Are anti-inflammatories helping or hurting your training and racing?
One of the most common setbacks for an athlete is extreme inflammation and the discomfort and restriction of proper range of motion that it causes. NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen) block chemicals in the body that trigger pain and inflammation (and also act as anticlotting agents). Other over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen, may reduce muscle aches or inflammation. When taken occasionally, athletes should not worry about side effects, but religiously popping a pill before or after training or during racing is not advised. These pain relievers increase the risk for stomach and intestinal bleeding, ulcers, stomach pain and GI distress, and an overuse (which is often the case for an injured or overtrained athlete) may also delay recovery in soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Also, when combined with alcohol, they may increase liver damage. Long-term use or excessive intake may increase the risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney damage.
Many triathletes rely on pain relievers during an Ironman, which may do more harm than good. Because the immune system is closely linked to the neuroendocrine system which controls the release of stress hormones, keep in mind that strenuous training and racing naturally imposes a big stress on your body and pain relievers are not advised.
Be sure to follow a smart training and fueling regimen to develop a body that adapts well to training stress, instead of just swallowing a pill to mask any discomfort.