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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Use of NSAIDS prior to Exercise: More Harm Than Good?

By: Andrew Jagim

With increased training frequency and intensity often comes increased symptoms of pain such as stiffness, soreness and other inflammatory related conditions. Several athletes often try to get ahead of the pain by consuming non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID's) prior to training or competitions but are they causing more harm than good? This explores some of the risks and benefits associated with the prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes.

What did they do?
A researcher examined several published articles that focused on the prevalence, benefits and risks of ingesting NSAID's.

What did they find?
The results are actually quite troubling.  The researcher found that approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of Olympic athletes reported using NSAIDs 3 days prior to random drug testing and in some sports the value was as high as >50%!  Anecdotal reports from the athletes suggest that most people consume them with the assumption they will result in reduced pain and tissue damage during activity. However, the scientific research supporting such benefits are few and far between. In fact, some would argue that reducing inflammation following intense training is counterproductive to the recovery process as a whole.

In addition, the potential benefits may not outweigh the risks.  Several studies have found that the ingestion of NSAIDs prior to exercise may actually exacerbate some of the exercise induced stresses and tissue damage experienced by athletes. One study found that prophylactic NSAID use actually increased gastrointestinal distress during exercise and also lead to increased GI permeability or more commonly referred to as "Leaky Gut" which many attribute to several autoimmune disorders and food sensitivities. Further, several studies have suggested that NSAID use can actually reduce collagen formation and rates of protein synthesis following exercise or in other words: NSAID's may reduce your ability to heal following strenuous training and attenuate tissue adaptations over time

Take Home Message:
There are much better recovery methods that can be implemented into an athlete's training regimen that are not only more beneficial but also come with a lower risk of side-effects. Such methods include:

1) Natural or Nutrition-based anti-inflammatory foods such as fish oil, curcumin, polyphenols etc.
2) Soft-tissue mobilization (i.e. foam rolling, Graston, massage etc.)
3) Active recovery (i.e. light walking, biking, cycling etc.)
4) Temperature Therapy (i.e. contrast water therapy, saunas, hot-tubs, cryotherapy etc.)
5) Active Perfusion (i.e. MarcPro, Compression Gear etc.)


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