You Got Guru’d: Postexercise Cold Water Immersion

Cryotherapy (cold therapy) has been around for ages. Athletes and celebrities alike love it, including Floyd Mayweather (see the video below of Floyd using it), Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Justin Gatlin, the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Cowboys, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Jessica Alba, Mandy Moore, Minka Kelly, and more (according to HERE, HERE, and HERE). I’ve used cold tubs in the past, and like many things in the world, it made intuitive sense to me that it would help me recover. I never really knew how it would help and through which mechanisms it helped, but I just “felt” it working, and I didn’t really question tradition.

The problem with relying on “feeling” is that it could just be temporary and fleeting, it could be due to the Placebo Effect, or it could actually diminish results without us knowing. This is why research is so important; conducting RCT’s allows us to examine short term physiological mechanisms inherent to a particular intervention along with long term changes in performance measures that are associated with a particular intervention.

benefit-of-cold-therapy

Many athletes and coaches like to jump into a cold tub immediately following a workout. Hell, cold tubs are common in high end training athletic training facilities around the world. Past research in postexercise cold water immersion is unimpressive. Some studies show minor potential, for example postexercise cold water immersion may improve postexercise lipid peroxidation (HERE), but for the taking a long hard look at the evidence on postesexercise cold water immersion doesn’t justify it’s inclusion in most sports recovery programs – it doesn’t appear to outperform a Placebo (HERE), it doesn’t improve sleep architecture (HERE), a major review paper didn’t approve of it for treating muscle soreness (HERE), and another review paper concluded that it benefited endurance athletes in terms of recovery, but not strength/power athletes (HERE).

A recently accepted article in The Journal of Physiology summarized two eye-opening studies that warrant further attention in the Strength & Conditioning field (HERE). I’m going to copy and paste the abstract, key points, and some author quotes below.

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Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training

Abstract

We investigated functional, morphological and molecular adaptations to strength training exercise and cold water immersion (CWI) through two separate studies. In one study, 21 physically active men strength trained for 12 weeks (2 d⋅wk–1), with either 10 min of CWI or active recovery (ACT) after each training session. Strength and muscle mass increased more in the ACT group than in the CWI group (P<0.05). Isokinetic work (19%), type II muscle fibre cross-sectional area (17%) and the number of myonuclei per fibre (26%) increased in the ACT group (all P<0.05) but not the CWI group. In another study, nine active men performed a bout of single-leg strength exercises on separate days, followed by CWI or ACT. Muscle biopsies were collected before and 2, 24 and 48 h after exercise. The number of satellite cells expressing neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) (10−30%) and paired box protein (Pax7)(20−50%) increased 24–48 h after exercise with ACT. The number of NCAM+ satellitecells increased 48 h after exercise with CWI. NCAM+– and Pax7+-positivesatellite cell numbers were greater after ACT than after CWI (P<0.05). Phosphorylation of p70S6 kinaseThr421/Ser424 increased after exercise in both conditions but was greater after ACT (P<0.05). These data suggest that CWI 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.

KEY POINTS SUMMARY

  • Cold water immersion is a popular strategy to recovery from exercise. However, whether regular cold water immersion influences muscle adaptations to strength training is not well understood.
  • We compared the effects of cold water immersion and active recovery on changes in muscle mass and strength after 12 weeks of strength training. We also examined the effects of these two treatments on hypertrophy signalling pathways and satellite cell activity in skeletal muscle after acute strength exercise.
  • Cold water immersion attenuated long term gains in muscle mass and strength. It also blunted the activation of key proteins and satellite cells in skeletal muscle up to 2 days after strength exercise.
  • Individuals who use strength training to improve athletic performance, recover from injury or maintain their health should therefore reconsider whether to use cold water immersion as an adjuvant to their training.

