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Athletes Avoid Ibuprofen

Athletes, you are strongly being advised to stop popping painkillers like they’re M&Ms. According to a new study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) before a tough workout may lead to bad stomach irritation.

Researchers in the Netherlands tested the blood levels of nine healthy male triathletes and bikers while riding a stationary bike. During one session the group took 400 milligrams of ibuprofen the previous night and before testing. For another session the triathletes avoided the pain pills.

Researchers found that when taking ibuprofen, the riders had 84 percent higher levels of a protein in the blood called I-FABP—a marker of intestinal damage.

It seems rational that if you’re sore before training, a NSAID may help push you through—but you’re putting your body in danger, says Stuart Warden, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Taking something like ibuprofen may alleviate pain and inflammation, but it also inhibits the creation prostaglandin, which is a chemical important to the protection of the lining in the gut. With these in limited supply on a regular basis, developing ulcers or GI bleeding is more likely. “When you do exercise and take a NSAIDs in combination beforehand, you’re actually putting more stress on the GI system,” Warden tells MensHealth.com.

Research also shows if you take NSAIDs prior to exercise, you can disrupt the production of collagen to your tissues, tendons, and bones. “You actually decrease your exercise benefit,” he says.

So does this mean you should trash NSAIDs? The decision comes down to when you use it. Rolled ankle hurting for a week? Then they’re fine if used as recommended. However, if you’re regularly downing these pain pills before exercise to preempt things like muscle soreness could have serious consequences. Instead of taking NSAIDs for minor aches, Stuart recommends stretching on your off days, warming up to get your heart rate up, and swimming or riding stationary bike to get blood flowing to sore joints and muscles.

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