurance athletes.
So when should I use them? For moderate use only and after intense exercise/running. Make sure you warm-up, have proper nutrition, hydration, because this is what will help in reducing soreness. Food for thought anything that ends in “itis” such as tendonitis, plantar faciaitis, will generally not have benefits from ibuprofen, a physician will treat it with steroids.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m opposed or don’t use ibuprofen, but when I do, it’s on a very rare of must use basis and of course as directed by my healthcare provider.
I know this is probably a lot more than what you expected, but I like to give as much detail as to why I provide information when asked, especially on a topic as this one.