The Impact of NSAIDs on Cycling Training: Muscle Growth, Endurance Adaptations, and Healing

The Impact of NSAIDs on Cycling Training: Muscle Growth, Endurance Adaptations, and Healing

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are commonly used by athletes, including cyclists, to manage pain and inflammation. However, recent research raises questions about their impact on training adaptations. This article examines whether the use of NSAIDs can negatively affect the physiological adaptations that cyclists seek from their training.

Understanding NSAIDs and Their Use in Cycling

NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, are frequently used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. They work by inhibiting enzymes involved in the production of prostaglandins, which play a role in pain and inflammation pathways.

Research on NSAIDs and Training Adaptations

1. Impact on Muscle Growth and Recovery

  • Research Insight: A study by Trappe et al. (2002) in the ‘American Journal of Physiology’ found that ibuprofen and acetaminophen suppressed protein synthesis after eccentric exercise, potentially impeding muscle growth and repair.
  • Implications for Cyclists: Regular use of NSAIDs might hinder muscle recovery and adaptation, essential for improvements in cycling performance.

2. Effect on Endurance Adaptations

  • Study Reference: A 2009 study in the ‘European Journal of Applied Physiology’ explored how ibuprofen affected endurance adaptations in rats. Results suggested that NSAIDs might impair endurance muscle adaptations.
  • Cycling Perspective: These findings imply that NSAID use could potentially dampen the endurance adaptations cyclists aim to achieve through training.

3. Influence on Inflammation and Healing

  • Research Insight: The role of inflammation in healing and adaptation is complex. As per a 2013 study in the ‘Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery’, NSAIDs may disrupt the inflammation process necessary for muscle recovery and adaptation.
  • Cyclist’s Concern: Regular intake of NSAIDs might interfere with the natural healing process post-training.

4. Considerations of Long-term Use

  • Health Risks: Chronic use of NSAIDs is associated with gastrointestinal, renal, and cardiovascular risks, as highlighted in a review in ‘Sports Medicine’ (2017).
  • Training Context: These health risks could affect overall wellbeing and training capacity for cyclists.

Recommendations for Cyclists

  • Limit NSAID Use: Use NSAIDs sparingly and only for acute injuries or pain, not as a regular part of training.
  • Seek Alternatives: Consider alternative pain management strategies like physical therapy, adequate rest, and proper nutrition.
  • Consult Healthcare Professionals: Always consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating NSAIDs into your training regimen.


While NSAIDs like ibuprofen are effective for pain relief, their impact on training adaptations in cyclists is a growing concern. Research suggests that NSAIDs might hinder muscle growth, recovery, and endurance adaptations essential for cycling performance. Balancing pain management with potential impacts on training is crucial for cyclists.


  1. Trappe, T.A., et al. (2002). ‘Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis’. American Journal of Physiology.
  2. ‘European Journal of Applied Physiology’ (2009). Study on NSAIDs and Endurance Adaptations.
  3. ‘Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery’ (2013). NSAIDs and Muscle Healing.
  4. ‘Sports Medicine’ (2017). Review on Long-term Health Risks of NSAIDs.

This article is for informational purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult directly with a healthcare professional for medical concerns.