Coffee better than ibuprofen at relieving workout pain

I love it: University of George scientists have found that drinking coffee before a tough workout helps reduce your pain. They got nine female students to do some exercises that caused “moderate muscle soreness.” Then, one and two days afterwards, they had them do another workout — with some doing a “maximal force” regimen and others doing a “sub-maximal force” regimen. Doing tough workouts so frequently, of course, tends to really cause pain.

Except that one hour before the second workout, the scientists had the students take either caffeine or a placebo. Those that took caffeine and did the “maximal force” workout experienced a 48 per cent reduction in their pain compared to the placebo group. Why? The scientist suspect that caffeine blocks the body’s receptors for adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.

As a huge coffee addict, I couldn’t be more pleased. Granted, I haven’t actually worked out in about 15 years, but I’m still pleased. The only problem is that the scientists suspect the effect may be decreased on coffee addicts, because we’ve built up a resistance to caffeine’s effects, drat. Also, they have to find out if the effect works on men; they’re studying one sex at at time because men and women respond to pain quite differently. But the really trippy thing is, according to this press release …

… O’Connor said that despite these limitations, caffeine appears to be more effective in relieving post-workout muscle pain than several commonly used drugs. Previous studies have found that the pain reliever naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) produced a 30 percent reduction in soreness. Aspirin produced a 25 percent reduction, and ibuprofen has produced inconsistent results.

“A lot of times what people use for muscle pain is aspirin or ibuprofen, but caffeine seems to work better than those drugs, at least among women whose daily caffeine consumption is low,” O’Connor said.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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