“The key findings were that cold water immersion (1) substantially attenuated long-term gains in muscle mass and strength, and (2) delayed and/or suppressed the activity of satellite cells and kinases in the mTOR pathway during recovery from strength exercise. We propose that regular deficits in acute hypertrophy signalling in muscle after cold water immersion accumulated over time, which in turn resulted in smaller improvements in strength and hypertrophy. The present findings contribute to an emerging theme that cold water immersion and other strategies (e.g., antioxidant supplements, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that are intended to mitigate and improve resilience to physiological stress associated with exercise may actually be counterproductive to muscle adaptation (Peake et al., 2015).

This investigation offers the strongest evidence to date that using cold water immersion on a regular basis may interfere with training adaptations. No previous study has investigated the effect of cold water immersion on muscle hypertrophy after strength training.”

As you can see, this evidence is extremely damning. It seems like we all got guru’d. Jumping into a cold tub after a hard workout hampered our gains by slowing down the normal rate of progress in terms of satellite cell and mTOR pathway activation, strength acquisition, and muscle fiber hypertrophy. If you’ve heavily relied on cold tubs following your strength training workouts, you could have been more jacked. Hopefully professional sports teams, coaches, and trainers will be open-minded to ditching this common practice, as it’s used abundantly in the preparation of athletes in the NFL, NBA, and UFC.

Screenshot at Jul 16 07-10-20

42 Comments

  • Martin says:

    What about the opposite – saunas and such? Do you know of any evidence here?

  • Patrick says:

    Hi Bret,

    I think the main reason for most studies looking into CWI not producing a solid result is, that we still lack an objective and measurable recovery marker… Provokingly asking: what sense does it make to look at a recovery treatment when we still have no full understanding what happens in the human body during recovery? For example: maybe we even have to look at different systems in a different fashion.?A recovery method noneffective for a strength athlete might still be fully appropriate for an endurance athlete or sprinter? In my opinion: As long as we cant answer such basic questions (like recovery markers in human physiology) athletic-training-focused studies like the one presented should be based on outcome measures, not on cellular adaption… That would be the looking at increase in athletic performance after intervention not at the gains in satellite cells.

    The study at hand also raises more questions than it really answers… First of all: why was there no control group? It would be very interesting to see if the measures for CWI would still be interpreted as “hampering” if we could see what happens to subjects that didn’t engage in any means of recovery strategy… Furthermore on the methodology: How was the dose of CWI defined ? As you state “This investigation offers the strongest evidence to date that using cold water immersion on a regular basis may interfere with training adaptations.” Of course – If you leave somebody long enough in cold water they die. That also has a significantly hampering effects on muscular growth!
    We must assume that cold water immersion improves or hampers recovery depending on dose (water temperature) and application duration (immersion duration). We have no clue how to apply CWI in order to be effective. Current application is based on a best-guess basis. To me it makes total sense that muscle cells that are drifting into hypothermia have the plain focus of acute survival rather than preparing for long term adaption.

    Enough said. Thanks Bret for also looking at studies in this more tricky subject. I really enjoy reading you blog 🙂

    Cheers
    Pat

    • Chris says:

      They did, Patrick, they did: “athletic-training-focused studies like the one presented should be based on outcome measures, not on cellular adaption… That would be the looking at increase in athletic performance after intervention not at the gains in satellite cells. ”
      And the third sentence of the abstract begins with: “Strength and muscle mass increased more in the ACT group than in the CWI group (P<0.05). Isokinetic work (19%),…"
      In addition to that, we are not completely clueless what recovery or generally speaking training results can mean in physiological markers. We know damn well that some correlate with actual endpoint markers (a fact that by the way this study has confirmed by assessing cellular markers AND endpoint markers (practical outcomes)).
      Then of course youre right to point to limitations of a study: What if they used five degrees cooler/warmer water? What if they bathed for five mins more/less? What if they were fencers…? All those parameters can – and should – be explored in more studies. As is always the case. BUT: So far we know that how we do it currently works WORSE than active recovery. At least for strength athletes. Thats a very useful finding itself, cause now you know your athletes are better off doing the latter – and you dont need to prepare all those bathtubs 🙂 . The more studies we have, the more we will know about applications of those results to different populations (ecological validity). Maybe the fencer who bathes in 5 degrees warmer water for 5 minutes less recovers better than the control group? Seems unlikely, but maybe. Remains to be seen.
      What I completely understand is your criticism of a true control group who did nothing. I can see the reasons why they did it this way, though: Explain to a coach, who is convinced that CWI works best, that now half of his athletes not only wont do this anymore, but they even wont do the old-school active recovery (that even is scientifically proven to work). 🙂
      As for your questions about the dosages, methodology – read the study!

