Does Ibuprofen Help or Hurt Your Workouts?

Ibuprofen is a medication that can help reduce pain and inflammation. It’s also been shown to decrease your chances of injury during exercise, but it doesn’t always work as expected. What are the pros and cons? Let’s take a closer look at how this popular drug affects running.

The “does ibuprofen help with sore muscles from working out” is a question that many people ask. There are mixed reviews on whether or not Ibuprofen helps or hurts your workout performance.

Advil container in front of dumbbells.

If you’re in discomfort before or after your exercises, a few of ibuprofen — sometimes known as “vitamin I” — may be in order. The medicine works its wonders in as little as 20 minutes, reducing discomfort and allowing you to move or go about your day without difficulty. 

I’ve observed that as I’ve become older, I’ve found myself reaching for the mega-bottle of ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet more and more to relieve my painful joints and tendons so that I can participate in or recover from my weightlifting exercise. It’s unpleasant to grow old. 

But then, a few months ago, I heard about some studies that claimed that taking ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may harm my hard-won gains by preventing inflammation after exercise. Muscle healing requires inflammation, which is what permits a muscle to become larger and stronger. 

Oh, sh*t. Would I have to forego the ibuprofen and exercise in discomfort, risking undoing all of my hard work? 

I decided to look into it. My report is attached. 

What Are Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and How Do They Work?

Ibuprofen is a form of NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. NSAIDs are the most often prescribed drugs for pain, inflammation, and fever relief. The most often prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is ibuprofen, which is sold under the trade name Advil. Other options include aspirin and naproxen (Aleve). Diclofenac is a common topical NSAID (Voltaren gel). 

NSAIDs work by inhibiting the formation of molecules linked to pain and inflammation in your body, especially enzymes known as cyclooxygenases (COX). COX comes in two varieties: COX-1 and COX-2. 

The majority of NSAIDs function by inhibiting both types of COX. Non-selective NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, which are the most often used kind.

Selective NSAIDs are NSAIDs that exclusively inhibit COX-2. Celebrex is a kind of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). To use a selective NSAID, you normally need a doctor’s prescription. The emphasis of this essay will be on non-selective NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, which are available over-the-counter.

After consumption, most oral NSAIDs, such as Advil or Aleve, require 20 to 30 minutes to start functioning. The pain relief they provide lasts for 4-6 hours (Advil) or 8-12 hours (Ibuprofen) (Aleve). A topical NSAID, such as diclofenac, works in roughly the same length of time but does not last as long.

Do Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) Affect Your Athletic Gains/Performance?

So we know how NSAIDs act to relieve pain: they inhibit the production of two enzymes that are created during the inflammatory process. 

Now for the million-dollar question: if inflammation promotes muscle development and NSAIDs reduce inflammation, would taking a few of ibuprofen before a workout detract from the results?

In a nutshell, probably not. 

Long answer: keep reading.

As previously indicated, there have been indications that NSAIDs, especially ibuprofen, might prevent training adaptations that enable you to lift more weight and run faster. 


According to the hypothesis, limiting the inflammation required for muscle repair after exercise prevents your muscles from responding and becoming larger and stronger.

This notion is often supported by a 2002 research. Researchers discovered that those who took ibuprofen after exercising had lower protein synthesis. The process by which your muscles convert proteins into new muscular tissue is known as protein synthesis. Furthermore, investigations on mice have demonstrated that ibuprofen ingestion reduces protein synthesis in a similar way. 

Many gym bros cite the research to back up their choice to never take “Vitamin I” after a workout, even if they’re in excruciating agony, since they’re afraid it’ll hamper their gains. 

However, a 2011 follow-up study by the same researcher who conducted the 2002 study revealed that ibuprofen did not reduce muscle protein synthesis. Ibuprofen has been demonstrated to have little or no impact on muscle development in subsequent investigations. 

So, what’s the deal? How can taking an anti-inflammatory not interfere with the process of repairing injured muscle after training? 

If inflammation was only dependent on COX enzymes, then NSAIDs would obstruct muscle adaptation. However, COX enzymes aren’t the only factor in inflammation. Inflammation, like other physiological processes, is complicated and includes a variety of substances and enzymes. Even if you take ibuprofen before or after exercise, you’ll still have a mild inflammatory response, which will promote muscle building. 

So, in conclusion, using NSAIDs before or after exercise is unlikely to harm your strength or muscular development. In fact, it’s likely that taking ibuprofen before a workout can help you gain muscle mass and strength, allowing you to run faster and longer. Not because ibuprofen has a muscle-building effect; multiple studies have demonstrated that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have no short-term performance benefits. Instead, by lowering your discomfort, ibuprofen helps you to train — to still get in a workout even if you’re feeling a little sore — which allows you to exercise regularly, which allows you to develop stronger over time. 

