Traditionally known as the ultimate form of recovery & building muscle may not be the answer
Muscle recovery is one crucial factor that can inhibit how quickly we get back to the gym. If you are young, you have a significant advantage here. But, as we age, things tend to take longer than you would typically like or accept. As we all know, to get results, consistency is critical. But, you can’t be as consistent as you want if you do not work out often.
If you do take the risk and train whilst the muscles are sore and in recovery and repair mode, you will experience adverse results, such as:
- Potential for injury
- Degrade muscle quality
- Increase inflammation
- The need to take more days off for recovery to compensate.
If you are the kind of person who loves to train and has worked out for many years, you know what I’m talking about. Working out too much, too hard, can negate any results we have so painfully and passionately tried to attain. A couple of athletes swear by ice baths for recovery; one of them is Andy Murray. But unfortunately, research has brought some new insights on its inefficiency (thank God I hate the cold). Ice baths have been known worldwide for their popularity due to the reduction in body temperature, which then reduces blood flow, swelling and inflammation in the tissue of the muscles. That makes sense on a surface level because when you sprain your ankle or any other body part, you apply ice to the area. It’s an essential step in first aid. Research shows that ice is beneficial for reducing muscle soreness; the effects on forming new proteins in the body, which are essential for building muscle, are inaccurate. These findings came about through ongoing research at Maastricht University. These researchers studied how impactful ice baths were in helping to generate new protein in muscle, as that potential usually increases after exercise and when we eat protein. Measurements for this analysis were taken using something called isotope tracers and muscle biopsies. The participants conducted a resistance training exercise on both legs for two weeks. Participants placed one leg incomplete ice bath immersion when the exercise sessions were finished. That leg in the ice bath decreased the amount of protein the portion could generate. I believe that lets anyone like myself, fearful of the cold, off the hook for not using this method for a faster recovery (if we want to build muscle, that is!).
Key take away
If you currently use ice baths to recover and build muscle, it may be time to re-think their effectiveness. If you want to build muscle and recover from training so you can have a consistent training schedule, perhaps it’s best to use the following alternatives.
- Good old rest
- Taking part in active recovery
- Massage oil
- Your diet (omega-three fats)
Please check out the limited research paper to read more about these findings.
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