The standard ibuprofen dosages of 400 mgs did not reduce muscle growth in young lifters. Maximal doses of 1200 mgs per day can impair muscle growth. Older adults may benefit from ibuprofen to reduce higher-than-normal inflammation levels, which can increase muscle growth.



  • Many bodybuilders have heard that NSAIDS are not good for gaining muscle, but do NSAIDS prevent muscle growth?
  • The standard ibuprofen dosages of 400 mgs did not reduce muscle growth in young lifters.
  • Maximal doses of 1200 mgs per day can impair muscle growth.
  • Older adults may benefit from ibuprofen to reduce higher-than-normal inflammation levels, which can increase muscle growth.


Hitting the gym and muscle soreness go hand and hand. Getting bigger and stronger is a non-stop cycle of damage and repair. When strength training to build lean muscle, pro inflammatory cytokines are released. The body undergoes an acute inflammation response in which the immune system and a cascade of events rush to the injury site (i.e., your muscles).(Izquierdo et al., 2009)

After lifting weights, there is an acute inflammation response. Blood flow increases to the injury site, and the enzyme COX-2 is activated, which mediates the production of prostaglandins. There are textbooks on the functions of prostaglandins, but one thing they do that is important for muscle building is activate satellite cells. (B. J. Schoenfeld, 2012).

Inflammation is normally considered a bad thing. Chronic inflammation is associated with various health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, dementia, and just about any disease you can think of. The inflammation response to exercise is important not only for muscle growth but inhibiting the body’s innate inflammation response can lead to reduced muscle growth. Muscle hypertrophy (i.e., gaining muscle) occurs when the protein synthesis rate exceeds the protein breakdown rate.

Many people looking to bulk up ask, “Is inflammation good for muscle growth?” Yes, but like all things in moderation. As discussed in a previous article, things that suppress inflammation, such as ice baths and NSAIDs, can reduce muscle growth.


Ibuprofen and its derivatives, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve, are often taken to reduce pain and muscle soreness. Ibuprofen before a workout or taking ibuprofen for sore muscles to reduce pain is common in athletes. Many athletes ask, “Does Ibuprofen help sore muscles recover faster?” Yes, it can, but this can lead to reduced pain perception (i.e., feeling less pain) but does not reduce muscle damage.(Rahnama et al., 2005)

Several studies involving athletes performing resistance exercises have also found no evidence of faster healing but can ease feelings of soreness.(Tokmakidis et al., 2003)

Ibuprofen, in certain situations, can reduce muscle gains, as you will read later. It can help if you are in an athletic event and want to reduce pain, but it is not something you want to use regularly. Ibuprofen works by blocking inflammation. Recent studies have found that inflammation is a normal part of the healing process.

For a lifter to gain lean muscle mass, some inflammation must occur, resulting in a cascade of events that activate satellite cells, protein synthesis, and other anabolic pathways necessary for lifters to get bigger.(Mackey et al., 2007; B. Schoenfeld, 2012; Trappe et al., 2002) A 2017 study got lifters concerned about taking ibuprofen when a study found that young lifters taking 1200 mg of ibuprofen (i.e., maximal dosage) reduced muscle gains. (Lilja et al., 2018)

This led to lifters’ belief that any form of ibuprofen would result in them not gaining muscle. The story gets more intriguing when a high dose of ibuprofen led to older adults gaining more muscle weight when they took 1200 mg of ibuprofen. (Trappe et al., 2011)


So, you are probably confused, but there is a reasonable explanation for this. Its balance. Inflammation is like the fiddler on the roof; you can’t lean in favor of too much inflammation or too little inflammation to make gains in muscle. If you are taking maximal dosages of ibuprofen (i.e., 1200 mg a day), then it could inhibit muscle hypertrophy responses.

