Does liquid ibuprofen have calories?

Quick Answer

No, liquid ibuprofen does not contain any calories. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain, fever and inflammation. The active ingredient in ibuprofen is the molecule ibuprofen sodium, which does not provide any calories or nutritional value. Liquid ibuprofen also contains inactive ingredients such as glycerin, sucrose, sorbitol solution, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethylcellulose sodium, but these are present in very small amounts and do not contribute meaningful calories. So whether in pill or liquid form, ibuprofen itself has no calories.

What is in liquid ibuprofen?

The active ingredient in liquid ibuprofen is ibuprofen sodium. Ibuprofen sodium is a salt form of ibuprofen that helps dissolve the ibuprofen in liquid.

The inactive ingredients in liquid ibuprofen products include:

  • Glycerin – a syrupy liquid added as a thickening agent and sweetener
  • Sucrose – table sugar added to improve taste
  • Sorbitol solution – a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener and thickener
  • Microcrystalline cellulose – a refined wood pulp used as a thickener and stabilizer
  • Carboxymethylcellulose sodium – a modified cellulose used as a thickener and stabilizer
  • Flavoring agents like saccharin, peppermint oil or fruit flavors to improve palatability
  • Purified water as the base
  • Preservatives like sodium benzoate

So in summary, the main inactive ingredients in liquid ibuprofen are thickeners, sweeteners, flavorings and preservatives. The small amounts of sugars and thickeners enable the ibuprofen sodium to be suspended in a syrupy liquid form.

Do the inactive ingredients in liquid ibuprofen contain calories?

The inactive ingredients in liquid ibuprofen can contain trace calories, but the amounts are negligible.

For example:

  • Glycerin – 4 calories per gram, but comprises <5% of liquid volume
  • Sucrose – 4 calories per gram, but typically <1% of liquid volume
  • Sorbitol – 2.6 calories per gram, but <3% of liquid volume

Given a typical liquid ibuprofen dose of 200mg/5mL (1 teaspoon), it would contain less than 0.5 calories from these added sugars and thickeners.

The other inactive ingredients like microcrystalline cellulose, carboxymethylcellulose and flavorings contribute no meaningful calories at the small amounts present.

So while the inactive ingredients in liquid ibuprofen contain calories in their pure form, the tiny amounts used result in negligible calories per dose.

Does the ibuprofen itself have calories?

No, the ibuprofen itself does not contain any calories.

Ibuprofen is a small organic molecule that has no nutritional value on its own. It does not contain any protein, carbohydrates or fat that could provide calories.

Specifically, the ibuprofen sodium salt in liquid ibuprofen products is a purely medicinal compound used for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. It does not serve as an energy source for the body.

Whether in regular tablet/capsule or liquid form, the ibuprofen provides no intrinsic calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins or any macronutrients. It simply does not have a nutritional or caloric component.

How many calories does a dose of liquid ibuprofen have?

A standard dose of liquid ibuprofen contains a negligible amount of calories, essentially 0 calories.

As examples:

  • Children’s Motrin Grape Flavored Liquid Ibuprofen – 5mL (1 tsp) dose = 0 calories
  • CVS Health Infants Concentrated Ibuprofen Oral Suspension – 1.25mL dose = 0 calories
  • Equate Children’s Liquid Ibuprofen, Dye-Free Berry – 5mL dose = 0 calories

While the inactive ingredients like glycerin and sucrose technically provide calories, the amounts are miniscule per dose:

  • Glycerin – approximately 0.2 calories per dose
  • Sucrose – approximately 0.04 calories per dose
  • Sorbitol – approximately 0.08 calories per dose

Given these trace calorie contributions, liquid ibuprofen can be considered essentially zero calories per serving. The ibuprofen itself has no calories, and the suspending base ingredients provide fractions of a calorie.

Does the liquid or pill form affect the calorie content?

No, the liquid vs. pill form does not affect the calorie content of ibuprofen.

In both tablets and liquid form, the active ibuprofen ingredient has zero calories.

The inactive ingredients also provide negligible calories – liquids use sugars and thickeners as suspending agents, while pills use binders and fillers. But the amounts are minimal, so both forms can be considered zero calorie.

For example:

  • Advil Liquid Gels – 0 calories per capsule
  • Advil Junior Strength Chewables – 0 calories per tablet
  • Children’s Motrin Grape Flavored Liquid – 0 calories per 5mL

So in summary, whether in pill, capsule, softgel or liquid form, both the active and inactive ingredients in ibuprofen provide no significant calories. The pill vs. liquid form does not impact the calorie content.

Does concentration affect calorie content?

No, the concentration or strength of liquid ibuprofen does not affect the calorie content.

Whether it is:

  • Infant drops with 50mg ibuprofen per 1.25mL
  • Children’s liquid with 100mg per 5mL
  • Adult liquid with 200mg per 10mL

The higher concentration only means more ibuprofen is dissolved per volume. But since the ibuprofen itself has no calories, a higher concentration does not affect the calorie content.

The inactive suspending ingredients are still present in trace amounts regardless of strength. So double strength liquid would provide the same negligible calories as regular strength.

In the end, no matter the dosage or concentration, both the active drug and inactive ingredients in liquid ibuprofen formulas result in zero calories per serving.

