Recent research suggests taking an ice bath might be a complete waste of time.
Advanced and amateur athletes have often used recovery strategies that fall under the umbrella term of “cold water immersion” with an ice bath being used most often. The idea behind these uncomfortable post-ride recovery strategies is that cold water immersion can speed up the rate of recovery, which means you can return to exercise sooner.
However, a new study has suggested that this might not be as beneficial as first believed. Australian researchers examined various recovery methods over 12 weeks of strength training. Physically fit men were divided into two separate groups with both following two different post-training recovery strategies: one group followed 10 minutes of ice bath treatment in icy water at about 10°C while the other group performed 10 minutes of active cool-down on an exercise bike.
The study discovered that after 12 weeks the active cool-down group were found to have made considerate gains in muscle mass and strength in comparison to the ice bath group. Further investigation discovered that the cold-water immersion had suppressed important biomechanical pathways, which are crucial for muscle adaptation.
To the relief of many athletes all over the world it seems that taking an ice bath may not be the perfect strategy to recover after all.