Ice baths for recovery and muscle growth
Although not really a new idea in the world of professional sports, ice baths after intense workouts represent an increasing trend in the past few years. Correctly applied ice baths involve the immersion of your body in ice-cold water (or even a bath filled with ice cubes) for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. While unpleasant for some people, ice baths are being used by professional athletes from different sports, all over the world.
The Ice Bath Science
The medical explanation behind the effect of ice on your muscle soreness and growth is that the blood vessels in your extremities will shrink when your core temperature drops. That’s because your brain focuses on keeping your most important organs warm. Furthermore, during low core temperature, your metabolism slows down, allowing for less nutrients to be consumed over longer periods of time.
The low temperature of the water also slows down inflammation and muscle soreness. This will actually allow you to work harder multiple consecutive days. Delaying the onset of muscle soreness is very efficient in professional athletes that have more than one training per day.
The actual time you spend in the ice bath should be carefully considered, as extreme temperatures can lead to permanent tissue damage, especially in the extremities. Most athletes use icy water that’s around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit (12-15 degrees Celsius). The ideal time you should spend inside the cold water depends on your metabolism and resistance to cold. Anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes should be fine. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t stay in for too long.
Advanced Recovery Times
Once you’re out of the ice bath, blood is pumped back to your extremities faster and in higher volume than usual, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. The increased blood flow and volume also help your muscles get rid of dead cells and toxins that are a result of training. This will speed up the muscle recovery and it will potentially help them grow faster.
The Ice Bath Cons
Of course, with every fitness therapy that works, there are a few drawbacks. The two most important drawbacks are the pain and the possible onset of hypothermia. I’m sure that if you want less muscle soreness and faster growth, you can ignore the pain. The onset of hypothermia can be prevented by taking baths that are no longer than 15 minutes.
Placebo or Effective recovery strategy?
Some researchers call it a placebo effect, while others recommend it for muscle recovery, growth, and delayed onset muscle soreness. You’re going to have to try it for yourself to know if it’s going to have a beneficial effect on your training. Let us know how you get on or if ice baths are a regular practice in your training regime.