The new study found that a normal dose of 400 mg a day of ibuprofen did not suppress muscle gains in young men and women. (Grgic, 2022) Some studies in the review in older adults found better gains in muscle mass with ibuprofen because their baseline inflammation levels were high.

lean muscle mass gaining muscle weight get bigger why am i not gaining muscle does ibuprofen help sore muscles ibuprofen before workout ibuprofen for sore muscles no muscle why am i not building muscle why cant i build muscle why can't i gain muscleThe ibuprofen reduced their inflammation levels back to normal ranges. Don’t be misled to think that the occasional dose of ibuprofen will result in no muscle growth because this is not what the research studies show. Studies show that 400 mg a day is not preventing muscle growth, but long-term, high-dose NSAID is associated with peptic ulcers, kidney damage, stroke, and heart attacks.(Marcum & Hanlon, 2010)In his MASS research review, Dr. Helms hypothesizes that whether or not ibuprofen inhibits or increases muscle gain depends on the dose, age, and baseline inflammation.


A smarter choice may be acetaminophen for pain relief because it does not inhibit inflammation. Acetaminophen is not considered an NSAID because it is a weak inhibitor of COX (i.e., a pathway that inhibits inflammation) and does not inhibit neutrophil activation. This is a plus because neutrophils are important for muscle growth as well. (Toumi et al., 2006)

If you need to take NSAIDs every day, it warrants cause into looking further into your training and readjusting it.  Using NSAIDS every day is a crutch that can temporarily fix your aches and pains, but the obvious answer is correcting the issue causing the pain.


Grgic, J. (2022). No Pain, No Gain? Examining the Influence of Ibuprofen Consumption on Muscle Hypertrophy. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000747.

Izquierdo, M., Ibañez, J., Calbet, J. A., Navarro-Amezqueta, I., González-Izal, M., Idoate, F., Häkkinen, K., Kraemer, W. J., Palacios-Sarrasqueta, M., Almar, M., & Gorostiaga, E. M. (2009). Cytokine and hormone responses to resistance training. Eur J Appl Physiol, 107(4), 397-409.

Lilja, M., Mandić, M., Apró, W., Melin, M., Olsson, K., Rosenborg, S., Gustafsson, T., & Lundberg, T. R. (2018). High doses of anti-inflammatory drugs compromise muscle strength and hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training in young adults. Acta Physiol (Oxf), 222(2).

Mackey, A. L., Kjaer, M., Dandanell, S., Mikkelsen, K. H., Holm, L., Døssing, S., Kadi, F., Koskinen, S. O., Jensen, C. H., Schrøder, H. D., & Langberg, H. (2007). The influence of anti-inflammatory medication on exercise-induced myogenic precursor cell responses in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985), 103(2), 425-431.

Marcum, Z. A., & Hanlon, J. T. (2010). Recognizing the Risks of Chronic Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use in Older Adults. Ann Longterm Care, 18(9), 24-27.

Rahnama, N., Rahmani-Nia, F., & Ebrahim, K. (2005). The isolated and combined effects of selected physical activity and ibuprofen on delayed-onset muscle soreness. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23(8), 843-850.

Schoenfeld, B. (2012). The Use of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 42.


Schoenfeld, B. J. (2012). Does exercise-induced muscle damage play a role in skeletal muscle hypertrophy? J Strength Cond Res, 26(5), 1441-1453.

Tokmakidis, S. P., Kokkinidis, E. A., Smilios, I., & Douda, H. (2003). The effects of ibuprofen on delayed muscle soreness and muscular performance after eccentric exercise. J Strength Cond Res, 17(1), 53-59.<0053:teoiod>;2

Toumi, H., F’Guyer, S., & Best, T. M. (2006). The role of neutrophils in injury and repair following muscle stretch. J Anat, 208(4), 459-470.

Trappe, T. A., Carroll, C. C., Dickinson, J. M., LeMoine, J. K., Haus, J. M., Sullivan, B. E., Lee, J. D., Jemiolo, B., Weinheimer, E. M., & Hollon, C. J. (2011). Influence of acetaminophen and ibuprofen on skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance exercise in older adults. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol, 300(3), R655-662.

Trappe, T. A., White, F., Lambert, C. P., Cesar, D., Hellerstein, M., & Evans, W. J. (2002). Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 282(3), E551-E556.

About The Author