Dangers of Ice Baths and Anti-Inflammatory Medicine
Based on research – we need to rethink Ice Baths & Anti-Inflammatory Medicine
Each year, thanks to improvements in technology & extensive research, exercise physiologists are discovering more about how the body responds to the numerous variables that contribute to performance. This includes, but is not limited to: energy systems, muscular strength & endurance, nutrition & hydration, neuromuscular and many more. With this being said, it is a surprise that many performance coaches are adhering to the mindset that ice baths and NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin & ibuprofen are still being advocated as part of the recovery process.
In 2006, the European Journal of Applied Physiology studied a group of college age males for six weeks while they trained on stationary bicycles. Following each workout, each student placed one leg in an ice bath and the other was left out and kept at room temperature. Over the six weeks, they discovered that the non-iced leg had gained more strength, circulation and endurance.
At the University of Florida, a study found that muscle strength decreased after taking NSAID’s while a study at the University of Arkansas showed that high doses of ibuprofen appeared to limit the body’s ability to increase the development of new muscle.
As stated by Mackenzie Lobby, “there is more than a decade of research that backs up these studies’s suggesting that for recovery, there are better options than ice baths and anti-inflammatory drugs”. According to Dr. Jennifer Solomon, a sports medicine physician in NY City, “The bottom line is that in order to recover, your body needs to go through a process which includes inflammation – and ice bathes and NSAID’s inhibit the normal inflammatory process”. Dr. Solomon points to a more natural approach to recovery, low intensity & impact exercise, dynamic movements after a warm up and a post exercise massage.
Old School: use anti-inflammatory medicine to control inflammation after a hard workout or race
New School: use raw fruits & vegetables, eliminate refined carbohydrates (most anything in a box or a bag that you eat), consume extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, high quality Omega 3 fish oil & walnuts to offset inflammation; foam roll and if possible massage work.
Exception: when dealing with inflammation and swelling associated with an injury, anti-inflammatory medicine will help limit the negative side effects of excessive swelling: pain and limited range of motion. This would be imperative in a multi-day race. Remember, it is the excessive, long term use of NSAID’s that have proven to inhibit new muscle regeneration, muscular strength and interrupt sleep patterns.
Cold Plunge & Ice Baths
Old School: use to reduce muscle damage & speed up recovery
New School: unless you are racing a multi-day event (see below), let your muscles recover and rebuild naturally. The inflammation process is part of adaptation to training and racing, facilitate recovery with real food and soft tissue work (foam roller, trigger point & massage work).
Exception: similar to NSAID’s, when dealing with inflammation and swelling associated with an injury or high intensity racing over several days, a cold plunge/bath will help offset the inflammation & swelling. Remember, the inflammation process is a natural reaction to training and racing, and your body needs the opportunity to react and adapt long term for optimum performance results.
How To Reduce Your Core Body Temperature
The key is to bring down the core body temperature slowly to minimize the “shock” to your body. Think about when someone falls into a frozen lake, the biggest shock to the body is the drastic temperature change. This creates incredible stress and ultimately fatigue to the body. The body’s natural defense mechanism is to try and heat the body of water that you are in, unfortunately, being submerged in freezing cold water lowers the core body temperature too quickly and you begin to shiver (your body’s natural way to warm itself). Shivering is fatiguing on the body and uses a tremendous amount of energy – not a good state to be in between races when you are attempting to conserve energy to finish each race strong.
Step 1: Come off of the track and into the shade of your awning, strip out of your gear (logistics pending) and sit under an oscillating fan. Place hand clothes on the back of your neck, both wrists and your groin. On your neck and groin you have to large arteries that will help decrease your body temperature quickly. Your wrists are low in fat and will help cool the core temperature quickly as well. Consume a cold sports drink slowly.
Step 2: Pour room temperature water onto the wash clothes while you are sitting under the fan; continue to pour onto the clothes to keep them damp with the air blowing across them. Duration: 3-5 minutes.
Step 3: Pour slightly cooler water (not ice cold) onto the wash clothes while the fan blows across the slightly cooler clothes. Continue to re-hydrate with cold sports drink. Duration 3-5 minutes.
Step 4: Pour ice cold water onto the wash clothes while the fan blows across the cold clothes. Duration: until you begin to feel slightly chilled. Then move back to room temperature water and stay under the fan. If you begin to get “goose bumps”, discontinue the water and adjust time in front of the fan accordingly. Remember, if you get too cold, your body begins to shiver to create internal heat, robbing you of much needed energy.
Once you have pulled your core temperature down; strive to consume fresh fruit for the water, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to prepare you for your next race. Remember to add some high quality, easily digestible protein to control your hunger during the day (protein and fat are the only elements that control your hunger).
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, if you have any questions about your current program or would like MotoE to create a customized mental, nutrition and performance program for your racing program, please email me directly.
Coach Robb has been working with riders and racers since 1987 and is the founder of the Complete Racing Solutions Performance System, the Mental Blueprint of Success, the MotoE Amateur Development Program, the MotoE Educational Series and Nutritionally Green Supplements based out of Orlando Florida.
CompleteRacingSolutions.com is a premium resource center for motocross, supercross and GNCC riders of all abilities and ages. Visit CompleteRacingSolutions.com & subscribe to his bi-monthly newsletter that outlines the training solutions used by Factory KTM/Red Bull’s Ryan Dungey, Star Yamaha’s Jerry Martin and Alex Martin, RCH’s Brock Tickle, Factory Kawasaki/Pro-Circuit’s Adam Cianciarulo, multi-time Loretta Lynn’s & Mini O Champion’s Jordan Bailey (Factory Monster Energy/Kawasaki) GNCC bike racers Charlie Mullins and Chris Bach, and GNCC Quad racer Roman Brown along with thousands of riders all around the world!
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