Jerry Brainum breaks down recent studies that seem to prove certain pain killers block hypertrophy and muscle protein synthesis. Should you be worried?

When training seriously in the gym for size and strength – it’s inevitable that pain and injuries will occur. While most will always aim to avoid serious injuries like a pec tear, wear and tear is unavoidable. So it’s common for bodybuilders to use over the counter pain killers like aspirin to help reduce soreness, aches, and pains. But recent studies show that drugs like aspirin may be blocking muscle hypertrophy. Should this be a real concern for serious bodybuilders? In our latest episode of Straight Facts, Jerry Brainum breaks down NSAID painkillers and whether or not they could be hurting gains in bodybuilding.

There are a wide variety of pain reducing drugs on the market. The ones that make headlines most often these days are opiates due to their addictive nature and the massive health concern they’ve called. On the other end of the spectrum you have anti-inflammatory pain killers – these are called NSAIDs in the medical community. Aspirin and Ibuprofen would fall under this category.

Nearly all of us had turned NSAIDs at one point or another – whether to reduce a headache or a sore body part. It’s been a household staple for decades. However, a recent study seems to show that NSAIDs have a side effect that reduces muscle hypertrophy and protein synthesis. That sentence alone will make serous lifters and bodybuilders shudder with fear. Do these drugs actually reduce gains? Jerry Brainum, being passionate in the bodybuilding community, decided to use his knowledge to put the study to the test – and see if these findings will really have an affect on a bodybuilder’s lifestyle.

Do NSAID pain relief drugs reduce muscle hypertrophy?

Based on a recent study, it does appear that NSAID drugs do slightly block muscle hypertrophy. However, Jerry Brainum points out that the medical communities relationship with NSAID substances has always been a roller coaster. In fact, there have been studies in the past that claimed the same thing – only for newer studies to deny it. With each passing decade, the scientific community discovers new findings that change their outlook on these drugs.

To add to the confusion, there also seem to be conflicting studies depending on the age of the individual. A study showed that young adult subjects (20s and 30s) had an increase in muscle mass and hypertrophy upon using NSAIDs. On the flip side, older individuals (50+) showcased an increase in muscle growth upon using NSAIDs. How is this possible?

Jerry Brainum explains that as we get older, we start to experience systemic inflammation. This kind of inflammation can get so bad that it leads to very serious conditions in old age. It’s the reason why we have the stereotype, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Typically, it’s vital for those growing order to add resistance training to their health regiment. It can literally stave off this systemic inflammation and make you a more able and mobile older individual.

So what does this have to do with NSAIDs? It seems that the reason older individuals experienced an increase in muscle growth while using NSAIDs comes down to the benefits of reducing systemic inflammation. The contradiction between younger and older individuals in this study is not a mistake. The NSAIDs likely do still block muscle hypertrophy – but for older individuals the benefit of reducing systemic inflammation leads to more optimal workouts. Thus better overall hypertrophy.

So should bodybuilders avoid NSAIDs like Aspirin?

Ultimately, Jerry Brainum believes that the affect NSAIDs have on muscle hypertrophy is too minimal to truly kill gains. This study also would need further research and follow up to become more reliable. However, if you want to be safe rather than sorry, Brainum has some advice to avoid any negative ramifications.

If you are going to use pain killers like NSAIDs to reduce pain – simply wait at least four to five hours before taking an aspirin. This will allow the benefits of training to take their effect – if you still feel pain after that, the drugs will do their job reducing inflammation with little damage to your muscle growth.

Wrap Up

Painkillers such as aspirin has been a part of normal life for many in the world. So it could be shocking to find out they have an effect on bodybuilding physiques. While this is likely a game changer for anyone competing in the sport, Jerry Brainum’s breakdown provides insight into whether or not this had real world practical ramifications. You can watch his full comments in our latest episode of Straight Facts above! Don’t forget to watch new episodes every Wednesday only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.