May 28, 2022


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Do Ice Baths Actually Improve Muscle Recovery? Read This Before You Try It Out

‘Cold drinking water immersion’, much more normally known as ‘ice baths’ are routinely used by qualified athletes after sporting activities activities.

Dipping into ‘icy’ water (normally around 10 °C) for 5 to 10 minutes is claimed to strengthen muscle restoration and improve potential sports activities performances, but what is the science driving these statements?


We questioned 5 gurus in physical exercise physiology: Do put up-physical exercise ice baths boost functionality? Right here is what they explained.

What occurs to muscles when they get chilly?

Several individuals use ice packs or a bag of frozen peas at household to decrease suffering and inflammation if they have pulled a muscle.

Johanna Lanner, an skilled in muscle mass physiology from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, explains how this is effective:

“Cooling i) lowers nerve impulse transmission and consequently reduces the level of agony perception and ii) induces constriction of blood vessels in peripheral tissues (e.g., muscle mass) which results in decreased fluid diffusion that may possibly help in minimizing exercising-induced acute irritation.”

Llion Roberts, an professional in physical exercise physiology from Griffith College in Australia, says: “Cold h2o immersion is also recognized to assistance restore heart rate variability, the variation in the millisecond time durations between successive coronary heart beats.”

Interestingly, ice baths can impact our minds as effectively as our muscles. James Broatch, an pro in exercising physiology from Victoria University in Australia, undertook a analysis study which compared “the outcomes of an ice tub with a placebo issue that participants ended up tricked into imagining was as effective as an ice bath”.


In the placebo situation members experienced a heat bathtub with what they assumed was a special ‘recovery oil’ but was really just a pores and skin cleanser.

Broatch says “participants in equally the ice bath and placebo problems rated their perception in the rewards of their assigned recovery situation similarly, which in convert translated into a equivalent recovery of leg extension power more than a 48-hour post-work out period.” 

What impact do ice baths have on muscle mass recovery immediately after training?

Lanner says that ice baths are effective at “minimizing the signs or symptoms of work out-induced delayed onset muscle soreness i.e., suffering and stiffness knowledgeable in muscle mass quite a few several hours to times (ordinarily 24-72 several hours) right after unaccustomed or challenging training”.

For this cause, ice baths are commonly used for muscle recovery immediately after sports competitions. 

What outcome do ice baths have on workout effectiveness?

As ice baths assist muscle groups get well, it may perhaps follow that they can enhance athletics general performance. Sad to say it is not that basic – Hakan Westerblad, an qualified in mobile muscle mass physiology from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, says “scientific experiments clearly show different outcomes pertaining to the influence of put up-training ice baths on subsequent performance, with benefits ranging from minimal favourable outcomes, by way of no results, to unfavorable results.”

A person of the issues with measuring the impact of ice baths on work out functionality is that there are quite a few different types of exercise, these as endurance or strength teaching.


Roberts says “rather remarkably, immediately after power exercise, chilly h2o immersion could in simple fact hinder the gains of work out”.

He and his colleagues “discovered big reductions and/or blunting of the desired final results from strength schooling these types of as escalating toughness and muscle mass, and cellular improvements within the muscle mass. This was most probably a final result of the cold h2o negatively interfering with the purely natural protein and cellular responses that transpire in the muscle soon after each toughness session.”

Outcomes on endurance education could be rather diverse. Christopher Mawhinney, an specialist in sporting activities science from Mahidol University in Thailand, says: “Apparently, there is proof which suggests that cooling the exercised muscle mass increases the cellular signal which turns on mitochondrial biogenesis”. 

Mitochondrial biogenesis is when cells raise their quantities of mitochondria, which are structures that launch power. Mitochondrial biogenesis is one particular of the good outcomes that comes from stamina coaching, so ice baths could support to amplify this profit.

The effects of ice baths on exercise overall performance vary relies upon on what type of physical exercise is associated.

Rogers summarizes: “Cold h2o immersion subsequent strength physical exercise should really be carried out with warning or prevented. Its use next a single-off situation like large sporting activities activities or endurance exercising is proposed, and may even present additional benefits for subsequent stamina workout effectiveness.”

The takeaway: Don’t use ice baths to strengthen your power coaching, but they could be handy for stamina exercise routines.

Report based on 5 qualified solutions to this question: Do put up-exercise ice baths boost effectiveness?

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