    • NcFurlan says:

      With a bit more effort, to search the full text (and perhaps the whole L. Roberts PhD thesis) which is available on different platforms (i.e Uni repository or Researchgate), you’d have been able to answer most of your questions. You’d also find the reported chronic effect of CWI on strength/resistance training.

      Current application is not based on a best-guess basis. There is extensive research on temperature and time ranges and water therapy modalities. You will find guidelines on what is ‘best practice’ on dose/volume/type by looking at Shona Halson and the AIS research group. Furthermore, there is plenty of presentations/videos on this topic, available for free on the French INSEP website (in English).

      Having said that, CWI would be appropriate in certain contexts and not in others. The key is to form a strong rationale for using them in a certain situation (training vs. competition, athletes characteristics..), based on research-documented effects from controlled trials. Trade-off between pro and cons will always be required.

      Enjoy the reading and the informed decisions.

  • Brad says:

    I think this argument can be made for ingesting food/nutrients too soon after a workout as well. Meaning, feeding in the “anabolic window” may be detrimental to hypertrophic adaptation and it should only be recommended when acute glycogen replenishment is paramount. I haven’t done a lit review though.

  • Bravo and thank you for posting this article. I’ve written about this topic for a few years. My articles caused health care professionals to scream bloody murder. “What? No, ice? You’re insane!” It pains me to see the dependency on ice in both health care and sports performance. The evidence does not support it.
    Tissue repair and remodeling can ONLY occur after the intricate process of inflammation. Without inflammation, we cannot have repair or remodeling. Integrin to integrin, cells innately communicate and through mechanical stimuli mRNA transcribes and encodes genes. Progenitor cells become myocytes, tenocytes, chondrocytes and osteocytes – the celluar building blocks that building muscle, repair soft tissue and heal bone. Ice and cold water immersion interrupts the necessary physiological events.

    • Tony says:

      I get a little nervous when I see five sets of letters after a commenter’s name.

      There is an optimal degree of inflammation necessary for healing.

      The body can overshoot this level, and begin to harm itself.

      This is where corrective modalities come into play, such as ice and compression. The object is not to eliminate inflammation, rather to control it, downgrade it.

      And I’m not screaming bloody murder, just speaking in a calm, rational manner.

      All inflammation is not good and appropriate for healing. The body does not perfectly heal itself in every case. Many diseases are directly linked to excessive inflammation.

      Ironically, those that decry the use of ice as a modality are sometimes completely onboard with compression, especially if it involves the use of a “Voodoo Band”.

      • Ron JSGPOAB says:

        I lean more towards this. In the exercise community we tend to take things to the extreme and overuse them. A hammer is a great tool to have, but you wouldn’t want to change a light bulb with it. For what it’s good for, it works great. Icing every little thing is the exact same as trying to use a hammer for every little thing.

        I was in the cold bath group and still am to a certain degree and think the actual temperature, the time of immersion and actual cause of soreness plays a big role. I started a phase of a workout and hurt my hip on day one. I was seriously bummed out because I was expecting to miss a decent amount of time because of it. I immediately took a cold bath, sitting on a giant ice cube and the next day 99% of it was gone. I missed no time and all I had to do was go easy on it for a while. In this instance, it worked great. I don’t think there’s any chance at all I’d would’ve been been working out 48 hours later without it. Never using it is the same as “don’t do this exercisse EVER”. Just do it right.

  • Peter says:

    The present findings contribute to an emerging theme that cold water immersion “and other strategies (e.g., antioxidant supplements, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that are intended to mitigate and improve resilience to physiological stress associated with exercise may actually be counterproductive to muscle adaptation (Peake et al., 2015).”

