Ibuprofen or acetaminophen in long-term resistance training increases muscle mass/strength

April 6, 2008

Taking daily recommended dosages of ibuprofen and acetaminophen caused a substantially greater increase over placebo in the amount of quadriceps muscle mass and muscle strength gained during three months of regular weight lifting, in a study by physiologists at the Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University.

Dr. Chad Carroll, a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Todd Trappe, reported study results at Experimental Biology 2008 in San Diego on April 6. His presentation was part of the scientific program of the American Physiological Society (APS).

Thirty-six men and women, between 60 and 78 years of age (average age 65), were randomly assigned to daily dosages of either ibuprofen (such as that in Advil), acetaminophen (such as that in Tylenol), or a placebo. The dosages were identical to those recommended by the manufacturers and were selected to most closely mimic what chronic users of these medicines were likely to be taking. Neither the volunteers nor the scientists knew who was receiving which treatment until the end of the study.

All subjects participated in three months of weight training, 15-20 minute sessions conducted in the Human Performance Laboratory three times per week. The researchers knew from their own and other studies that training at this intensity and for this time period would significantly increase muscle mass and strength. They expected the placebo group to show such increases, as its members did, but they were surprised to find that the groups using either ibuprofen or acetaminophen did even better. An earlier study from the laboratory, measuring muscle metabolism (or more precisely, muscle protein synthesis, the mechanism through which new protein is added to muscle), had looked at changes over a 24 hour period. This “acute” study found that both ibuprofen and acetaminophen had a negative impact, by blocking a specific enzyme cyclooxygenase, commonly referred to as COX.

But that study looked at only one day. Over three months, says Dr. Trappe, the chronic consumption of ibuprofen or acetaminophen during resistance training appears to have induced intramuscular changes that enhance the metabolic response to resistance exercise, allowing the body to add substantially more new protein to muscle.

The amount of change was measured in quadricep muscles using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the gold standard for determining muscle mass. The researchers now are conducting assays of muscle biopsies taken before and after the three-month period of resistance training, in order to understand the metabolic mechanism of the positive effects of ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

One of the foci of Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory is the adaptation of the elderly to exercise. Another is the loss of muscle mass that takes place when astronauts are exposed to long-term weightlessness. This work has implications for both groups, says Dr. Trappe.

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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4.5 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2008
Interesting stuff. I'd love to see a proposed mechanism for the body's compensation for the drugs. Also what, if any, differences between the 2 types of drugs are observed.
4 / 5 (5) Apr 06, 2008
Was this study controlled for the effects pain relievers would have on the trainies while training? Feeling less pain is likely to allow someone to train harder.
4.3 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2008
I bet consumption will now skyrocket among sportsman.
not rated yet Apr 13, 2008
Did they do the same amount of exercise? as in quality? IF the time is 15-20 mins did the people administered with Ibu or tylenol exercise harder? After all it is a pain killer. That may account for higher metabolism if they work harder than the placebo counterpart.

Also is it pure ibu/tylenol? As i recall the drugs in the market are laced with caffeine, caffeine helps in muscle building. (at least faster in recovery)
3 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2008
I think this is a significant finding regardless of mechanism, whether it is due to higher quality workouts or something currently less understood.
not rated yet Apr 14, 2008
I'm just saying that there may be extraneous factors that may be significant.

Thus, taking ibu/tylenol now just because someone said it increases muscle mass is not very safe...Understanding how it works may advance and increase effectiveness of increasing muscle mass.

They didn't say if it was purely tylenol/ibu so additives may not be accounted for. As i have said before, commercial Ibu/tylenol have caffeine in them... Did they use pure or did they use commercial? They followed the recommendation from manufacturer, it's probably commercial...
5 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2008
That is impressive.
Firstly that just 1 hour total a week can produce results in the elderly.
Secondly that a standard dose of perhaps the most widely used drug gave good results.
Of course they run the risk of GI problems and other side effects.

not rated yet Oct 10, 2008
This is a very late-breaking comment (see datestamp). After reading this article, I started taking 2 advil per day during the week. Of course, it's a sample of one, and not even single-blind, but I have found significant improvement in results from my workouts. Whether it's placebo, suppression of exercise discomfort, or something deeper, I really don't care. Seems to work, and I mean significantly. I've been working out for literally decades, and I've seen better progress in the last 6 months.

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