FOR MANY CYCLISTS, IBUPROFEN IS THEIR GO-TO ANTI-INFLAMMATORY.
Some cyclists (and many other recreational athletes) take so much ibuprofen before and after—and maybe during—hard efforts that it’s become jokingly known as “vitamin I.” The idea, of course, is to head off inflammation and the soreness that comes with it before it happens. But before you pop another Advil, research now shows that using ibuprofen in this way may hurt your performance, recovery, and even your long-term health.
(Want to get fitter, faster and stronger? Check out more of Selene’s tips inside the Big Book of Cycling for Women!)
In one study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers found that when distance runners took 600 milligrams of ibuprofen before an event, they actually ended up with more tissue-damaging oxidative stress afterward than those who took nothing. Another study on cyclists found that ibuprofen can damage the gut during exercise and lead to a leaky small intestine—not good. Finally, animal research has shown that vitamin I can actually hamper your muscle recovery after exercise.
The take-home: Save the ibuprofen for when you’re actually injured. If you want to head off muscle soreness from a particularly hard session, turn to natural anti-inflammatories such as tea or cherry juice instead.
Black and green tea have natural antioxidative properties that have been shown to decrease muscle damage and speed recovery. In one study, cyclists taking black tea extract had less soreness following an intense interval workout after taking black tea extract. In another study at the University of Vermont, students who were given 12 ounces of tart cherry juice before and after strenuous exercises suffered only a four percent reduction in muscle strength the next day compared with a 22 percent loss found in subjects given a placebo.