Why Cold Water Therapy Is Impairing Your Recovery
Is cold water therapy hindering your recovery from training?
It appears to be the case.
Over the weekend, a study was brought to my attention that shows cold water therapy (cryo baths etc.) are actually impairing your recovery following endurance training.
If you want to skip straight to the study, you can get it here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28980321
What Did They Look At?
The study was based on whether intramuscular temperature affected post-exercise recovery from fatigue induced by endurance exercise.
So pretty much a lot of GAA and long distance runners would fall into this.
Power output was better preserved in muscles that were heated whereas power output in cooled muscles had decreased.
Not only that, but the cooling effect actually impaired glycogen re-synthesis (think of your muscles packing energy back into them).
Glycogen re-synthesis is a huge factor when it comes to recovery for all athletes.
It has been shown that glycogen re-synthesis was faster in heated muscle than cooled.
So overall, cold water therapy is now showing signs of impairing your recovery rather than enhancing.
Which may be unfortunate for many as it has become hugely popular among athletes in recent years.
Should You Completely Abandon Cold Water Therapy?
No, I wouldn’t stop altogether.
It may not be the best for post-exercise recovery, but you may not have to abandon it.
Something we discussed last summer at the European Powerlifting Conference was recovery strategies.
And massages were scrutinised and may not be an effective method either.
But the speakers looked at it from a psychological aspect.
Does a cryo session/massage leave you feeling refreshed, feeling like you’re more recovered and therefore more enthusiastic towards your next training session?
If the answer is yes, then that can be a good thing.
It may also be a time where you can genuinely just relax and unwind a bit which is good.
But as a whole, if you’re relying purely on it as a means to recovering faster/better, then there is better options available.
Look towards getting some good quality carbs in post training to fill up glycogen stores.
And aim to avail of any recovery techniques that leaves you feeling good.
Hope that helps.