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Ibuprofen and athletes - recent studies yield some surprising results

skatey-mark's picture

People that know me know that I don't think twice about popping some ibuprofen ("vitamin i") before, after, and during events.  While ibuprofen is generally considered pretty safe, I was curious about any side effects from long-term use, or use during endurance events.

What I discovered was contrary to both my preconceptions and my experience.  To summarize, there were a couple very small studies done that suggest there is no performance benefit to taking ibuprofen before or during an event.  One study suggested that there was a small reduction in perceived pain, but another study said there was no difference in the study and control groups for perceived pain or level of effort.

Blood tests indicated that the inflammatory response was the same or greater in the group taking the ibuprofen.  They also indicated a slight decrease in kidney function, which could make people more susceptible to hyponatraemia, etc.  Finally, recovery time was longer and less effective for those taking the ibuprofen.

So...  With this information, will I change my ways?  I'm not sure there's enough evidence to definitively disprove any performance benefits.  I'll still carry some on me just in case, but may skip the pre-race dose.

Here are a few of the articles I found...

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/medicationanddrugs/a/NSAID_endurance.htm

http://www.wellsphere.com/triathlon-article/ibuprofen-bad-for-endurance-athletes-before-during-and-after-training-or-racing-studies-show/788177

http://www.knowabouthealth.com/unfolds-facts-ibuprofen-hurts-during-exercise/2323/

http://beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=1848

 

- SM

Comments

roadskater's picture

This is a Good Reminder to Take Care

Thanks for the info, Skatey-Mark. I have heard one very good athlete mention that she had a bad reaction with ibuprofin one time, as I recall. I have never been aware of such a reaction, but who knows. I do not tend to take anticipatory ibuprofin, but when I first feel pain I am willing, sometimes eager. It'd be funny if this caused cramps in my muscles! I don't think it does, but it'd be a real irony pill. I think I took six ibuprofin during the 2010 Carolina Century...3 when offered along County Line Road in Forsyth County or just before going onto CLR. I took 3 after mile 89 and after switching to water at the 88.5 rest stop at the ALWAYS FRIENDLY to us Sandy Cross Country Store. I felt crampy at the usual times, which I'll report later (he said again). But as for the ibuprofin, either that or the water or smelling the finish perked me up. I felt bad in the legs still at Speedwell, but that was after a sprint (relatively) up that hill. Once on the flatter sections before the final three significant hills...ok I looked at the elevation profile and really am not sure what I thought was flat about it...but in any case I started to feel powerful. I attributed this to switching to plain water after a day of all skaterade. I have had this feeling before, that switching to clear water increased my power somehow. But it could have been the ibuprofin kicking in. I also know that once I sense I can finish it is a huge adrenaline rush, and even going up "the final humiliation" (just a hill that goes from 100.5 to 102, making it harder since it's after 100 but not the finish) I felt good. Earlier, well...more later. I need to test the switchover to water more. I need to read up on symptoms of too many electrolytes in the blood. Also, I need to consider the ibuprofin dosage and whether I should take only one at a time. I already think waiting for the swelling or pain first is a pretty good idea.

MikeB's picture

Vitamin "I"

Thanks Mark.  There seems to be a general increase in athletes and weekend warriors taking "I" prior to an event and even during the event.  Everyone is probably different in how it affects/helps/hinders them.  I'm still of the mindset that it's available after an event if weary bones and muscles call for it.  After a hockey tournament we'll turn to vitamin "T" first, and the team will usually blast through 1 bottle and go deep into a 2nd.  But if "T"equila isn't handy, then "I" it is.

eebee's picture

Changing my Ways

Thanks for mentioning this, Mark. I have decided to reduce my dependence on Ibuprofen since you posted this. I am taking more preventative measures to head off pain, migraines and swelling at the pass, rather than leaning on the Ibu for a bail-out.

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