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Ibuprofen Blocks Muscle Building?


Will ibuprofen block muscle building after intense exercise?

"A study published in 2001 by exercise physiologist William J. Evans of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and his colleagues showed that both ibuprofen and, to the researchers' surprise, acetaminophen (Tylenol) blocked new muscle synthesis after intense weight training exercise.

Evans' group studied 24 men in their 20s and divided them into three groups -- one that got ibuprofen, one that got acetaminophen and one that got a dummy drug -- after a weight workout of the legs that brought the subject to the point of exhaustion. The researchers also took muscle biopsies -- small samples of muscle tissue -- before and after the exercise, and did numerous other tests.

They found that both ibuprofen and acetaminophen suppress the body's normal response to muscle damage (and thus repair) after exercise.

So, should you skip the over-the-counter painkillers after a tough strength-training workout? Probably. If you can stand the muscle soreness and really want to bulk up.

On the other hand, even people who routinely take ibuprofen to control pain, such as those with chronic arthritis, can build muscle mass very well, said Dr. Ronenn Roubenoff, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition, Science and Policy at Tufts University. So far, he said, people with rheumatoid arthritis seem to "do as well or better than healthy people not taking" ibuprofen in terms of muscle protein synthesis."

This was just one study I found. Doesn't look like it's all that scientific, but do you guys have any knowledge of the subject?

It's a bit disapointing to think that all that work in the gym was for 'nothing'.

The pain from Test Prop and some others is overwhelming sometimes, which makes the use of some of these meds a must.


So, it doesn't sound like you think too much truth lies in the matter.

Hopefully it's all just a myth, but does anyone else have any info on this subject.


read about this before in some article on this site. the author recommended aspirin...works through some chemical that doesnt affect muscle synthesis, unfortunately I dont know the exact science behind it.


i've read this many times...i thought it was common knowledge. here is the original study.



Muscle infammation is essential to eliciting various adaptations within the muscle. No imflammation, no adaptations. Here's some research as I'm sure some people will disagree. I can supply plenty more if needed. It deals with antioxidants, though their anti-inflammatory action can be compared to pain killers.

Radical species in inflammation and overtraining. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 76(5): 533?538 (1998)

Abstract: Reactive oxygen species can be important in the initiation of exercise-induced muscle damage and in the initiation and propagation of the subsequent acute muscle inflammatory response. Oxygen radicals generated via the neutrophil respiratory burst are vital in clearing away muscle tissue that has been damaged by exercise and they may also be responsible for propagation of further damage. Intervention by antioxidants to limit the postexercise inflammatory response and its potential to impair optimal muscle function are of interest to serious and recreational sports participants. Although antioxidants have the potential to limit muscle oxidative stress during the postexercise period, direct evidence for their role in this is limited. It is likely that short-term training can protect muscle from subsequent exercise-induced damage and inflammation without necessarily improving muscle antioxidant status. Although muscle antioxidant status may be enhanced by longer term training, diet, or antioxidant administration, the significance of antioxidants in limiting muscle damage during the acute inflammatory response needs to be more clearly defined. It may even be counterproductive to limit neutrophil function during the inflammatory response, since this may inhibit subsequent muscle repair.


If it had to do with inflammation, I could see ibuprofen, asparin, Aleve, etc. inhibiting growth, but why Tylenol? I have been taking three Aleve a day for three months and before that Celebrex every day for five for arthritis. I have been working out for several months and just recently started working out hard again and I don't think I have seen any noticeable hindarance of recovery or growth. I worried about it some, but there is nothing I can do so I don't sweat it.

I would worry more about the nsaids and stomach problems or tylenol and liver problems if you are taking them all the time. If you need them for muscle soreness or injection soreness, you might be a wuss or need to re-evaluate your routine.


Becuase inflammation is part of the signalling pathway for protein synthesis?


What a strange thread.

We don't know exactly how acetaminophen works, so we shouldn't really be surprised to learn of a new effect. I mean, it's cool to learn and everything, but I couldn't imagine questioning the validity as much as has been done on this thread (this coming from the anti-dogma guy!).

Good thread. Strange, but good.


I was under the impression that all painkillers also depressed test levels to some extent, which could hamper muscle building.

