How many times have we put ourselves, or even worse- has our coach, through a tough workout that left our poor muscles just shredded? If you’re like I used to be, then you may have been reaching for a couple of the over-the-counter anti inflammatory capsules. Was that the best thing for us?
Researchers from Norway, New Zealand, and Australia teamed up to look at blood markers of inflammation and muscle damage post exercise. They also looked at the effects of white blood cell infiltration after taking traditional oral ibuprofen. In the following 24 hours after exercise there was no effect on any of these measures, including the subjects own perception of soreness.
The take-away: We’ve talked before about the body needing to be put under stress in order to adapt to that stress. It appears that ibuprofen may not do much in terms of the acute damage, but you also want to avoid just taking even over the counter pills. Save the medications for when you really need them.
What you can do instead: While taking a couple pills is easy, there’s still some pretty simple things you can do to encourage proper recovery without wasting an opportunity to promote precious fitness adaptations.
- Refuel: Have snacks prepared for post workouts. Carbohydrate will replenish depleted stores and protein will halt current muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth and repair over the long term.
- Rehydrate: Begin rehydrating almost immediately and continue drinking regularly throughout the day. This can be water with electrolytes, or even small amounts of sports drinks for right after your workout. I don’t recommend sports drinks all day, but right after a workout is a perfect time.
- Rest: This one is tough for most people. If you can’t sneak a nap in, wear compression garments for a few hours post workout. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, though.
Below is an infogram from @YLMSportScience. We’ve talked about this before with ice baths for recovery. Part of the training adaptations are triggered by the damage that we do to the muscles and the stress we place on our cardiovascular system. If we limit that, then is it possible we limit the triggers for adaptation? It’s looking like we at least blunt these responses. So, be careful with the mega doses of things like vitamin C. You might feel better the next day, but you might end up having to work even harder in the long term…
Keeping up with research is tough, but luckily the twitterverse makes it a little easier if you follow the right people. This little tidbit came across this morning and I had a chance to read through: Vitamin C and E supplementation
Recently, there has been increasingly more evidence that taking mega doses of antioxidants like vitamins C and E can actually hinder your hard earned aerobic adaptations. In fact I think I’ve seen a few people posting things about what’s true and what’s not. Anyway, here’s a easy breakdown of what this article found:
- supplementation blunted certain protein up regulations that typically occur with training BUT training induced improvements in VO2max and running performance were not altered.
- However, these proteins being depressed could contribute to blunted mitochondrial growth. This, we know, would not be good! Keep in mind that this study was done over 11 weeks, which simply may not be enough time to show what happens long term. We know it takes years to develop our aerobic systems and a several week study just can’t represent long term effects. Imagine taking a huge dose of vitamin C several days a week over several years? It’s a very possible scenario.
- Also, gened expression of certain signalling proteins were depressed, BUT capillarisation and stress proteins were not altered. I would consider what we just discussed in this case too.
Another study didn’t show any alterations, but the primary difference was the amount of vitamin C given. In the study that showed no “depression” in activity involved daily doses of 500 mg/day, whereas the current study used 1000 mg/day. Also, the previous study didn’t look at the same markers. The markers observed in the current study are directly related to the state of mitochondrial growth.
The bottom line is to be careful. People take these antioxidants to recover faster, but if you potentially blunt the growth of mitochondria, then it doesn’t particularly matter is you are recovered! Honestly, it simply shows that more is not always better- just like a lot of running related topics.
My 2 cents- Luke