Getting into top physical shape can hurt. Whether it’s from a tough HIIT session or lifting your heaviest weight, the next day can feel very tough. There’s a reason they shout “feel the burn!” and “no pain, no gain!” in classes. So it’s a natural assumption that painkillers are a good way of alleviating the soreness post-workout.
Some people even take painkillers immediately after exercise as a preventative measure. But is it doing more harm than good?
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) happens to almost all lifters after a workout. For many, it’s considered “good pain”. It shows that your body is repairing and growing. Most people are able to distinguish between this prolonged aching and the pain from an injury.
However, taking pain medication dulls these pain receptors. So whilst it can feel good to power through a workout, you could be heading straight into an issue. Whilst “good pain” signals step towards your fitness goals, regular pain is a warning. Blocking this out could cause you difficulties that mean having to take a prolonged break from the gym, such as straining a pulled muscle.
Reduces Your Gains
There have been a number of studies into the effects of painkillers on muscle gain. Though the studies do not produce one conclusive answer, it is suggested that painkillers can interfere with protein synthesis. This is bad news for those looking to gain lean muscle. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting in maximum effort without seeing results.
Taking painkillers unnecessarily is never advisable. Of course, if you are suffering from acute ligament strain or injury, then your doctor might well recommend painkillers. However, taking painkillers on a regular basis as part of your workout routine could seriously harm your health.
The heart and kidneys are put at risk from overuse of painkillers. Worryingly for lifters, long-term painkiller use can also cause muscle spasms. It’s also worth noting that regular ingestion of painkillers can pose a risk of addiction or dependence.
It sounds over the top, but fitness is a long-term endeavour – if you took a paracetamol after every workout, it would very quickly mount up.
Sports massages are a popular way of taking the edge off muscle aches. Ice baths are also encouraged by many trainers of professional athletes. Though they seem initially tough, they vastly improve recovery time and reduce swelling.
Also, being conscious of your own limits is important to reduce post-workout pains. Ambition and improvement are key to achieving results. However, running before you walk could leave you falling over. Build your workout gradually over time.
It is also important to make sure you do a thorough warm up and warm down. Preparing your muscles will make them less prone to injury. Similarly, giving your body plenty of protein will assist the body in building muscle. Taking protein in the form of specialist shakes will ensure your body has the nutrients it needs for a speedy bounce back.
Dawid Lyszczek is an expert new product developer, food technologist, nutritionist and personal trainer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition, master’s degree in Food Innovation and Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training. Dawid specialises in evidence-based body-composition nutrition and training for both amateurs and physique athletes, and has been involved in sports nutrition and weight training for over 15 years. Dawid is also a former competitive bodybuilder, UKBFF British finalist in “Intermediates Over 90kgs” Class of 2013, as featured in Flex magazine.
Dawid’s academic area of interest has involved both the role of meal frequency on body composition, and also functional food development, which you can find out more about here.
In his current role, Dawid bridges the gap between sports nutrition and food technology, bringing in academic experience backed by real life practice that produces results.
You can find out more about Dawid’s experience here.