Should You Take Ice Baths?

I believe that's the wrong question. The question isn't IF, but WHEN. ⠀

@davecharlesbryan77 sparked this post. He was asking about using ice baths post-endurance exercise to reduce inflammation and speed recovery. So let's dig in!⠀

Coldwater exposure has been around for centuries. There are records dating back as far as 1600 B.C. that mentioned cold therapy in treating illness and disease. Hippocrates (460–370 B.C.) documented the benefits of hydrotherapy. There are even stories of Egyptian women dunking their babies in cold rivers to help build health and resilience. ⠀

Research on the topic is becoming more prevalent and it's helping shed some light on what people have been doing for thousands of years. ⠀

Research from the Cochrane Review is pretty clear that ice baths will help reduce soreness (DOMS), decrease fatigue and improved ratings of physical recovery. Other studies have looked into the improvements in immune system function, mood, energy and autonomic regulation. It's hard to argue against ice baths. ⠀


There have been studies to show that ice baths DIRECTLY AFTER strength and endurance training can blunt the adaptation response. This is because your body doesn't have to deal with the inflammation, muscle damage and other disruptions to homeostasis on its own. ⠀


There seems to be an equal amount of research saying it can help... ⠀

Shona Halson of the AIS goes through some of the conflicting research in an article I'll post in the comments. She goes through 4 studies involving cycling. 2 seemed to have some detrimental effects, 2 found improvements. The study performed on the highest trained athletes, with the most training sessions, (and therefore, most ice baths), showed improvements in a range of sprint and high-intensity cycling performances. This should be regarded more highly than the other studies that used non-elite participants. ⠀

So they're great for recovery, reducing soreness, immune function, mood and subjective energy levels. But they may or may not be ideal DIRECTLY AFTER a strength or endurance training session. ⠀

So what should you do? ⠀

Have a look at the info-graph that Dr Shona Halson of the AIS put together (taken from @ajeukendrup twitter). This can help you decide if you should be using them or not. ⠀

I'd argue that everyone should use them, you should just be strategic with what time you decide to use them. ⠀

In order to get the most out of your ice baths without potential negative effects on the adaptation response, you should do them in the morning, before your session, or as far away (post-exercise) as you can - even the next day. This gives you all the benefits of improved recovery time, decreased soreness and all the other immune-boosting benefits without the risk of blunting endurance, strength or hypertrophy gains. ⠀

If you're competing and not focused on improving fitness per se (let's say, in the middle of a footy season), then you should use them more often. Especially if competing in a multi-day event. ⠀

If you're in the off-season, not training frequently, and aren't building up to an event. You could just do them in the morning for other health benefits. ⠀

I like to use them most days of the week because I'm training relatively hard every day. I'll often do them in contrast with the sauna or first thing in the morning. I find it helps me train at higher-intensities more frequently - which is obviously important for improving strength and endurance. ⠀

If used correctly, they won't hinder your strength and endurance improvements. They'll actually enhance the recovery process and allow you to train harder and more frequently. ⠀

In terms of how long and how cold, I'd recommend 10-15 minutes if in the pool or at the beach. And 5 minutes for an actual ice bath at home. Go up to your neck too, don't stop at the waist. ⠀

#one22 #strengthcapacityresilience #icebaths #coldexposure #coldthermogenesis


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