Study Throws Cold Water on Ice Baths After Resistance Training

Exploring Intensity

Study Throws Cold Water on Ice Baths After Resistance Training

We were pretty happy we got to use that pun in the headline, but the rest of this article is not so cheery if you happen to love a nice ice bath after lifting weights. Because it may in fact hinder muscle growth.

Australian researchers rounded up 16 young men who did not lift weights, gave them a battery of tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then split them into two groups: those who lifted a bunch of weights and sat around at the end, and those who did the same except took an ice bath instead.

This went on three times a week for seven weeks, and at the end they ran the tests again. And the results were pretty chilly on the ice baths, according to this article:

… the increase in fiber size was much greater among those who sat after every workout than those who had soaked to recover.

More surprising, the cold soakers showed a different balance of certain biochemicals inside their muscles than among the men who had sat. In particular, their muscles contained lower levels of a protein known to spark tissue growth and higher amounts of a different protein involved in tissue breakdown.

Simply said, those who took ice baths had smaller muscles.

Now, this is a small study about one particular group of people. But unless you love the often unpleasant dip in freezing water, you may want to just save the ice for a drink afterward.

-Shane M.