Can NSAIDs Interfere with Workout Recovery?
The recovery period of a workout is one of the most important aspects of the overall routine. In some professional opinions it is just as important as the nutritional aspect of a workout routine, with most fitness trainers having a guideline of 70% diet and 30% workout for a healthy regimen. The importance of recovery lies in the fact that with every workout, whether it is for endurance training or strength training, small tears in the muscles occur. As the body naturally heals these tears, new muscle tissue forms, which results in greater strength, more muscle mass, and thus better endurance. However, for the healing process to occur, there must be some form of downtime during which the body can physically recover.
The cells in our body are fairly complex aspects of our overall anatomy, and given the chance they can regenerate and repair damaged tissue within the body, as well as remove and replace necrotic tissue. However, regeneration can only occur if an individual is taking the time to rest. Most workouts focus on one aspect of the body on a given day, and then provide several days of rest before working that section of the body again. According to Jim Schmitz, coach of the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting team in 1980, 1988, and 1992, “… you must train very hard to make progress; however, you must also be able to recover from workouts.” In addition, the famed endocrinologist Hans Hugu Bruno Selye stated that, “the goal is certainly not to avoid stress – stress is a part of life. It is a natural byproduct of all our activities…but in order to express yourself fully, you must first find your optimum stress levels and then use your adaptation energy at a rate and in a direction adjusted to the innate structure of your mind and body. It is not easy… it takes much practice and almost constant self-analysis.”
The Problem with Current Trends
These days, one of the most common problems plaguing individuals in the developed world is over-medication. The Centers for Disease Control released numbers recently showing that addiction to painkillers kills more individuals every year than heroin addiction. Even for those who are not addicted, there is a concern for those who use ibuprofen or some form of NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), either just before or just after exercise as a means of addressing muscle pain caused by a strenuous workout.
However, what many individuals fail to understand is that the body’s natural process of healing is to create an inflammatory response. By taking anti-inflammatory medication, the body is hindered from performing its natural function. .
During the healing process, studies show that the day after an intense workout, there is bleeding within the muscle fibers and a disruption in the tissues which bind the muscle fibers. It is during this inflammatory process that the muscles release prostaglandins, which stimulate the production of collagen to enhance the size of muscle fibers; however the side effect is muscle soreness. Most individuals respond to the pain by taking anti-inflammatory medication; however this is counterproductive as the medications block the function of the prostaglandins which, in addition to enhancing muscle mass, also reduce inflammation. This prevents bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments from developing and growing stronger.
In addition, according to the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity in November of 2006, athletes who took anti-inflammatory medications during competition were at an increased risk for intramuscular bleeding to enter the kidneys, as well as the possibility of intestinal bacteria entering the bloodstream. They estimate that 60% of athletes competing in endurance events take anti-inflammatory drugs in the mistaken belief that by inhibiting the pain, their performance will be enhanced.
The reality is quite simple: masking the pain does nothing more than block the body from performing its natural functions. It is not simply that anti-inflammatory drugs can slow the progress of a strength training regimen, but if used to the extent that overtraining ensures, the door is opened to injuries.
Muscle soreness is a sign that you have pushed yourself as hard as is necessary. Downtime is equally as important as other aspects in a strength or endurance-building workout regimen, and it is crucial to allow the body to react naturally, rather than attempting to block the pain with artificial substances. While it may mean accepting initial discomfort, in the long run enabling the body to heal naturally will yield far greater benefits than might otherwise be realized through masking the pain through the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Remember to discuss proper routines with your licensed medical professional or physical fitness trainer to determine the rates of downtime for your personal fitness regimen.
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