If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
Sewell Park, on the Campus of Texas State University. The San Marcos river here is spring fed, and remains a constant, year-round, 68º F. Site, for me, of many a post football practice plunge.
Lots of seemingly conflicting information lately on the subject of post workout ice baths, or cold water immersion (CWI). I really don’t see this as a case of conflicting information so much as simply needing to be very smart about choosing the right tool for the job at hand.
Bret Contreras’s has done a nice bit of work in summarizing the findings of this recent Journal of Physiology article. No need for me to rehash what Bret has done; hop on over to his article (You Got Guru’d: Postexercise Cold Water Immersion) and check it out. Then come on back and we’ll discuss a few things.
Now, as per the JOP study findings (and as summarized by Bret’s piece) we can see that post workout CWI is probably not the best thing to do if your overall intention is to get swole.
However, what if you’re just trying to make it to the next practice during grueling two-a-day sessions? Or the next heat of a track meet, or next stage of a blistering, multi-day event? Now, putting on muscle mass under those conditions is not the major concern, but quelling inflammation is.
Again, this is a simple case of choosing the right tool for the task at hand. In this case, prepping the body for the additional insult that’s just around the corner. Might be a good time to hit that 1 hour refeed window as well. Another under-the-circumstances, “right tool for the job” activity.
As a former athlete who has taken plenty of ice dunks following August (in south Texas, no less) training camps, I can attest to the inflammation squelch of said dunks. Was this simply a placebo effect? Psycho-somatic? I don’t know. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass at the time. I felt a ton better following those dunks, and that’s what mattered. I just wanted to make it to, and through, the next practice, and those ice dunks (and the above-mentioned river plunges) no doubt helped.
I wrote recently (in Post-workout underwater treadmill sessions; your express ticket to Jacked City?) of a study out of Texas A&M that looked at post workout active recovery methods, and the effect of those methods on strength and hypertrophy. Take a wild guess as to which recovery method blew the others away? And I mean blew the friggin’ doors off of other methods.
Yep, underwater treadmill work. Just because Mother Nature wants the last laugh.
But really, if we put these two studies side-by-side, what separates the two are water temperature and active recovery movement. This is ripe territory for further study, and I’m quite sure many more studies will be conducted that will tease out these variables. What’s the optimum water temperature? The optimum activity? The optimum soak time? This will all be ferreted out over the coming years. Go science!
And who knows? The optimum set of post workout conditions for maintaining muscle mass and sufficiently quelling inflammation just might be an hour’s dunk in the 68º F San Marcos river, cold beer in hand, surrounded by cutest college coeds in the nation. Seemed to do me just fine at the time 😉
But until those RCTs start rolling out, let’s not lose our collective wits over this. Much like the machine / free weight / correctives “debate”, there’s really no debate at all. Simply pick the best tool for accomplishing the immediate goal. Truly, I believe the bigger enemy to hypertrophy — way over and above CWI — is chronically-elevated cortisol resultant of worrying about such things.
In health, fitness and ancestral wellness –