    Did the study actually test these other strategies?

    Did it compare or contrast immersion in ice water vs. whole body cryotherapy?

    • Chris says:

      No, this study didnt investigate these other strategies . Thats why it reads “(Peake et al, 2015)”. That means, a researcher called “Peake” and colleagues did it in research published in the year 2015.
      As for the second question: No. The study did what the abstract reads: It compared CWI vs active recovery. If youre suggesting that they should have, because you think thats the most important question and as they did not, this study is worthless for you: Yes, and they also should have tested 18year olds vs 25year olds, women, men, something in between, runners, fencers, javelin throwers, cyclists, soccer players (but not union rugby players 🙂 ), people with diabetes, people with sunburn (more inflammation circulating), Asians, Inuit, Caucasians, small people, very very tall people, Red Sox fans, gays and above all – chili lovers.

      Jesus, guys, theres a reason Im being so agitated, first Patrick above and now you: READ AT LEAST THE ABSTRACT BRET WORKS HIS ASS OFF TO SHOW YOU. Do you really have the balls to write a post only reading the title and first sentence of a blog post? Seriously?

      • Tony says:

        Chris, acting like an ass does not bolster your argument.

        • Chris says:

          I dont care as the argument stands up for itself, whether you think Im an ass or not.

          And keep in mind that I explicitly stated a reason why Im being that rude (at almost all times, Im much more relaxed and wed have a cool beer or two): because imo its even much ruder to ignore the great work Brets doing for us and to just post a personal opinion on his website without even reading an abstract he gives us!

          • Tony says:

            I have seen the Guru.

            He is amongst us. He is angry, dismissive, condescending.

            He will NOT be comtradicted. He is dogmatic. He overstates.

            Yes, I have seen the GURU.

            He is amongst us.

          • Chris says:

            Very poetic, Tony 🙂

            But I think youre partly falling prey to your own words, if you categorize me as such due to one single albeit admittedly moody – and as I explained imo not totally undue – post.

            Lets relax and grab a virtual beer. Cheers mate!

            Btw, Im the same one youre discussing with a couple of posts below. I dont think you thought of an angry guru there of me 🙂 .

        • Joe says:

          He is far less of an ass than you are. And he is not hopelessly insecure and he can read on an adult level.

    • Benjen says:

      I was trying to find the research conducted by Peake and friends, but wasn’t successful. Does anybody have access to the study they made or found it somewhere?

  • Gjermund says:

    Hi
    I was watching sports science not to long ago, and they were testing the effects of dehydration on our bodies. As we all know, we need to drink water to stay hydraded during an exercise, or we will loose power and fatigue more easily.
    The test subject was a rugby player (Tod Clever) and they put him through an obstacle course when hydrated and dehydrated. What they saw was that he was faster and had more power when he was dehydrated, even though science tells us that it should be the other way round.
    One of the factors was that his training and etremely good conditioning had improved his kidney function by 30%, thus they could filtrate acids and nitrates more efficiently then other athletes.

    So this gets me thinking, when we se these top level athletes using cryotherapy and dominate in their field, could their training and maybe even genetics provided them with the tools needed to benefit from cryotherapy? Whilst for many others it may be counterproductive?

    • NcFurlan says:

      What sort of control did the ‘tv show’ guys had on the experiment?
      What is the variability associated with the obstacle course completion? And what about the familiarization effect?
      Did they measure kidney function and adrenaline levels? If yes, how?

      Just a few questions to highlight the flaws of that so-called experiment.
      I would not rely on this type of tv show to make up your own idea about a topic. Science (and good practice) works in a different way.

      However, it is right to acknowledge human variability. Indeed, for a particular treatment or intervention, you will have non-responders as well as people who get small/moderate/large beneficial (or detrimental) changes. We need to observes trends (that would determine guidelines) although it is very important to consider individual responses too, especially with athletes.

  • Bob says:

    This just looks at muscles. It doesn’t say anything about tendons or joints. Since muscular force production is intimately tied to joint / tendon health, it is possible to reduce muscular adaptation and still provide net positive strength retention when considering athletes in high-impact sports.

