It is believed that immersion in cold water after exercise reduces fatigue and muscle pain, being a frequently used post-exercise recovery modality.
However, recent studies that have evaluated the regular influences of cold water immersion after strength training in acute and long-term muscle adaptations report that this is not a good strategy if we want to increase our strength and muscle mass.
Immersion in cold water reduces muscle blood flow at rest and after exercise. Because the synthesis of muscle proteins depends on an adequate blood supply, the decrease in muscle blood flow after immersion in cold water can have important implications for muscle metabolism during exercise recovery.
A recent study has reported the reasons why this is not a good strategy for after strength training.
The effects of cold water immersion and active recovery on changes in muscle mass and strength were compared after 12 weeks of lower-body strength training, which included leg press, squats, knee extensions, strides and plyometric exercises (different types of jumps), with loads between 8-12 maximum repetitions, performed two days a week (72 hours apart).
The effects of these two treatments on the signaling pathways of hypertrophy and the activity of satellite cells in skeletal muscle after strength training were also examined.
The immersion in cold water was done five minutes after each training session. Participants in the cold water immersion group sat in an inflatable bath for ten minutes with both legs submerged in water to the waist.
Water was circulated continuously and maintained at ten degrees centigrade using a circulatory cooling unit. Participants in the active recovery group performed an active recovery of ten minutes at a low self-selected intensity on a cycle ergometer (stationary bicycle that measures working capacity).
What was proven? Well, the immersion in cold water attenuated the long-term gains in muscle mass and strength, in addition to also attenuated the activation of key proteins and satellite cells in skeletal muscle until two days after strength training.
For those who do not know, satellite cells have a vital importance in the increase of muscle mass, either activating for the formation of new muscle fibers or donating their nucleus to another muscle fiber that needs it for the increase of muscle tissue (if muscle tissue increases, new nuclei are needed to control it).
Therefore, people who use strength training to improve their performance, their body composition, to recover from an injury or to maintain their health should reconsider the use of immersion in cold water as a strategy to recover and improve.
Current scientific evidence indicates that immersion in cold water attenuates acute changes in the number of satellite cells and in the activity of the kinases that regulate muscle hypertrophy, which can translate into a lower gain of strength and hypertrophy in training. long term.
Cold water immersion after strength training attenuates acute anabolic signaling and long-term adaptations in muscles, so its use as a regular post-training recovery strategy should be reconsidered.