Monday, December 10, 2012

How Many Pills Does It Take To Get a Runner Going?

As I deal with this knee thing, every day I'm constantly questioning what I can do to get better and stronger. This of course includes resting and icing and working out other muscles that can support the injured area, but in my case (and probably some of your's as well) it also includes a daily regimen of supplements. A part of me feels like I'm being a responsible runner and making sure I get all of the nutrients I need to be healthy. The other part of me worries about what sorts of chemicals I'm really putting in my body and whether its worth it. Right now I take a multivitamin, fish oil, calcium, and glucosamine supplement every day. That's just enough to make me feel like I'm slightly overdoing it.

The bigger problem, however, is not the supplements, but the pain meds. I sort of touched on this in my JFK recap, when I felt forced to take pain meds during the race, which I religiously never do. Even though I try never to take it during or before exercise, however, I have been taking it a lot afterwards. In fact, last week I realized that I have probably taken at least one Ibuprofen after my workouts every day for 5+ months since JFK training started and definitely more than one a day since my knee issue. It just became a standard part of my day and I didn't think twice about it.

As I was mulling over my discomfort last week the NY Times coincidentally published an article about this very predicament. Likewise, Runner's World has a small paragraph in their January 2013 edition about what recovery methods should and should not be employed.

NSAIDS - "Skip it!"

Every time I get injured or have a hard workout I always hear "ice, compression, anti-inflammatory, rest." But is taking Ibuprofen really the answer to reducing inflammation? Or rather, is it worth reducing inflammation if might cause more serious problems down the line? For me, the answer is no, its not worth it. So late last week I made an executive decision for myself not to take it anymore.
My immediate next question was "what can I do to reduce inflammation around my knees (or other injured areas) without taking meds?" Not surprisingly the answer was just a Google search away. Just a sample of the many articles here, here, and here. A number of different foods appear on any one list, but there are a few that keep coming up. Mainly:

- Broccoli (and other cruciferous greens)
- Salmon
- Ginger
- Green tea
- Olive oil
- Blueberries (and berries in general)

Obviously these are all good things to eat anyway, but now that I know they double as good anti-inflammatories I will be upping my intake on all of the above. Luckily these are foods I already incorporate into my daily diet. Broccoli and brussels sprouts are like candy to me and I have green tea every morning and ginger tea every night. So maybe I am already doing a lot to keep inflammation down. And who knows, maybe the Ibuprofen wasn't even helping because I was already eating the right foods.

Load 'em up!

Do you take supplements every day? What are your thoughts on anti-inflammatories?


  1. I'm really funny about taking anything (and why I'm rather anti-doctor) so I definitely understand. I don't take any supplements and have taken maybe a total of 10 ibupofen all year and that's usually only due to headaches

  2. Thanks for the great info. I am taking all those supplements as well, so we may be dealing with the same knee issue. What kind of sensations are you getting? I love that I already eat a lot of those things, but I just wish blueberries weren't so expensive! Broccoli is something I am all over though.

    I can't say I have ever popped pain killers before or after races. I have never really seen the point, as it is usually not an aching pain unless I am walking on it. I think you are doing the right thing.

    1. I have pain around the knee cap and towards the outside of my knee. According to Google this is classic Runner's Knee, but it could be coming from weak hips and quads so I'm working on that right now.

  3. I actually just heard on a podcast that NSAIDs were bad, and like you, I had always heard the opposite. I think not taking them will help though because you'll be able to gauge your true level of pain and really see when it is decreasing and then gone.

    I hope you enjoyed that as I am forced to make it my last comment, due to your "broccoli is like candy" comment. That statement is against my religion :)

    1. Oh BTW I LOVE broccoli, I go through a Costco frozen bag (HUGE) at least each month. But candy it is not, and never will be.

    2. Haha yes I saw your salad post. I know how you feel about the greens.

  4. oh man, what a great post! i've actually wondered about this myself, and i REFUSE to take anything that isn't a natural supplement. currently i take a multivitamin, adrenal supplements, b3, and fish oil, per the advice of my [very holistic] sports doc. he said fish oil is the best anti-inflammatory a runner can take, and i think it beats the heck out of ibuprofen.

  5. I have heard so many mixed things about taking ibuprofin during exercise. I don't take pain meds unless absolutely necessary (for headaches once in a while) in general. I take multivitamins, glucosamine/chondroitin, flax oil, and calcium/magnesium supplements. I used to do fish oil, but replaced it with flax just to see whether there is a huge difference. I eat fish pretty often.

  6. I'm with you. I take a multi-vitamin occasionally, but I take ibuprofin and aspirin as sparingly as possible (maybe twice a year). A little ache is easier to deal with than slow muscle recovery, potential kidney damage, etc...


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