    • Chris says:

      Injured tendons seem to follow the same rationale as muscles: If you take NSAIDS (which reduce inflammation) for example with chronic degenerative tendon problems, patella tendinosis is a very common one, it was found it also can prolong healing!

      However, Im leaning towards the “depends” stance: Reducing inflammation when its there in catastrophic amounts, out of control so to speak, could be helpful (although the evidence backlash on the “ice” principle after acute injuries seems to negate this). Or maybe there are different kinds of inflammation which are helpful or detrimental (thats beyond my very limited knowledge in this area). Or maybe theres a timing effect. Or an interindividual effect: different ppl, different outcomes.

      After all, the evidence on all forms of cold therapy/CWI you name it, is mixed (Bret showed a study where its pretty clearly little effective). When evidence is mixed, the different results often can be explained by different factors: Contrary to the public opinion, different results are not at all always a bad thing or signs of bad research, but often hint to more complex mechanisms that remain to be discovered.

      So maybe Bret was a bit hasty to call that out as “guru´d” . Well see in the next years. 🙂

  • david zaitzeff says:

    It is possible that the use of the cold-water immersion was an adaptation from a known and somewhat proven therapy called contrast hydrotherapy. Contrast hydrotherapy is using alternating warm and cool applied to an area . . . for relaxation and healing, after certain injuries, after a certain point, or certain types of exertion.

    I done on myself contrast hydrotherapy on various body parts in certain years. When I first started I learned not to overdo the cold or cool part, cause it tended, at least in my case, to do damage and leave the muscle tight and worse off, than before. Warm, cool, warm, cool, warm, cool was fine.

  • Derrek says:

    I’m on the fence.

    Here’s one from Poliquin’s site:

    http://www.poliquingroup.com/Tips/tabid/130/entryid/479/Tip-129-Recover-Faster-and-Train-Harder-Use-Cold-Water-Immersion-After-Intense-Workouts.aspx

    It’s just one study, but it just goes to show that for every study that supports a topic, there’s one that contradicts it.

    • Chris says:

      The thing is, they contradict each other only at first glance; in fact they confirm each other at a closer look!

      Both studies show that cold water reduces inflammation. In fact, a guy on Brets facebook page posted this meta-analysis of a bunch of cold water studies that shows that it happens in virtually all studies. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/279520771_EFFECT_OF_WATER_IMMERSION_ON_RECOVERY_FROM_FATIGUE_A_META-ANALYSIS

      Now the important thing: Where does this reduced inflammation lead to?
      a) less muscle soreness –> “faster recovery” and
      b) less musle hypertrophy

      Both study results reconciled!

      Someone knowledgeable – fee free to correct me when i boldly claim that this is the whole crux of cold water therapy. 🙂

      • Tony says:

        Here is when and why we may favor less inflammation over allegedly less potential hypertrophy.

        When considering adaptation for sport, particularly in season, reducing inflammation and pain is big. Bigger than potentially gaining slightly less lean mass, which has not been shown conclusively.

        Nagging pain influences movement patterns directly and negatively, and leads to faulty compensations. Now injury risk escalates.

        For fighters, and skill athletes, hypertrophy is not the end all of training. It can actually be a negative if it compromises quickness. We must cpnsider more variables than hypertrophy.

        During densely scheduled competition periods, cryotherapy and compression gear help control inflammation and thus pain. I do not believe this is placebo, as it can manifest amongst tri-athletes who will report less soreness when their session involves a cold water swim as opposed to just the bike and run,

        Athletes are tough, and areusually battling pain and soreness from the rigors of their sport. We would opt to manage this with inflammation control, then pile on more soreness and inflammation so they can get more “jacked”.

        This is not bodybuilding, as much as strength and size maintenance, performance readiness.

        Offseason mass building? Maybe the study might have some utility, if it is corroborated further with larger sample sizes. But offseason is always the time to regroup, and experiment a bit.

