Cryotherapy, also known as cold-water immersion (CWI) or ice baths, is a recovery regimen following a period of sustained, intense exercise in which the body is immersed into ice-water for a limited amount of time.
For the last decade, ice water baths/CWI as a form of recovery has become a controversial topic. The benefits associated with CWI include:
- Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Increased flush out of waste products, such as lactic acid, thereby aiding in quicker recovery.
- Reduced swelling and tissue breakdown.
- Improved recovery of muscle function and performance
(Vaile et al. 2008; Roberts et al. 2014)
However, other studies have stated that there is no evidence to substantiate the benefits stated in the above studies. Instead, the CWI may actually prolong recovery (Lovett, 2019). BUT WHY??? When your body is immersed in ice cold water, the cold water slows the processes within the muscles that are necessary to generate new proteins (Lovett, 2019).
Additionally, another study found that CWI reduces the benefits of hard training including smaller gains in muscle mass and strength (The University of Auckland, 2017). Although, The University of Auckland also mentions that if you have back to back events, ice baths may be beneficial to relax and provide short term relief to muscle pain.
There are hundreds of studies that have research the advantages and disadvantages of CWI, however more research needs to be conducted to further investigate. SO… Should you follow the ice bath recovery regimen? Ultimately, ice bathing is up to you. If you feel like ice baths aids your recovery, then continue to do so.
Lovett, R. A., 2019. Don’t Use Ice Baths For Recovery, Says Another New Study. [Online]
Available at: https://www.podiumrunner.com/training/dont-use-ice-baths-for-recovery-says-another-new-study/
[Accessed 28 02 2020].
Roberts LA, Raastad T, Markworth JF, Figueiredo VC, Egner IM, Shield A, Cameron‐Smith D, Coombes JS & Peake JM (2015). Post‐exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long‐term adaptations in muscle to strength training. J Physiol 593, 4285– 4301.
The University of Auckland, 2017. Ice bath no good for muscle recovery.. [Online]
Available at: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/news-events-and-notices/news/news-2017/02/ice-baths-no-good-for-muscle-recovery.html
[Accessed 28 02 2020].
Vaile J, O’Hagan C, Stefanovic B, Walker M, Gill N & Askew CD (2011). Effect of cold water immersion on repeated cycling performance and limb blood flow. Br J Sports Med 45, 825– 829.