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Monday, July 20, 2015

Does regular post-exercise cold application attenuate training adaptations?

That's a fundamental questions asked by many coaches and practitioners over the last year(s) (http://georgenassis.blogspot.gr/2011/07/some-thoughts-on-use-of-water-immersion.html). This concern is growing as more data is published showing that regular cold application might attenuate training adaptations.


What's new?
Yamane and colleagues (2015) asked their participants to train with wrist flexion exercises, 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Seven subjects immersed their forearms in cold water (10 ± 1°C) for 20 min after each training whereas the other 7 didn't immerse their limbs. Their results showed that regular post-exercise cold application attenuated muscular and vascular adaptations to this type of training (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25760154).

In a more recent study, 21 active males participated in a strength training program for 12 weeks. Post-exercise recovery included either 10-min cold water immersion (CWI) or active recovery. Their results showed that CWI attenuates the exercise training induced hypertrophy (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26174323).

Points to consider
Although both studies provide novel data on the potential role of regular post-exercise cold water immersion on training adaptations, they are not without limitations. Their main limitation is that participants were non-trained and, thus, we don't know if these results apply to trained individuals.

Evidence against 
On the other side, Ihsan et al. (2015) recently showed that regular cold water immersion following endurance training sessions may enhance mitochondrial biogenesis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26041108). As in the above mentioned studies, non-trained subjects were recruited and this limits the applications of these findings.


Take-home message
My opinion is that there is evidence that regular post-exercise cold application attenuates adaptations to training. We should acknowledge however that this information comes from non-trained males following strength training. Until more data in trained and possibly elite individuals are published we should be more concerned with the regular application of cold as a means of recovery.

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