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Monday, November 13, 2017

Hot or cold? Which is best for muscle recovery?

If you're participating in an upcoming holiday fun run, or training for a more series half or full marathon in the next few months, it's important to plan how you'll help your muscles recover after training and after the race.

Some runners prefer heat and warmth to soothe their tired limbs, while others prefer an icy numbness. There is a longstanding medical debate as to which is better for sore muscles--hot or cold treatment.

A new study appearing in the Journal of Physiology shows that heat may be edging out ice.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) subjected a group of men and women to a series of arm exercises (via an arm pedaling machine) at an intense pace, with shorter bouts of easier movements woven in. They tracked both heart rate and muscle power output.

After the routine, the men and women slipped on long warmed arm cuffs (heated to 100°F) and then later chilled cuffs registering at around 5°F. They were also given carbohydrates to refuel. Here are the key findings:
  • Participants were more eager to return to the rigorous arm activity after their muscles had been warmed.
  • Muscle power output was "markedly better" following the warm cuffs, and pain reported was minimal.
  • Muscle output decreased after the cooling cuffs.

While the study does suggest that heat can play an important role in muscle recovery, researchers were also quick to add that consumption of carbohydrates (specifically the glycogen found in carbs) after intense exercise is crucial.

It may be that the nourishment found in carbs is more easily activated when the body is warmed up as opposed to chilled...leading to muscles feeling better, faster.

The study states that the most beneficial treatment though is really what feels best and is most comforting to you, whether hot or cold. That along with a hearty helping of carbs and hydration, will have your muscles rebounding in no time.

If you have intense muscle pain or cramping that does not subside a few days following training, a race, or extreme exercise, please contact us for an appointment.

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