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Ice baths after a long, strenuous workout are a common practice — believed to help speed up muscle recovery. New research from the University of Queensland found that immersing yourself in cold water post-workout can actually hinder it.
For the study, a group of 21 fit men lifted twice a week for 12 weeks, and half the group took a 10 minute post-workout ice bath after each training session. Muscle biopsies were taken from each person after an ice bath or active cool down. The results: it was found that muscle cells were halted for up to two days after excercise for the ice bath group.
Dr. Roberts says, “We found that cold water immersion after training substantially attenuated, or reduced, long-term gains in muscle mass and strength. It is anticipated that athletes who use ice baths after workouts would see less long-term muscle gains than those who choose an active warm down.”
It’s thought that cold water reduces blood flow to the muscles — inhibiting muscle cell recovery.
So next time you’re about to jump into an ice bath post-workout, reconsider it — an active cool down may be your best choice.