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Old March 17th, 2004, 05:34 PM
Cai Cai is offline
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pain killers = bad for muscle growth

Why pain killers can stop muscle growth dead in its tracks...
Over-the-counter pain killers (such as ibuprofen) are a popular way to ease the pain and soreness that manifests itself 24-48 hours after a tough workout.
However, what most people don't realize is that high doses of these pain killers can "blunt" the normal rise in protein synthesis that occurs after exercise. In other words, while they can control the pain, regular use of these pain killers could put the brakes on muscle growth.

Pain killers
Protein synthesis is one important factor controlling the rate of muscle growth. In simple terms, your muscles grow larger when protein synthesis is greater than protein breakdown.

Think of your muscles like a bath. Water coming into the bath is known as protein synthesis. Water leaving the bath is known as protein breakdown. When there's more water coming into the bath than there is going out, you'll end up with bigger muscles.

One of the ways that pain killers such as ibuprofen work is to suppress the synthesis of substances known as prostaglandins. However, these very same prostaglandins also have a profound effect on muscle growth.

Some evidence linking prostaglandins to a reduced rate of protein synthesis comes from a trial published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. A group of male subjects with an average age of 25 were assigned to one of three groups. All groups performed 10-14 sets of 10 eccentric repetitions for the muscles on the front of the thigh.

After completing the workout, group one received the maximal over-the-counter dose of ibuprofen (1200 milligrams daily).

Group two was given acetaminophen (4000 milligrams daily).

The third group received a placebo (a "dummy" supplement) that contained no active ingredients.

When muscle samples were analyzed 24 hours after exercise, levels of a prostaglandin called PGF2 increased by an average of 77% in the group using the placebo. This represents the normal response to exercise. However, PGF2 levels dropped by 1% and 14% in the ibuprofen and acetaminophen groups respectively.

Of course, this was only a short-term study. The extent to which the prolonged use of pain killers affects muscle growth over a period of several weeks or months is open to debate. However, while the occasional use of pain killers isn't likely to cause a problem, they're certainly not something you should use too often.

If you do want to avoid feeling sore after exercise, the best way is simply to ease your way into a new training program gradually. Even stretching, commonly recommended as a way to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (also known as DOMS) has very little effect on the pain and soreness you feel after exercise.


Trappe, T.A., Fluckey, J.D., White, F., Lambert, C.P., & Evans, W.J. (2001). Skeletal muscle PGF(2)(alpha) and PGE(2) in response to eccentric resistance exercise: influence of ibuprofen acetaminophen. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 86, 5067-5070
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