The Sci­ence of Run­ning

Cryosauna vs. Ice Bath; Pro­tein for Run­ners; Train­ing by Heart-rate Vari­abil­ity; Ef­fort vs. Ex­er­tion

Canadian Running - - CONTENTS - By Alex Hutchin­son

To has­ten your re­cover y f rom a pun­ish­ing or­deal like a marathon, is it bet­ter to soak in a tub of cold water at 8 C or shiver in a puff su­per­cooled ni­tro­gen vapour at -85 C? That’s what re­searchers at Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity in Bri­tain aimed to de­ter­mine in a re­cent study pub­lished in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy. They asked 31 vol­un­teers to run a marathon, then ran­dom­ized them to one of the re­cov­ery pro­to­cols or a placebo im­me­di­ately af­ter the race and mon­i­tored strength, sore­ness and blood mark­ers of inf lam­ma­tion and mus­cle dam­age for the next 48 hours.

The main con­clu­sion of the study was that whole-body cryother­apy, a trendy and ex­pen­sive re­cov­ery aid, was ac­tu­ally worse than an ice bath on most out­come mea­sures. The run­ners who got the cryosauna treat­ment had worse mus­cle func­tion, per­cep­tions of sore­ness and blood test val­ues than the ice bath group. More­over, even the ice bath group was no bet­ter off than the placebo group, which re­ceived a drink that sup­pos­edly con­tained a re­cov­ery-boost­ing ex­tract from tart cherry juice (although it was re­ally just sugar water).

As the re­searchers note, it’s hard to draw def init ive, once-and-for-all con­clu­sions from stud­ies like this. The ice baths in this study, at 8 C, may have been a lit­tle too cold – most stud­ies (and, in prac­tice, most ath­letes) opt for a tem­per­a­ture be­tween 10 and 15 C. Con­versely, the cryosauna may not have been cold enough. Still, the re­sults are un­der­whelm­ing – and they sug­gest that, if you like a dose of cold af­ter hard work­outs or races, an in­ex­pen­sive ice bath re­mains your best bet.

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