Do Painkillers Ruin Your Strength Gains?

It’s fairly normal to be in pain or discomfort after a serious workout. If you spend all that time breaking muscles fibres, then you’ve got to expect some muscle soreness the next day (and sometimes even worse soreness the day after that). When you’re in pain it’s normal to just take some painkillers and power through, however that may not be the best idea when you’re looking to improve your strength and grow some muscle mass.

Healing after a workout

After a workout, your muscles will be/should be sore and inflamed to some degree. And while this inflammation hurts, it initiates physical adaptations that make you more able to handle the physical stress in the future. Research published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that pro-inflammatory compounds produced by exercise trigger the release of powerful anti-inflammatory substances that help damaged muscles heal and have other long-lasting health benefits.

Taking an ibuprofen or an aspirin to counter these effects could prevent the healing process from taking place, which neutralises some of the benefits of exercise.

Research into the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs

Those clever guys at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm did research into this very topic, giving groups of men and women aged 18-35 different doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and measuring the effects of exercise on muscle growth.

“We chose to look at the effect of ibuprofen as it is the most well-studied anti-inflammatory drug on the market, but we believe that high doses of all types of OTC NSAIDs have similar effects.” – Tommy Lundberg, a researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Laboratory Medicine.

Using MRI, they found that people who took the lower dose of aspirin experienced twice as much growth in their quad muscles as the group taking a high dose of ibuprofen.

Does paracetamol affect muscle growth?

The preceding research has shown the impact of anti-inflammatory painkillers on muscle growth and strength development but is it still ok to pop a paracetamol if the DOMS are killing you?

In a word, yes. In five words, yes but you probably shouldn’t.

DOMS is caused by micro-tears in the muscles after training, which means that it is acceptable to train through the pain, rather than skipping another squats session because your quads are still killing you. However, painkillers like paracetamol can keep you in denial. Paracetamol influences the central nervous system and is thought to reduce the intensity of pain signals to the brain. Meaning it covers up pain, it doesn’t reduce it.

This is probably not a good idea when training with big lumps of metal. You need to be aware of what your body is telling you, and a dependence on paracetamol can mean you miss other signals from your body telling about injuries and potential problems.

How to deal with muscle soreness

You’re far better off ensuring you get a good night’s sleep and give yourself plenty of time to stretch thoroughly after every workout to help limit stiffness the next day.

Muscle soreness is the sign of a workout well done. I know it hurts, but wear that pain with pride because it means your muscles are growing and your strength is improving.

Gay Personal Trainers

If you’re stiff in all the wrong ways after hitting the gym, you might benefit from working with a gay personal trainer. They can design a training and nutrition program to suit your individual needs, and be on hand to help coach you towards your goals.

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