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Ice baths aren’t helpful at all, new research says

New research has shown that not only do ice baths not help with repairing and building new muscle, they actually decrease the generation of protein in muscles.

Ice baths aren’t helpful at all, new research says
Ice bath
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According to research published in The Journal of Physiology today, ice baths are a strategy that should be avoided by those looking to repair or build muscle, because they decrease the generation of protein in muscles.

Researchers at Maastricht University found that ice baths are particularly ineffective for adaptation, despite still being touted as a popular strategy for both acute recovery, on a timescale of hours and days, as well as adaptation to training over weeks and months.

“The idea behind ice baths is that by reducing body temperature, this in turn reduces blood flow, swelling and inflammation in tissues of the muscles. It’s the same concept as the one behind icing a sprained ankle,” the researchers said.

“While research has in fact confirmed that ice baths can be helpful for reducing muscle soreness, its effects on the formation of new proteins in the body, important for repairing and building muscle, are more controversial.”

The researchers studied the impact of ice baths on the generation of new protein in muscles, which usually increases after we exercise, and also after we eat protein, and measured this using so-called stable isotope tracers and muscle biopsies, in a group of participants that did resistance exercise of both legs for two weeks (in total seven exercise sessions).

After every exercise session, the participants immersed one leg in cold water (8 degrees Celsius) and found a decrease in the amount of protein generation in that leg. 

Cas Fuchs, one of the authors on the study, said: “Everyone exercising, whether they be weekend warriors or elite athletes, wants to get the most out of their workouts.”

“Our research doesn’t discount cold-water immersion altogether but does suggest that if the athlete aims to repair and/or build their muscle, perhaps they should reconsider using ice baths.”

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in early 2018, Jerome is admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales and, prior to joining the team in early 2018, he worked in both commercial and governmental legal roles and has worked as a public speaker and consultant to law firms, universities and high schools across the country and internationally. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines self-help book series and is an adjunct lecturer at The University of Western Australia.

Jerome graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry).

You can email Jerome at: [email protected] 

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