A new study found that taking paracetamol before a workout can stop you overheating.
Researchers found paracetamol helps cyclists exercise for longer in hot conditions by reducing the impact of heart exertion.
It was already known that paracetamol swallowed before exercise can lift performance through a reduction in perceived pain.
The latest study shows the positive effect in hot conditions. Researchers at the University of Kent in UK said the drug appears to reduce the body’s temperature during exercise, which subsequently improves tolerance to stifling heat.
The study involved 11 young recreational exercisers, all male, who were given three exercise challenges.
They consumed single doses of paracetamol, or a placebo, before cycling at a fixed intensity for as long as they could in temperatures of 18C (64F) and 30C (86F).
During the exercise, measures of core and skin temperature were recorded, alongside the participants’ perception of the heat.
The results showed the drug allowed them to cycle significantly longer at 30C – by an average of four minutes.
Men had a significantly lower core, skin and body temperature and found the exercise produced less heat strain.
Dr. Lex Mauger, who led the study at The University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said the study raised questions that needed to be settled by sports bodies, including “rescue remedies” for people undertaking exercise in hot climates.
He said: “Firstly, consideration by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and local anti-doping authorities should be made about the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in sport – on both health and performance grounds.
“Secondly, the utility of paracetamol as a first-response drug to exertional heat illness should be investigated.”
The same research team has previously shown that paracetamol can improve endurance performance through a reduction in exercise-induced pain.
Dr. Lex Mauger added: “Whilst we have found that paracetamol improves the time someone can exercise in the heat, and that this occurs alongside a reduced body temperature, we did not measure the specific mechanisms by which this may have occurred.
“It is important now to try and isolate how paracetamol reduced participants’ body temperature during exercise.”
In a 2008 study, researchers at the University of Bedfordshire, UK, gave paracetamol to 10 cyclists before they completed a simulated 10-mile time trial.
On average, they completed this time trial 30 seconds faster after taking the drug than when they performed the same test after taking a placebo.
The cyclists’ ratings of perceived exertion were the same on both occasions, which led to the conclusion that paracetamol was improving performance capacity by reducing pain.
The study is reported in the journal Experimental Physiology.