How to Use Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to Manage Pain While Training

So you can take Advil like Flinstone pills if NSAIDs don’t affect your athletic performance, right? 

Tiger, not so fast. 

NSAIDs are medications, and they come with hazards, especially if you take a lot of them for a long period. Stomach bleeding is the most frequent adverse effect of taking too much ibuprofen or naproxen. Kidney failure and high blood pressure are two additional possible negative effects of long-term NSAID usage.

Take NSAIDs for pain relief in the short term. 

Take the suggested amount of Advil or Aleve to relieve discomfort if you tweaked your back or have any acute pain that’s keeping you from exercising. Don’t take more than the prescribed amount. It’s 200-400 mg of ibuprofen (1-2 Advil capsules/pills) every 4-6 hours for ibuprofen, with a maximum daily dosage of 1,200 mg. The suggested dosage for naproxen is 220-440 mg (1 to 2 Aleve capsules) for the initial dose, and 220 mg every 8-12 hours after that; the maximum daily dose is 660 mg. 


Address the larger, underlying issues for long-term pain relief.

For a few days, taking the maximum daily dosage of an NSAID should not induce any potentially harmful side effects. If you’re still suffering discomfort that prevents you from exercising after a few days on your NSAID regimen, you’ll need to take a step back to figure out what’s causing the problem. Perhaps your weightlifting or running form is incorrect and has to be corrected. Perhaps you’re experiencing pain in a body part as a result of overuse, and all you need to do is change the sort of activities you’re performing to enable the injured muscle or tendon to fully recover. Maybe you only need to tone down the intensity and frequency of your workouts. Perhaps you need a dosage of vitamin “R” — recuperation.

With my own training, I’ve seen this firsthand. I’ve experienced tendinitis in various regions of my body for the last five years, including bicep tendonitis, adductor tendonitis, and, most recently, shoulder tendonitis. 

I’ll start taking Advil as soon as I feel the discomfort from tendonitis. I’ll take 400 mg before training and 400 mg again 4-6 hours afterwards. The discomfort usually goes away after a few days, and I quit taking the Advil. If I’m still in discomfort after a week, I’ll adjust my workout to let whatever is bothering me to heal. 

I moved from traditional low-bar squats to pin squats after I got a terrible case of adductor tendinitis a few years ago. I did this until I was able to squat to my full depth without discomfort. 

I also had a tough time with shoulder tendinitis earlier this year, which flared up when I bench pressed. So instead of dumbbell bench presses, my barbell coach had me perform dumbbell bench presses, which didn’t hurt and enabled me to train the bench press action.

If you’re a runner, changing up your training routine could include alternating days of running and weightlifting (which can help not only by giving your running muscles a break but also by strengthening them against injury), the type of terrain you run on (e.g., one day on pavement, one day on a trail, one day on a treadmill), and even your shoes; own at least a couple of pairs and switch them out. (Read this post for additional information on how to prevent running injuries.)

The key to long-term pain management is to identify substitute motions or programs that enable you to exercise without discomfort, allowing you to recuperate and return to regular training. 

If you’re still having trouble with localized discomfort after making exercise changes, consider putting some Voltaren gel on the affected region. As previously stated, Voltaren is the brand name for diclofenac, a topical NSAID. It’s intended to treat mild to severe arthritic pain, but it may also be used to treat other ailments. Diclofenac has a significantly lower absorption rate than Advil since it is applied topically rather as taken orally, and it may be used for a long time with little adverse effects. 


When I’m working on rehabilitating chronic pain, I’ll massage some Voltaren gel on the affected area around 20 minutes before exercising. It doesn’t totally alleviate the discomfort, but it really helps. 

To summarize, don’t be scared to take an NSAID for a few days to control your exercise-related discomfort. Follow the directions on the bottle and only take the maximum daily dosage indicated. Stop and treat the underlying reasons of the discomfort if you’re still in pain after a few days. This may need a change in your fitness routine. Find exercises that don’t hurt but yet enable you to exercise. If you still require pain relief, a topical NSAID like Voltaren may help.



The “ibuprofen muscle growth” is a question that has been asked by many. The answer to the question is that ibuprofen does not help or hurt your workouts, but it can make you feel better when you are feeling sore.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ibuprofen help athletic performance?

A: Ibuprofen helps athletes recover quickly and reduce inflammation, but it doesnt help them perform better.

Is it OK to take ibuprofen before exercise?

A: Its OK to take ibuprofen before exercise if you are not allergic to it. However, be sure that you dont have any health conditions or other medications which may make taking Ibuprofen a bad idea for your body. If in doubt, see your doctor and check the side effects of all medication you are prescribed by them.

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