“Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594298/

A summary of research

“Cold water immersion after exercise is believed to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, and is thus a frequently used post-exercise recovery modality (Versey et al. 2013). However, few studies have assessed whether regular cold water immersion after each exercise session influences long-term training adaptations to exercise training.”

Recovery methods utilized in the study:
  • Participants in group A sat in an ice bath for 10 minutes, within 5 minutes of completing their training
  • Group B performed active recovery instead of an ice bath which consisted of low intensity cycling on a stationary bike
Researcher’s hypothesis:

Cold water immersion would reduce the effects of training by reducing the activity of key signalling proteins in muscle and/or blunting satellite cell activity in the first 48 h following strength exercise.  

You may recall from our recent Empowered By Iron episode on hypertrophy that satellite cell activation is key to muscle growth and strength.  

Results:

Muscle mass increased significantly less in the cold water immersion group.

Maximal strength (1 RM) strength gains were significantly greater in the active recovery group than in the cold water immersion group .

Maximal isometric torque increased only in the active recovery group, not the cold water immersion group.

Muscle function increased significantly greater after training in the active recovery group compared with the cold water immersion group.

Phosphorylation of p70S6 kinase (a marker of muscle protein synthesis) was significantly greater 2 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours after exercise in the active recovery group than it was in the cold water immersion group.  In fact, the phosphorylation levels reached pre-exercise status sometime during the cold water immersion,

Number of satellite cells increased above the pre-exercise values at 24 and 48 hours after exercise in the active recovery group. By contrast, cell numbers did not increase at any time after the cold water immersion group for one specific type of satellite cell, and didn’t increase until 48 hours fo another type of satellite cell.

Conclusions:

All markers of strength and muscle growth that were tested were diminished with cold water immersion.  This is not to say that cold water immersion is never to be used. But it should not be used regularly after training in athletes who are looking to increase muscle mass and/or strength.  

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