Does Ibuprofen and Aspirin Kill Your Muscle Gains?

Does Ibuprofen and Aspirin Kill Your Muscle Gains?

June 24, 2019

When looking at training your body it’s pretty much the same repetitive process over and over again. The order starts with you stressing your body, you recover, your body adapts, and then you repeat this all over again.

Within this model, though many people will add in an extra step after a long challenging run, or from a big bout in the weight room. That extra step for many involves taking some form of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, or ibuprofen).

So after training, we all may tend to be victims of soreness. This is common, but the severity of it may vary from person to person depending on fitness level, the intensity of training, and overall lifestyle.

MMA fighter martial arts girl woman working out hitting a punching bag after training

With some people experiencing higher levels of soreness they may tend to want to lean on a pain reliever such as ibuprofen, or aspirin to help them deal with it during the recovery process. However, this may not be the wisest decision as it could be a potential threat to one’s muscle gains.

The Findings

At the department of health sciences at the City University of New York Brad Schoenfield reviewed some very detailed research as it relates to trainees taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.).

Overall it was found that NSAIDs did not hinder the development of muscle mass with the occasional use of drugs post-workout. However, Schoenfield also discovered that with those who engage in long term usage of NSAIDs for post-workout pain management that the drugs may well be detrimental to achieving muscle gains.

To go even further the research suggested that the inhibition of NSAIDs appeared to particularly hinder those individuals that demonstrated the greater potential for muscular growth.

It is thought that NSAIDs affect the body’s natural ability to recover. Schoenfield suggests that this is because when the body is stressed (such as with strength training, running, etc.) the body produces satellite cells which basically function in the body’s natural ability to repair stressed and damaged tissues.

MMA fighter martial arts UFC man recovery blue hand wraps for training in karate brazilian ju jitsu ninjitsu hapkido kickboxing fighting sports

So the thinking behind this is that with the use of NSAIDs hindering the natural function of satellite cells the body’s ability to recover and heal during the natural adaptation process is in its own way affected negatively.

If you think about the natural process involved with the body’s recovery this finding may be profound to a coach or trainer looking to help their students/trainees obtain optimal results in strength and lean muscle gains.

Best Practices

The point here is to understand that long term usage may not be the best course of action if you are serious about your training and about getting optimal results. The use of pain medicine is at times necessary, but the key is to not allow yourself to use it as a crutch every time you start to feel sore after a challenging training session.

Obviously, with the occasional workout, there are going to be moments when you end up shocking the body and feeling the discomfort from sore muscles and tissues with the couple days that follow. If this is an occasional thing and you end up using NSAIDs from time to time to help you manage some of that pain then you’re probably going to be alright in terms of your muscle gains.

However, if you do have these moments, the good news is that there are other alternatives that you can rely on that will not inhibit your soreness in the least.


Stretching, massage, hydration, and nutrition are good places to start when looking to help speed up the recovery process of the body. However, if you do run into those times when you just need some instant relief and you don’t want to hinder the muscle gains you may want to look at trying the topical pain relief gel, CobraZol.

Massage therapist man massaging athletic older woman with massage therapy after working out for recovery of sore muscles

If you are a coach or a trainer you probably don’t want to encourage the use of NSAIDs based on these findings which is why any responsible and quality coach will try to first encourage you to be your own advocate when it comes to pain management.


The whole key to dealing with pain and muscle soreness is realizing that there are many ways to treat the problem and it doesn’t always boil down to having to ingest a synthetic pain-relieving drug.


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