Have you ever found yourself battling sore muscles before or during a run? And thought taking a couple ibuprofen (or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID) might help. Well you are not alone. Many runners, including my friends, find this to be a common practice. In fact, a 2008 study found that nearly 50% of Ironman athletes used NSAID either before or during the race.
So in an effort to help other runners and prevent unneeded injuries due to lack of knowledge on the topic. Below is a quick overview (with links to the studies) on why you should never take ibuprofen before or while running.
Highlights include: According to a Sandford study “taking ibuprofen for pain relief while competing in ultramarathons causes an increased risk of acute kidney injury.”
Why you Should Never Take ibuprofen When Running
1. Inflammation is the body’s way of speeding up recovery. By sending blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to the area in need.
Preventing this inflammation delays the body’s ability to heal itself. Here is a link to a study showing that the use of NSAIDs after exercise slowed recovery time. This is why it’s not advised to take NSAIDs before, during, or after running.
2. There is no evidence they improve performance.
That’s right. For all of the athletes that have chosen to take ibuprofen or any NSAID for that matter, they have done this without any evidence that it will actually help. And according to a study conducted on Western States Runners, “ibuprofen use compared to nonuse by athletes competing in a 160-km race did not alter muscle damage or soreness, and was related to elevated indicators of endotoxemia and inflammation.”
3. Studies show that the use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs during endurance events has a direct link to acute kidney injury. Doubling the risk compared to non users.
“People who take the painkiller ibuprofen while running very long distances double their risk of acute kidney injury, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and several other institutions.”
In fact, the head of the stud called this “an impressive difference.” Going on to say…
“Basically, for every five runners who took ibuprofen, there was one additional case of acute kidney injury. That’s a pretty high rate,” he said.
4. Studies show taking ibuprofen can cancel running-distance-dependent adaptations of skeletal muscles.
That’s right. Over time, running leads to adaptations of the skeletal muscles that help running economics and performance. And taking NSAIDs can cancel out these adaptations. You can read more about it here.
It’s hard to argue with science. And all of the studies on the use of ibuprofen and NSAIDs while before, during, and after running. They do not offer a performance benefit. They delay recovery, cancels skeletal muscle adaptation, and leads to a 2x risk of acute kidney injury.
As far as science is concerned, you have nothing to gain from using ibuprofen. And everything to lose. So be smart out there and remember, friends don’t let friends use ibuprofen when exercising.