Does liquid ibuprofen get absorbed faster than pills?

Yes, liquid ibuprofen is generally absorbed slightly faster than regular ibuprofen pills.

Liquid ibuprofen gets absorbed through membranes under the tongue, allowing it to enter the bloodstream without passing through the digestive system. Pills must be swallowed, dissolved in stomach acid, then absorbed through the stomach and intestines.

One study found that liquid ibuprofen started working in as little as 10 minutes, while pills took approximately 45 minutes to provide pain relief.

However, regular ibuprofen tablets today are also formulated for faster absorption. Many brands now use “rapid-release” technologies like capsules or gels to dissolve quickly.

So while liquid ibuprofen has a slight advantage in absorption speed, modern rapid-release ibuprofen pills also get absorbed within 30 minutes in most cases.

Is liquid or pill ibuprofen easier on the stomach?

Liquid ibuprofen is considered marginally easier on the stomach than regular ibuprofen pills.

Ibuprofen can sometimes cause digestive side effects like stomach pain, nausea or ulcers with long-term use. This is because it inhibits prostaglandins which help protect the stomach lining.

The liquid form skips the harsh stomach environment since it absorbs directly into the bloodstream. This means slightly less exposure of the stomach lining to ibuprofen.

However, today’s pills also use enteric coatings and buffered formulas to help reduce this gastrointestinal irritation as well.

Overall, studies show both new rapid-release ibuprofen pills and liquid forms have better gastric side effect profiles compared to older ibuprofen products.

Does liquid ibuprofen work better for headaches and pain?

There is no strong evidence that liquid ibuprofen works better than pills for headaches or pain.

As mentioned, liquid ibuprofen is absorbed marginally faster, so may provide relief 10-15 minutes sooner. However, appropriately dosed rapid-release pills also get absorbed quickly today.

In the end, ibuprofen blocks pain receptors and reduces inflammation the same way regardless of liquid or pill form.

For example, 200mg liquid ibuprofen provides identical headache relief to a 200mg ibuprofen tablet or capsule.

The convenience of the liquid form may help children or those with swallowing issues. But otherwise, liquid does not confer any therapeutic advantage over pills.

Is liquid or chewable ibuprofen better for children?

Liquid ibuprofen is generally considered easier for children to take, but chewable tablets can also work well.

Reasons liquid ibuprofen is good for kids:

  • Precise dosing with a measuring device
  • Easy to swallow small amounts
  • Palatable flavors like grape, berry or bubblegum
  • Can give small doses to infants

Chewable tablets also have advantages:

  • Easier to carry than liquids
  • Many kids can chew tablets by age 2-3
  • Also come in kid-friendly flavors

So liquid ibuprofen may work better for infants, but for older children chewables are also a good option. Checking with a pediatrician is advised to choose the most appropriate form.

Should you take liquid ibuprofen with food?

Ibuprofen pills are best taken with food to reduce stomach irritation, but this does not apply to the liquid form.

Since liquid ibuprofen is absorbed sublingually under the tongue, it skips the harsh stomach environment either way.

So taking liquid ibuprofen with or without food will not impact absorption speed or gastric side effects.

For convenience, liquid ibuprofen can be taken on an empty stomach if needed for faster pain relief. But taking it with a light meal is also fine.

One precaution is to avoid taking liquid ibuprofen with milk or other dairy products, as this can temporarily interfere with absorption.

Does liquid ibuprofen expire and go bad?

Yes, liquid ibuprofen does expire and can go bad past its expiry date. The shelf life is typically 2-3 years from manufacture.

Signs that liquid ibuprofen may have gone bad include:

  • Cloudy appearance instead of clear liquid
  • Change in color
  • Separation with solid clumps
  • Rancid smell
  • Bottle or seal looks compromised

Expired ibuprofen may lose potency and become less effective over time. In rare cases, degraded chemicals could cause unexpected side effects.

To avoid issues, always check expiry dates and store properly in cool dry places. Do not use liquid ibuprofen past its listed expiration date.

Is there a difference between ibuprofen and Advil or Motrin?

Advil, Motrin and many other brands contain the same active ingredient – ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen was originally discovered and patented by the Boots pharmaceutical company in England in the 1960s. It was licensed to many manufacturers as a generic drug.

The most common American brands of ibuprofen include:

  • Advil – Whitehall-Robins Healthcare
  • Motrin – Johnson & Johnson
  • Nuprin – Upjohn

These brands all contain 200mg ibuprofen per tablet in their over-the-counter formulas. They differ in their inactive ingredients like fillers, binders and coatings.

So while the brands vary, if the active ingredient listed is ibuprofen, then they all provide equivalent pain and anti-inflammatory relief.


In summary, liquid ibuprofen contains zero calories and no significant nutritional value. The ibuprofen itself does not provide any calories, protein, carbs or fat. The suspending base in the liquid has trace calories from sugars or thickeners, but these are negligible amounts per dose. So whether using tablets, capsules or liquid, ibuprofen can effectively be considered zero calories. While liquid ibuprofen has a slightly faster absorption, it does not confer any therapeutic advantage over properly dosed rapid-release ibuprofen pills for headaches, pain or fever reduction. Either form can be used in children or adults while having minimal impact on caloric intake.

Leave a Comment