Ice Baths Post-Training May Help Recovery While Hurting Your Gains

This popular tool has some utility but also has a potential cost

Dylan Dacosta
In Fitness And In Health

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Image from Canva — edited by Author

Sparknotes:

  • A new meta-analysis shows that cold water immersion post-exercise can help reduce immediate markers of subjective fatigue and recovery, such as rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS.)
  • Most protocols were at water temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius or less and for 10–20 minutes.
  • Long-term data show that routine exposure to cold water immersion post-exercise can lead to lesser muscle mass and strength gains than normal or active recovery.
  • Other than boosting immediate markers of subjective recovery, cold water immersion post-exercise is not a great strategy if you’re aiming to build muscle and strength.

If you’ve ever seen post-game routines from high-level athletes, I’m confident you’ve seen the ice bath in use. Whether it's NBA players using them after a game or a pair of NFL brothers taking a dip in a frozen lake for their “post-workout recovery.”

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Dylan Dacosta
In Fitness And In Health

I am a personal trainer and online coach from Toronto, Ontario. If you like my writing, check out my website! www.five-elements.ca