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Ice/Cold post exercise - Blunts Adaptations

Discussion in 'Optimal Fitness' started by Barry, Apr 4, 2012.

  1. Barry

    Barry New Member

    I've been looking at cold water/contrast baths/cryotherapy for recovery post exercise for a while now.

    If you look at all the studies, and there are plenty of meta-analysis to go by, the conclusions are as follows:

    - Ice baths do numb the pain

    - But they blunt adaptations

    Basically, ice/cold therapy inhibits the acute inflammation. This prevents the body from adapting to the stress. This is not what you want to happen. You want to adapt so that after subsequent training sessions you don't cause as much damage and can thus train harder.

    So the take home message for me has been:

    - only use ice baths during competition or after extreme exercise

    - but the rest of time, let the body adapt while you train to improve adaptations

    So I'm not sure why Dr K is recommending "icing" after all exercise ?

    ... question everything ;-)
  2. Glamorama

    Glamorama New Member

    I exercise and do my LHT hours prior to CT. So gym at 10 am, CT at 5 pm, the walk around 6 pm. So far I've had nothing but gains in the gym.
  3. I train 3 x week from 4-5:30, dinner then CT after, for an hour. CT on days off from training as well. My technique coach finally picked up a calculating error I put into my program. For six weeks I have been doing a MENS program, forgot to adjust for women, I have been doing 5# jumps on worksets of sq and dl, 2.5 on bench, should have been 2.5/1.25 lbs. ha ha, oops. Also I am "masters" so I should have factored in a lighter recovery day, and I didn't. I still feel like I could keep making these jumps too. My powerlifting meet is in less than two weeks, I have put on 12.5# on my single squat which is significant gain in 6 weeks, from 220 to 232.5

    I don't feel my adaptation is "blunted". I would have stalled in the 3rd week. AFter the meet, I have a la few months, won't be interrupted with tapering for/recovery from a meet. I should be able to see much longer linear progression. Yay :)
  4. hellojtm

    hellojtm New Member

    Good post Barry. I would like to hear Dr. Kruse's thoughts on it as well. The acute inflammation from exercise is valuable as long as your chronic inflammation is low/non-existent. So I always wonder about the context of the advice given. Is icing after all exercise optimal for someone with low inflammation and a good acute inflammation response? Seems like it is not. But, then again, I don't think we can control for the diet and lifestyle of all the people in your meta-analysys, and most likely they had some level of chronic inflammation as the norm (it's normal), so perhaps it isn't even of benefit then!

  5. Barry

    Barry New Member


    most studies never control "everything". However, the general consensus is that constant ice treatment post exercise inhibits the acute inflammation signalling that is beneficial to adaptations. Thats what the science says and its pretty well documented at this stage.

    There is obviously some timing considerations to take into account i.e. immediate icing is counter productive, but perhaps a time delay between cessation of training and icing is beneficial, like what Glamaroma and Teenie Leek do above.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying CT doesn't work in the Leptin Signalling context etc. I'm purely talking about the athlete, who trains regularly and uses ice baths after every session for recovery. The evidence shows that this is wrong and its pretty conclusive and makes sense.

    Performance Enhancement = exercise + acute stress + acute inflammation + adaptation x repeat.


    exercise + acute stress + anti/inhibitory inflamation = poor adaptation
  6. SimonM

    SimonM New Member

    I'd like to see the references you are looking at, as I find it very hard to believe that ice baths a) prevent all adaptation and that b) anyone can possibly prove that long term.

    By adaptation you are talking about everything from improvements in V02 max, lactate tolerance, muscle enzymes, quantity and quality of mitochondria, new capillarisation, cardiac muscle changes leading to improved stroke volume and on and on and on... so, really? Ice baths stop all that? You're laying a lot of adaptation at the feet of acute inflammation.

    Then I want to see a study or two that quantifies and balances the loss of "adaptation" when set against the benefits of faster recovery and the ability to train more and/or harder than would be the case without ice baths. Many of the elites I know use ice baths to the legs to enable them to train twice a day.

    Also bear in mind that, for athletes, adaptation sometimes takes a back seat to recovery: think Tour de France cyclists with another stage in the morning', or a track and field athlete (especially a masters' athlete) with championship heats and finals giving him or her five races in seven days to get through. In those situations ice baths are performance enhancing.
  7. eva

    eva New Member

    plus.. is it the case that these studies are done on warmadapted people. so maybe its not the case for coldadapted. plus its a choice - what is more important - sacrificing a bit of proteinsynthesis - gain a lot of HGH and testo. i know my choice. and once you are oldadapted - maybe the effect will be different alltogether. i understand that inflammation is concidered necessary for muscle growth - but is it? im not so certain anymore...
  8. eva

    eva New Member

    the C-s on my keypad are stuck :) sorry for typos
  9. zzzcjr@comcast.net

    zzzcjr@comcast.net New Member

    Barry's post is confusing me. I've been trying to advise my teenage weightlifting sons re CT, and now I'm less sure that I understand it correctly. I told them to work on getting cold adapted and at the very least take a cold shower after a workout. They don't eat paleo yet, but are getting closer. Is the timing of CT after a workout addressed somewhere in Dr. K's blogs? Back to checking CT 6...
  10. hellojtm

    hellojtm New Member

    I'm totally with you Barry and appreciate you broaching the topic. Do you mind sharing a couple of your favorite papers on this?


