Post-exercise cooling impairs muscle protein synthesis rates in recreational athletes

This paper led by Cas Fuchs in Luc van Loon’s group is an interesting addition to the literature, creating a growing evidence base for the potential negative effect of cold water immersion – in this case impairing myofibrillar protein synthesis rates (i.e. uptake of protein by the muscle).

The specific lesson is that as applied physiologists, conditioning coaches, sports scientists is that we need to think again (or at least very carefully) about the short, medium and long term consequences of recovery methods.

It is too easy to fall into the trap of using something that ‘feels’ beneficial but really biology is way more sophisticated than we give it credit. If it looks like a short cut – it probably short cuts something out of the process!

From a broader point of view – all applied performance support staff should be active in scrutinising short-termist interventions, weighing up the medium and long-term needs vs whether an idea is trendy.

“Our data suggest that post-exercise cooling reduces the delivery and/or uptake of dietary protein derived amino acids during acute post-exercise recovery.”

This is under most circumstances is not a favourable fitness adaptation. There are likely to be some circumstances when you’ll need to use an ice bath, where recovery outweighs adaptation, e.g. Champions league game on a Wednesday night away then midday kick-off on Saturday or 800m semi-final heading into the final 36 hours later.

But the lesson from this paper and this growing area is that prophylactic administration of recovery techniques is not wise, and could be taking your players in the wrong direction.

Have you read the paper? What did you think? I’m planning on discussing this paper at the Recovery session & course meet up on 24th Nov as a part of the Applied Physiology & Nutrition Pro Practitioner course.