        • Chris says:

          Good thoughts! Very much my intuitive thinking, although we probably also need more evidence for some of your claims. I agree that hypertrophy can be less important than recovery.
          But (of course there has to be one when I rely on my intuition) One tricky thing that doesnt fit the puzzle is “RICE”: evidence hints that it prolongs healing. Acute injuries surely are one of the scenarios we would categorize as “too much inflammation”. But reducing the inflammation by icing (or taking NSAIDs) prolongs healing.
          Of course you could argue that the acute injury wouldnt have occured if we wouldve recovered better, among other actions by CWI… 🙂
          But still, it doesnt seem that clear cut with inflammation – even in acute injuries reducing inflamation is counter-productive. So when we habitually reduce inflammation by CWI and thus “recover better” – does that maybe mean we only feel better, soreness is less, yes, also creatin kinase is less, but also are leucocytes! So are we just hampering true healing processes of covert micro injuries in the long run and increase the risk of injuries? Tricky.

  • Patrick says:

    What about the effectiveness of whole body liquid nitrogen treatments? Lebron James does this.

  • Eddie says:

    We research endlessly, the Creator laughs. We are all creates unique and adapt countless ways. The multitude of different research projects concerning types of studies, variables, groups, parameters, injury types, the list goes on and on…

    • Chris says:

      Well, research is complex and tedious.

      But without it, you wouldnt be able to sit at your computer now and type this, because there would be no computer. And there would be no “you” – you probably wouldve died years ago from an ugly infection or other contagious disease.

      We research endlessly, and We laugh.

  • Johnny Cage says:

    But that poliquin study those who did CWI had increased strength, so maybe there is a temporary down-regulation of hypertrophy that can sort of rebound? I’m not expert in these things, I’ve done CT for a year while lifting weights and I still made some gains, although I did hyperthermic conditioning after it, some of the times.

    What’s also interesting is the connections between these things like, brown fat and low myostatin. Low myostatin increases muscle mass and increases more brown fat, and brown fat increases after CT. I might be talking out of my ass because I tend to skim a lot of studies which I should not.

    But I wonder if someone trains cold adapted for a long time without making gains, was there any adaptation anywhere? Like neuromuscular junction, somewhere in the genome? And would that translate to bigger gains non-adapted after in comparison to someone who did not do CT and trained with weights?

    I thought before that maybe I should have never done CT based on the study where fast-twitch muscle fibers turn to slow-twitch. But maybe they can retain a sort of memory and shift back and forth more easily? I dunno, would like to hear some thoughts.

    When I did CT I wore a vest before and then took a mild ice bath (no more than 7 lbs probably) but by then I was shivering, maybe there are different hormonal effects with varying degrees of cold?

    • Chris says:

      The study is by Pournot et al., 2011. It was just cited on Poliquin´s website.

      Well, theyre not as contradicting as they seem: CWI has reliably been shown to reduce symptoms of inflammation. Like soreness. If you feel less sore a day after a workout – you will perform better. No doubt about it. That was the thing the Pournot study looked at (they had some cellular markers, and they behaved exactly as in the study Bret posted).

      The question is: What happens mid- and long-term? Does reducing inflammation and speeding up “recovery” mean that there is less true repair and adaptation of muscles (hypertrophy) going on? The study Bret posted hints to a yes.

      The reduction of leucocytes, for example, that you find in every CW study, was interpreted as a good thing – after all leucocytes mean inflammation. Well, they also mean repair.

      So the studies dont contradict themselves: Same findings on a cellular level mean different practical outcomes when it comes to short-term recovery for performance vs mid- and long-term adaptations and repair.

  • Greg Nuchols just recently wrote the following article http://www.strengtheory.com/grow-like-a-new-lifter-again/?inf_contact_key=bb4a2b492ce6ac8d1d96bab35db0df8ad37ff4f8c9c4fcb0b9307f776d83a319. It’s a very well-laid out piece that discusses the research on satellite cells becoming myoblasts, donating their nuclei to existing muscle cells, and enhancing anabolism. In it, he discusses the style of training to enhance this, as well as theorizes strategies for maximizing it.