Is that mistaken? Or is it only the opiates and synthetics?


Do people really take this stuff because they are sore after working out?

If so they are too wussy to build muscle.

If they need it for chronic pain then it is a different matter entirely.


Yea, that would seem odd. I never thought to take them for any kind of pain other than post-surgery, or for headaches (I used to get real bad headaches).


Jamies Cain is correct. Anything that suppresses inflammation may inhibit muscle growth.


I also agree. I was never concerned, or gave much thought to this topic in the past, because I never thought about using any of these substances.

I love feeling sore after I workout. That's my reward.

Things have changed in the last week, or so and I've needed to take them just to get to the gym.

I'm just surprised that there might be some real truth to all of this, and that as it stands it seems so unknown.


Which brings up the question: Since Omega-3s are widely reputed to help inflammation, if this is true then should omega3s inhibit muscle growth?


I look at it this way; What is worse, taking ibuprofen and the possibility of it not giving you max gains, or not lifting at all due to soreness? I'd rather take a little and train harder. My biggest concern would be the use of painkillers dulling a pain that is an alarm signal of an injury.

On a firsthand basis, I regularly take Motrin and I dispense it to maybe a third to half of my @600 soldiers. Most of us are in pretty good shape, but our daily lifestyle leaves us with sore backs and knees. With the exception of serious injury, a little Motrin does the trick and allows us to continue training at the same level.


actually sometimes i have to take a tylenol or something after a heavy workout, because i get really bad headaches later in the day. it isnt for me about being sore, and it doesnt happen all the time


Yeah, if inflamation is required to build muscle wouldn't Flameout be contraindicated for bodybuilders???
What about it T-Nation staff?


haha i know a guy who takes ibuprofen before every workout. "vitamin-I" he calls it.


The authors didn't make any leaps so I think it's best to wait for more definitive data. As the authors state:

"The long-term influence of this acute response after resistance exercise for individuals who chronically consume these (or similar) drugs cannot be determined from this study. However, long-term use of these drugs may inhibit the normal hypertrophic response to resistance training. Future studies on the impact of chronic consumption of over-the-counter doses of these drugs on skeletal muscle are warranted."

As for DHA and EPA, the mechanism of action isn't the same so assuming that ibuprofen does definitively decrease the amount of lean body mass one would gain (which again could be debated) it's difficult to say. With ibuprofen you're inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. With DHA and EPA on the other hand, they compete with arachidonic acid for incorporation into the cell membrane phospholipids where they serve as an alternative substrate, allowing for the production of "weaker" or "less active" eicosanoid metabolites as compared to AA.

Last but not least, going back to the ibuprofen, we should keep in mind that it along with other anti-inflammatory compounds (EPA and resveratrol) have shown some success in terms of inhibiting muscle degradation. Hence the recent look into their use as potential anti-cachexia agents.

So, what I'm saying is simply to keep looking for more data as I think it's too early to make a solid conclusion.


Here's my understanding. The inflammatory response is necessary to remove and recycle materials from damaged cells. This requires some production of cortisol and the release of glutamine from muscle cells into the surrounding tissue. The surviving majority of cells expand their syncytium to resorb the recycled nutrients.

ALSO, the surviving cells will (turn on or off) genes in SOME of their sets of chromosomes to express a fiber type shifted more toward the needs of the specific training stimulus. The triggers here probably have to do with (free radicals) creatine depletion, glycogen depletion, and possibly local pH. Muscle fiber type is a continuum because each syncytium has dozens of complete sets of chromosomes, and a percentage of the sets will have some of the many genes for different actin-myosin chain types blocked.

Interestingly, this might suggest that creatine loading prevents strength gains because local creatine depletion is a likely candidate trigger for favoring fast twitch (type x or b I believe)chains. Likewise, training to the point of a burn (drop in pH) might be a trigger favoring slow twitch (type a fibers).

OK, so here's the point: You need a moderate inflammatory response. Too much starts to break down perfectly good muscle cells. Those pussies in the study probably were training so pussily that with the ibuprofin they probably didn't get to the minimal moderate inflammatory level needed to do the job. If you train hard enough to really need ibubrofin, you are probably controlling the inlammatory response and preventing breakdown of the good stuff.