People used to call an ambulance when someone fell through ice and into freezing water. Today, this is called therapy. effective?
If you’ve ever narrowly escaped death, you’ve experienced the heady rush of hormones and neurotransmitters rushing through your body. In some ways, this is similar to what happens in the cold water immersion (CWI) practiced by celebrities and the relatively well-off. We activate the sympathetic nervous system by accepting the “danger” of cold temperatures. This is the classic “fight or flight” response.
Just in case you’re not familiar with this trend, businessmen, actors, elites of all kinds, and would-be biohackers routinely start their day with a 10- to 20-minute soak in cold water below 59 degrees Fahrenheit, which may Will cost up to $65 a grand. Likewise, athletes, including bodybuilders and powerlifters, often do the same post-workout.
You feel like you’re dying (and if you stay in there long enough, you will), and suddenly you get a thrill as your nervous system forces you to flush out the toxins.
Why do you do this to yourself? In the case of the elite, the thinking is that their brief interlude as human popsicles will reduce stress and prolong their lives. Athletes do this to reduce soreness and fatigue and speed recovery, presumably by reducing inflammation. Bodybuilders do this in hopes of improving recovery from muscle damage caused by eccentric exercise.
I admit that you may feel good, at least temporarily, after a race with a polar bear, but unfortunately, you probably won’t be doing yourself any favors, especially if you’re a weightlifter. While there aren’t many studies on the effects of CWI on resistance training, a few studies have shown that it slows muscle growth.
What’s more, some people should avoid the practice altogether, as it can lead to cardiac events.
T Nation contributor and Ph.D. Dr. Brad Schoenfeld and some muscle physiology friends performed a meta-analysis of the effects of post-exercise cool down and resistance training on muscle growth. Although only eight studies met their criteria, the results are telling. In short, CWI appears to hinder muscle growth.
Various factors come into play. A study by Fuchs et al found that CWI slows muscle protein synthesis (MPS) for up to 5 hours after a dunk.
The researchers also found reduced activation of transcription factors involved in ribosome biogenesis and suppressed satellite cell activity. For the former, it simply means a pause or slowdown in the building of new muscle protein. In the latter case, this meant that new muscle cells were not being recruited from younger cell recruits. Both phenomena persisted for up to 48 hours after CWI.
This post-soak sluggishness can also be caused by something as simple as reduced blood flow to the muscles, which slows down the delivery of nutrients.
All of the above may be facilitated by altering the acute inflammatory response to resistance training, which plays an active role in muscle adaptation to training. For example, if you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to quell inflammation, you’re affecting the anabolic signals necessary for muscle protein synthesis. The same thing seems to have happened after CWI.
CWI is thought to be beneficial because, at least in theory, it reduces acute inflammation (among other things). It probably does reduce inflammation, but let’s be clear here: Acute inflammation is necessary for healing, including the type of healing that occurs after a tough workout and leads to new muscle growth.
Acute inflammation occurs after cuts, bruises, and even strenuous exercise. It is not persistent and localized.
Combine this with chronic inflammation, which begins as a severe overreaction to some normally benign stimulus. It’s like having a pillow fight with a cannon. This is a common allergy or gluten sensitivity.
You can also think of chronic inflammation as the body’s response to attacking its own tissues. Examples of this include Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, which, among dozens of others, are collectively known as autoimmune diseases.
The big difference, of course, is that chronic inflammation doesn’t stop; it persists. It continues to defy all practicality and logic. It was a toilet that wouldn’t stop running; the thermostat for the air conditioner was broken and the temperature in the room was kept at freezing temperatures.
But let’s go back to acute inflammation. Let’s say I’m Freddy Krueger and I run my hand across a computer screen and scrape your cheek with a razor glove. Opportunistic microbes attack exposed tissue within seconds, and directly attacked cells respond by “dialing 911,” which in this case amounts to throwing up a similar ammonia called histamine. substance.
Huge amounts of fluid splashed uselessly onto other cells that were similarly attacked, but some of them managed to splash onto the ultra-tiny blood vessels that permeated the area.
The smallest amount of histamine acts like a bull rod to these blood vessels. They swell and double in size almost immediately, creating holes or gaps in the cellular tissue. These gaps allow a special influx of protein-rich fluid that is always present in the blood. This fluid attacks invading microbes and suffocates them to death.
Voracious white blood cells (called macrophages) also travel through these gaps, sometimes folding up to squeeze out. Like amoebas, they stick one “foot” out of the gap, fold it up, and suck the rest of their body into the fighting area, kind of like a fat man trying to walk into a puppy tent. There, macrophages can attack and destroy up to 100 bacteria at once, before they fall prey to their own overeating and death from their own digestive enzymes.
Antibodies specifically designed to attack invaders in the area later emerged.