    In his article, Greg provides a link to this T-nation article written by Brad Schoenfeld https://www.t-nation.com/training/do-pain-pills-impair-muscle-growth. This article discusses how the use of NSAID’s reduce the number of satellite cells attaching to muscle fibers that would otherwise share their nucleus and increasing the overall density of myonuclei – this resulting in less muscle growth. So, with my limited knowledge, I place the NSAID’s in the same category of ice baths – reducing inflammation and reducing the number of myonuclei for muscle cells

    Two thoughts:

    1. The Schoenfeld article mentions that older test subjects actually increased anabolism, because of unrelated benefits due to reduced inflammation. So, being 52, and taking a 15mg of Meloxicam daily, I can’t help but wonder whether the amount of inflammation I’m reducing (whether it be through NSAID or ice bath, or what have you) would reduce inflammation enough to affect the density of myonuclei in my muscles – since I feel like I still have more inflammation in my body than the average 30 year old (or the average 52 year old, for that matter).

    2. This article for the most part references athletes who are using ice baths as a tool for recovery, more than it references using ice baths to reduce pain caused by inflammation ( I tend to see these as two separate uses, which could have some degree of overlap). So, similar to my above thought, I can’t help but wonder if, say a powerlifter, is taking an ice bath to reduce built up inflammation/pain, is he or she actually going to reduce their inflammation to the point of reducing the number of myonuclei attaching to their muscle cells?

    BY the way, is it that common for football players now to utilize ice baths as a regular means of performance enhancement / recovery, versus just reducing inflammation enough to stay healthy when they’re hurting?

  • Muty says:

    What about cold shower 2 mins twice a day Bret?

  • d p k says:

    This article raised some questions. Yes, i read it quickly, but still, here`s my questions… “Cold water”? How cold is cold and why? Why 5-10 minutes? Why there was 3 degree to 10 C in studies? Why not half the body temperature, around 15 – 18 C, like some pro athletes are doing? The athletes he mentioned are using different water temperatures and periods. What kind of workout or performance patterns subjects did use? How long was time after workout to use CWI and how often they jumped in? (Why P-values in that kind of analyse?) Why endurance athletes got benefits? Evidence and data are totally different things in this kind of article where you show only two sides in my opinion. As you can see people are confused. And most important question in my opinion – why do you want to use cold water therapy? To build muscle or to recover or reduce pain signal, or…? If you want to build muscle, why you want to reduce vascular permeability and go to 3 – 8 d C bath after workout? I think You`ve all got guru`d…

    • Bret says:

      d p k – I agree I should have elaborated as there are obviously some benefits to cold water immersion for athletes. However, if something isn’t good for hypertrophy and strength, then it’s probably not something that an athlete should highly rely upon (same goes for NSAIDs, etc.). But yes, in season it’s often necessary. As to the variables you’re referring to, I’m not highly versed in this area. But if you want to write up a detailed review of the literature and provide a fair analysis, I’d gladly post it here on my blog.

  • d b k says:

    I wrote my comment behalf of athlete’s who’s main goal is performance not hypertrophy. Thank you for reply, I keep it in mind 🙂

  • Colin Edgar says:

    You need to differentiate between adaptation e.g. building power and recovery i.e. bringing the body back to the pre-exercise state.

    If the main objective of the training block is to build power then you will want the body to adapt to the additional stress and, in effect, super-compensate so you end up stronger than you were before.

    However, if you just played a 90 minute match on Saturday and you have another match the following Tuesday or Wednesday then the objective is to get the body to recover fully i.e. get back to the pre-match state.

    I wrote an article, in layman’s terms, entitled – The Ice Bath Debate – Good or Bad for Performance – you can see it here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ice-bath-debate-good-bad-performance-colin-edgar-6072036680691384320?trk=pulse_spock-articles

  • […] of Physiology article.  No need for me to rehash what Bret has done; hop on over to his article (You Got Guru’d: Postexercise Cold Water Immersion) and check it out.  Then come on back and we’ll discuss a few […]

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