  11. SimonM

    SimonM New Member

    Ice baths are like taking antioxidant supplements - beneficial but should be timed right so as not to interfere with inflammation which, never mind adaptation, is crucial for healing to occur. However use of ice baths after/during training - a standard set by France's national institute of sport being 15 minutes in 50 degree cold water - is a far cry from CT...I think. :)
  12. zzzcjr@comcast.net

    zzzcjr@comcast.net New Member

    The bolded sounds like a good plan, plus it gives them more freedom time-wise--no hurrying to CT after the workout.

    Your whole response was very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
  13. I know I read an article in Runner's World about Meb and Deena wearing ice vest PRIOR to the marathon event in Athens, everyone was outside, in the heat and humidity, the US team was indoors, wearing ice vests. Still looking for the article, quick search found these links, granted just anecdotal evidence, but it THOSE top guns are doing it.... duh.



  14. Barry

    Barry New Member


    First up, do us a favour and lose the sarcastic tone , that's not what this forum is about.

    Secondly , I'm here to merely postulate and hypothesis and to try at look at the big picture. I also happen to work as a sports scientist and have actually spent a number of years working with a colleague who actually did his phd in ice baths/recovery. So I know a few things and I know the research.

    So my purpose here is to share and learn, that's all. I'm not trying to mislead anyone or even claim to be correct.

    I also work with elite world class athletes and I know exactly what they do. And I can tell you, they don't ice bath post training. They are only advised to do so during competition, which if you read my very first post it's exactly what I pointed out.

    Now if you want to look at the research , I have heaps of it . Why don't you read this in its entirety first and then we'll go from there http://www.sonafe.org.br/images_up/immersion_cryotherapy.pdf
  15. Barry

    Barry New Member

    Then this

  16. Barry, thanks for that link. I want to make sure I understand your concern with CT post training: that because CT reduces inflammation, the muscles will not be able to adapt to the training stressor(s)? Because the inflammation is necessary for adaptation?

    Is that what you are saying?

    I train with high level competitors, (my coach has brought several weightlifters to Olympic Trials, I am not at that level, I am a little guppie next to those great white sharks haha) everyone ices/cold baths post training.
  17. SimonM

    SimonM New Member

    With one Google search I found a meta analysis from 2011 in which the researchers said the effects on adaptation are unproven. If you are hear to share and learn it would be helpful if you would address that, rather than refer me to a paper from 2007 which was a one-off treatment measuring inflammation markers and not addressing anything to do with adaptation. I don't know what the second link refers to as it doesn't work.

    So you work with elites who don't use ice after training; that is not my experience of what the elite runners and triathletes here in Boulder do, not to mention the pro US football teams who are currently seem to exploiting cryotherapy chambers en masse if the media are to be believed.

    We know that ice baths reduce inflammation; they MAY blunt adaptation, but unless there's been a better or more up to date meta-analysis than the one I referred to, published September 2011 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, that hasn't been proven. So I'd still like to know how you are so sure. And I need to know this not just on an intellectual level but for highly practical reasons. You may work with elite world-class athletes; I AM one, albeit at the masters level, and getting this wrong has major implications for me.

    As far as I'm concerned the spirit and purpose of these forums is about questioning and exploration. We are all trying to sort out how best to use Jack's discoveries for our own best purposes. I don't want to get into a useless argument with you, so I'm sorry if my tone has offended you... but we are, as you say, here to question everything.
  18. MonteD

    MonteD New Member

  19. Barry

    Barry New Member


    right, things get lost in translation, so screw my comments... lets get straight to the point and we can help each other, power in numbers and all that :

    Regarding the first study: the reason I posted this is because I know the researcher. What happened after this study is as follows :

    Several weeks later, the same group then conducted a follow-up study to look at the effects on subsequent training bouts. By repeating the model of the initial study following a bout of exercise promoting exercise induced muscle soreness, they achieved similar results. However, they then waited a week & repeated the exercise bout but this time allowed neither group to recover using cold water immersion & what they found has significant implications for the use of ice baths in the training phase. The results showed that, after the second bout of exercise, the group that had performed cold water immersion after the initial exercise test demonstrated ratings of perceived muscle soreness, decrements in maximum voluntary contraction & levels of serum myoglobin post-exercise consistent to the those recorded on the control group of subjects following the initial bout. In contrast, the group that had initially acted as the control group, showed significantly lower ratings of perceived muscle soreness, decrements in maximum voluntary contraction & levels of serum myoglobin when the results were compared - ie, the group that hadn't had an ice bath had managed to adapt & gain some form of protection from the damaging effects of the exercise, whilst the adaptation had been blunted in the group that initially had had an ice bath.

    This isn't published yet so you'll just have to take my word for it for now. But what happened as a result of these findings is this - The English Institute of Sport now advise all their athletes NOT to ice bath post standard training sessions, only competition. In terms of the mechanisms involved, well we are not entirely sure. Possibly something related to mTOR, Sacromere's and Interluekins. Not my specialist field (I'm more into the Nutrition), so this is a guess for now on my part.

    However, if you look at all the meta-analysis, all conclude the same thing - more research is needed, its not clear whether ice baths improve recovery. Also, there are very few long term studies, apart from the unpublished one I refered to above. Yet, when you think of it, acute inflammation is what drives the hormetic affect and thus physiological adaptations. So, I believe that it doesn't make sense to constantly (and immediately) ice the muscles post training. Let the body adapt.. that's how it works best

    Your take ?
  20. PaleoMom

    PaleoMom New Member

    Were the subjects in that test cold adapted though? I can see the effect of ice hindering recovery by adding more stressors in a person not used to the cold, however it might behave quite differently in a person whose body does not react to the cold in the same way.

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