The whole battle that happens after a cut or scrape — the initial reaction, the release of histamine, and the swelling that follows — is part of inflammation. It’s a well-crafted offensive designed to heal the body. The swelling floods the area with a superhero-like rush of proteins, white blood cells and antibodies.
Again, this swelling provides an opportunity for antimicrobial defenses and also makes it easier for post-battle chemical factors like growth hormone to kick in. These growth factors stimulate fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and endothelial cells (which create new blood vessels) to come to the area and begin the rebuilding process.
You know those macrophages come in after an injury? When the muscles are damaged, they also march, only in two waves. The first wave occurs shortly after the muscle fiber is injured and they begin to dissolve or dissolve the injured muscle fiber. They reach their highest concentrations about 24 hours after a workout or muscle injury and decline after about 48 hours.
Then, a second surge of non-phagocytic macrophages soaks the injured muscle fibers in the growth hormone IGF-1, dramatically increasing the rate of muscle regeneration.
Likewise, exercise-damaged muscle cells release protein molecules called cytokines, which trigger healthy inflammation and lead to a drop in myostatin levels, which, in addition to starting muscle catabolism, tell the body to stop Build muscle.
Acute inflammation also leads to an increase in cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme that plays an important role in initiating satellite cell proliferation, differentiation, and fusion (with muscle fibers).
Do you see the big picture? If you block or stop inflammation by immersing in cold water, you are most likely hindering your body’s ability to heal, including the ability to heal/grow new muscle. Ice or cold constricts blood vessels, reducing circulation. It stops all macrophages, white blood cells and healing warriors from entering, cleaning and rebuilding.
Sure, CWI or ice can help with pain relief, but what’s more important, temporary relief of discomfort or healing and muscle growth?
However, I need to mention all the studies by Schoenfeld et al. CWI was studied within 15 to 20 minutes of resistance training, so the inhibitory effect of extreme cold on muscle growth may not be as pronounced if the training is performed an hour or two after the workout.
However, based on what we know about MPS and inflammation, the effects are unlikely to be much different. It may also be different if CWI is performed sporadically or on non-training days.
Some people should avoid CWI altogether, regardless of their motivation for performing it.
You might be surprised, but the National Center for Cold Water Safety, a nonprofit founded in 2012 “to reduce the incidence of near miss, injury and death from cold water immersion,” warns that sudden immersion below 60 degrees Water at Fahrenheit can kill a person in 60 seconds.
Remind me, what’s the average temperature for these cold water dives? Oh yes, 59 degrees. Admittedly, the cold water safety team is more concerned with those who venture out in cold water, whether their sport is kayaking, fishing, open water swimming, or diving into icy muliac on New Year’s Day.
However, their lessons/warnings may apply to the occasional CIS practitioner as well. They warn that immersing the body in cold water triggers the so-called “cold shock response,” which is characterized by increases in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.Normally, this might not be a problem for healthy people, but for people with the condition heart problems Caution should be exercised, lest they be like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, heart resting, dead, blue in the face.
It’s probably a good idea for anyone, regardless of age or fitness, to acclimatize to slightly less harsh temperatures before jumping into polar bear territory.
Listen, I get it. I deal with hangover headaches by dipping my head in the icy water of Lake Superior. I have bathed in streams created by melting ice in the mountains of Utah. Omg I’m Finnish. We baked ourselves up in a steamy sauna and then jumped naked into snowdrifts. We enjoyed perverse fun as our red-hot Kikiris tunneled into the snow and were quickly taken in by arctic weasels. Make prefabricated habitats.
I get it. It makes you feel good. The shocks cause a temporary increase in mood-boosting hormones and neurotransmitters (beta endorphins and dopamine). I think that’s reason enough to do it.
Likewise, a flood of feel-good hormones may temporarily boost focus, concentration, and alertness, and doing so on a daily basis may well help calm chronic inflammation, the bad inflammation.
But what about bodybuilders? You may want to think twice about installing a cold jumper, but if you do, consider using it sparingly so that the cold doesn’t affect your muscle growth. However, according to Schoenfeld et al., the good news is that “findings related to the acute response to resistance training should not be extrapolated to a chronic mechanism of runaway hypertrophic adaptation.”
This means that even though turning yourself into a polar bear after a workout may slow down the training response, this may only be temporary, and the muscle-building activity may continue after the effects of cold-water diving wear off—although perhaps to a lesser extent than Compared to resistance training without CWI.
- Schoenfeld, B., Pinero, A., Burke, R. et al. Splashing cold water on muscle growth: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of post-exercise cold water immersion on resistance training-induced hypertrophy, SportRxiv, Preprint.
- Esperan, D, et al. Health effects of voluntary exposure to cold water – a topic of ongoing debate, Journal of Circumpolar Health, 2022, Vol. 81.