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Ice baths no good for muscle recovery

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2017


Ice baths no good for muscle recovery

New evidence suggests ice baths do nothing to help muscle recovery after exercise.

Ice baths have long been used by elite athletes and sports people after competition and training in the belief that they promote muscle recovery by reducing temperature, blood flow and inflammation in tissues of the muscles.

But a new study by an international team that includes Liggins Institute scientists shows that immersion in cold water does not reduce inflammation.

“Ice baths have become almost standard practice for a lot of athletes, yet until now there have been no studies on humans to test their effectiveness,” says Professor David Cameron-Smith from the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute.

“Our study found ice baths are no more beneficial than a simple low intensity warm-down at reducing inflammation and muscle damage after intense exercise.”

In the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, researchers got nine physically active men to do leg resistance training exercises for 45 minutes on two separate days at least one week apart.

On one of the days, the men cycled at a low intensity (active recovery, or a warm-down) for 10 minutes after exercising, and on the other, they immersed their lower body in 10C water for 10 minutes post-workout.

Muscle biopsies were collected from the exercised leg before training and then at two, 24 and 48-hour intervals afterwards.

Analysis showed the same pattern of inflammatory responses in muscles following ice baths and active recovery.

Not only do ice baths not combat inflammation, an earlier study by the same international research team showed they actually reduce the benefits of training hard, with smaller gains in muscle mass and strength following weight training.

Professor Cameron-Smith says there is some evidence that ice baths may be helpful in endurance training, and may be beneficial for tendon and ligament injuries.

“If you have a quick turnaround between games or events, ice baths may be useful to help you relax and provide short-term relief to muscle pain, but they’re not going to reduce inflammation and will be detrimental to building muscle in the long run,” he says.

“Apart from times when you need a quick wind-down, our advice would be drop them.”

ends

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