Engaging in cold-water immersions (CWI) has gained popularity among individuals seeking various health benefits. This practice involves exposing the body to frigid temperatures for a specific duration. However, the effects of CWI on muscle growth and inflammation might not be as beneficial as previously thought, particularly for resistance training enthusiasts.
Studies have indicated that CWI can hinder muscle gains by slowing down muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and reducing activation of factors involved in muscle regeneration. The blunting effect on acute inflammatory responses could impede the body’s healing process and muscle growth. Inflammation is an essential part of tissue repair and stimulates the release of growth factors that aid in muscle reconstruction.
While CWI might temporarily alleviate pain and discomfort, it could hinder the body’s ability to heal and grow new muscle. The constriction of blood vessels caused by cold water immersion reduces circulation, preventing vital healing factors from reaching the damaged muscle tissue. The muscle growth attenuating effects of extreme cold are particularly noticeable when CWI is performed shortly after resistance training.
It’s important to note that CWI can be potentially dangerous, especially for individuals with heart problems. Sudden immersion in water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can trigger the “cold shock response,” increasing heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. It is advisable to acclimate oneself to less severe temperatures and exercise caution before engaging in CWI.
While CWI might provide temporary mood elevation and alleviate chronic inflammation, it is crucial for bodybuilders to consider the potential drawbacks. Installing a cold plunge might interfere with muscle gains, and if used, it should be done sparingly to avoid long-lasting effects. The temporary slowdown in the training response caused by CWI is not likely to impede hypertrophic adaptations in the long run, but it may have some short-term impact on muscle growth compared to resistance training without CWI.