The researchers have thrown cold water on the use of ice baths to soothe the overworked muscles of athletes.
According to conventional thinking, ice baths reduce inflammation and damage. however a joint study by the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology has found an active warm down is more effective in building muscle mass and strength.
The University of Queensland’s School of Human Movement’s Dr Llion Roberts tracked the progress of 21 men who did strength training two days a week for three months.
Half of them did an active warm down and the rest had a 10 minute ice bath at 10 degrees ::::
Those who endured the ice fared worse!?
“Cold water immersion was actually decreasing the activity of these very important cells or proteins or sometimes delaying the activity-up profile of them,” Dr Roberts said. “They not only had a big reduction in the amount of muscle mass they gained, but they also had a significantly lower increase in functional performance after training.”
The research found muscle mass increased by 10 to 15 per cent in the group that did an active warm down and only five per cent in the group who used ice baths.
Dr Jonathan Peake from QUT’s School of Biomedical Sciences said the results might change the strategies used by professional sports teams.
“Perhaps they could think more carefully about when they use ice baths in their competitive season,” Dr Peake said. “So during the pre-season they’re often focussed on building up strength, building up muscle mass and so during that stage of the season, ice baths are probably not so important.
He said the benefits of ice baths seem to be mainly psychological.
“If it makes the athletes feel better, then there’s probably no harm in doing it later in the season.”
The research has been published in The Journal of Physiology.
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