Muscle Growth Requires Pain and Suffering – No Pain-Relievers or Cold Showers Allowed

arnold sore than sorry


Are you up for it? Weight lifting and resistance training involves PAIN and SUFFERING (with capital letters) and the bad news is there is no other way around it like for instance taking OTC meds or taking Cold Showers (cryo therapy) – as these will hamper your gains as what we will discuss further.

Better listen to Arnold:

arnold sore than sorry


After a hard day’s work (leg day – I’m looking at you!!) the next few days will usually be hell (only if the training you did made any sense at all). I just trained legs 2 days ago and today I cannot even stand without pain– my calves hurt like they are about to tear every time I stand up straight! I often need to walk on tiptoes first before finally being able to lay my whole feet including the soles in the ground whenever I walk.

But if your goal is muscle growth and development – YOU NEED TO SUFFER THROUGH THAT!

You cannot take over the counter pain relievers; they will rob you off your gains. Don’t believe me? Check this study out, they found out that OTC drugs like Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen suppress protein synthesis and therefore hampers muscle growth.

Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis.


We examined the effect of two commonly consumed over-the-counter analgesics, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, on muscle protein synthesis and soreness after high-intensity eccentric resistance exercise. Twenty-four males (25 +/- 3 yr, 180 +/- 6 cm, 81 +/- 6 kg, and 17 +/- 8% body fat) were assigned to one of three groups that received either the maximal over-the-counter dose of ibuprofen (IBU; 1,200 mg/day), acetaminophen (ACET; 4,000 mg/day), or a placebo (PLA) after 10-14 sets of 10 eccentric repetitions at 120% of concentric one-repetition maximum with the knee extensors. Postexercise (24 h) skeletal muscle fractional synthesis rate (FSR) was increased 76 +/- 19% (P < 0.05) in PLA (0.058 +/- 0.012%/h) and was unchanged (P > 0.05) in IBU (35 +/- 21%; 0.021 +/- 0.014%/h) and ACET (22 +/- 23%; 0.010 +/- 0.019%/h). Neither drug had any influence on whole body protein breakdown, as measured by rate of phenylalanine appearance, on serum creatine kinase, or on rating of perceived muscle soreness compared with PLA. These results suggest that over-the-counter doses of both ibuprofen and acetaminophen suppress the protein synthesis response in skeletal muscle after eccentric resistance exercise. Thus these two analgesics may work through a common mechanism to influence protein metabolism in skeletal muscle.


“These results suggest that over-the-counter doses of both ibuprofen and acetaminophen suppress the protein synthesis response in skeletal muscle after eccentric resistance exercise..”

What about cold baths?

Cold baths/Cold Showers are great and they have many great health benefits. However despite the fact that they have been shown to effectively reduce soreness and inflammation following a training session – that same effect also dampens muscular development, and we all know that is the LAST thing that we will ever need!

These data suggest that CWI [cold water immersion] attenuates the acute changes in satellite cell numbers and activity of kinases that regulate muscle hypertrophy, which may translate to smaller long-term training gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy. The use of CWI as a regular post-exercise recovery strategy should be reconsidered.

How about Athletes?

This is a different story for athletes. Athletes do not exactly need too much muscular development to kick ass in their sport; what they need more is practice and mastery. In order to have this it is imperative that they train more often – and needless to say that the way an athlete trains SHOULD NOT stimulate too much muscle damage in the first place because “duh” they don’t really need that much development generally speaking. They may opt to condition a little but that should be the least of their concerns and they usually periodize a small portion of the year only for this purpose.

Note that the most appropriate way for athletes to lift is to get 45-50% of their 1 rep max and perform it explosively WITHOUT reaching failure. Remember that they need to finish the set as soon as they could no longer perform the lift explosively. This type of training will yield little to no muscle damage and could therefore be performed more often and if pain persists, they can always take cold showers.

So athletes could get a good benefit from taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs and dipping into cold water after training since this will allow them to recover from pain and inflammation more quickly and thus allowing them to train more often and develop mind-muscle connection.

Keep in mind that the most important thing for an athlete is to program their body to react almost automatically without needing to think – to do this they must train and practice more often.

NO Pain, No GAIN – No way out!

(image source)

no pain no gain


The more your goals are dependent upon muscular development (even if you are an athlete), the more pain you need to suffer without taking pain relievers or taking cold showers after training in an attempt to reduce inflammation (you may probably take a cold shower once in a while but not immediately after training). The only thing you could and should do is supplement your muscles with proper intake of macro and micro nutrients that you need for muscle repair. Taking Creatine Monohydrate will also help your muscles recover (and grow) faster.

Inflammation is Necessary for triggering muscle growth and that is why NSAIDs and cold showers negatively affect this goal because they remove “inflammation” from the equation:

Unfortunately, inflammation is a necessary process to muscle growth, and dampening it may negate some of the muscle growth you want from weight training.. – Mangan

What about me? I personally have never taken any OTCs or NSAIDs after training nor do I do cold showers, because I always believed that the pain is essential – even before I have read any of these studies. I have to admit I always thought that NOT taking cold baths is wrong, but I guess what I was doing was right all along.

This is you fate as a man of iron; your fate is to succumb to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) almost every waking day of your life (as long as you train consistently) or GIVE UP YOUR GAINS! Learn to love it, or opt for something else, like for instance piano, anyone? Eat your eggs, A-Lifters!

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.
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