Why shouldn't you take ibuprofen when playing sports?

There are not a few athletes who have found themselves struggling with muscle pain before or during training. You’ve probably thought about taking ibuprofen (or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID). However, despite being a common practice, it can harbor a main problem.

One study found that almost 50% of Ironman athletes used NSAIDs before or during the race. So to help other runners and prevent unnecessary injuries, we looked at the effects of taking ibuprofen before or during a workout. Mainly though, taking ibuprofen for pain relief while competing in ultramarathons leads to an increased risk of acute kidney injury.

Does not improve performance

Inflammation is the body’s way of speeding up recovery. In this way blood, oxygen and other nutrients are sent to the area that is needed. Preventing this inflammation delays the body’s ability to heal itself. Some studies show that the use of NSAIDs after exercise slows down recovery time . That is why it is not recommended to take ibuprofen before, during or after running.

Also, there is no evidence that they improve performance. Athletes who have chosen to take ibuprofen, or any NSAID, have done so without any evidence that it actually helps. One study found that use of this medication compared to no use by athletes competing in a 100-mile race did not alter muscle damage or soreness, and was associated with elevated markers of endotoxemia and inflammation.

pastillas de ibuprofeno

Physical damage of ibuprofen

Studies show that the use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs during resistance events has a direct link to acute kidney injury. You get to double the risk compared to those who do not take it. People who take the pain reliever ibuprofen while running very long distances double their risk of acute kidney injury. Basically, for every five runners taking ibuprofen, there was one additional case of acute kidney injury. It’s a pretty high rate.

Other research also shows that taking ibuprofen can cancel out skeletal muscle adaptations that depend on running distance. Over time, running and playing sports lead to skeletal muscle adaptations that aid running economy and performance. Therefore, this drug can cancel these adaptations.

Studies of ibuprofen and NSAID use before, during, and after running show no performance benefit. They delay recovery, cancel skeletal muscle adaptation, and lead to a twofold increased risk of acute kidney injury. When it comes to science, it is clear that we have nothing to gain from the use of ibuprofen.