Health and Beauty

The use of cold and its effect on recovery among athletes

Recovery is defined as “all processes performed that allow the athlete to regain the integrity of his or her physical capabilities.” If this definition focuses on the physical aspect of recovery, then the latter is essentially the same Multifactorial.

So it depends on everyone Factors Which shapes athletic performance. Thus we find physical, physiological or even mental factors.

A good coach is one who will be able to combine the right recovery phases with good training. It will be important for him to distinguish between recovery within the same session (between series), between sessions or even between different sessions Training courses They follow each other throughout the season.

But how does recovery require this essential aspect?

As we mentioned during the definition above, the training process depends on intensity And for her amountyou will be born into Athlete A tired More or less important. Recovery aims to relieve the athlete's accumulated fatigue, but also to improve his performance. And at this moment an idea appeared Overcompensation It seems.

Illustration of the principle of overcompensation
Graphic credit ©

The above chart perfectly illustrates this phenomenon. While training reduces the athlete's abilities to values ​​lower than their initial values, recovery helps restore these abilities to higher values ​​than they were before training.

It is nothing more and nothing less than the phenomenon of adaptation to external stresses on the part of the human body.

Since we are talking about that, we will now focus on the effects of this stress on the human body.

Effects of training on the body

As we explained earlier, regular training is stressful on our bodies because it causes a number of… Disturbances Within our organization. These disorders can act on different systems. The following is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Nervous system : a decrease in the speed of conduction of nerve impulses, a decrease in the sensitivity of nerve receptors, etc.
  • Energy systems : A decrease in the body's energy reserves, especially in muscle and liver glycogen.
  • Metabolic system : Training, especially when done at high intensity, will cause the body to produce waste. This “waste” is the result of the degradation of energy substrates needed to produce the energy needed for muscle contraction.
  • Enzyme systems : Using the body's energy reserves is a very complex phenomenon and involves the use of enzymes. These molecules act as catalysts, accelerating the rate of many chemical reactions within our cells. With fatigue, the concentration and effectiveness of these enzymes decrease and prevent chemical reactions from occurring properly within the body.
  • Musculotendinous systems : A change in the structure of muscles and tendons associated with activity limitations. Contractions, especially eccentric (stretch) contractions, and repetitive contractions of muscles and tendons will cause micro tears in the fibers. It will be accompanied by effusion of fluid outside the cellular environment. This is followed by local inflammation and a pro-inflammatory response of the body. In most cases, this inflammation is accompanied by intramuscular hematoma, heat, and pain in the affected area. This pain results from the secretion of hormones aimed at combating the inflammation in question. These two symptoms are partly responsible for what everyone knows as body pain.
  • immune system It is known to any athlete who trains intensively that nose, ear, and throat infections are a direct result of weakened immunity after an intense training session. By putting the body into a hyper-inflammatory state, intense and prolonged exercise weakens the human body's defenses. Conversely, moderate-intensity efforts appear to have a beneficial effect on immunity.
  • Cognitive system High concentration during training, high training volume and intensity, which leads to mental fatigue after training.

Since the topic of this article is the effect of cold on recovery, we will take a look at systems whose recovery can be improved through the use of cold.

So we will focus on the musculotendinous system and how cold can help with its recovery.

The effect of cold on the recovery process

While hot will serve as Natural relaxant At the muscle fiber level, the cold will act as a powerful force Anti-inflammatory By combating the signs of inflammation mentioned above.

This is the case for example when an athlete is the victim of a sprain: in order to reduce the inflammatory process after injury to certain tissues at the ligament level, applying cold immediately and for a long period has all proven its benefits. .

If the entire body is immersed in a cold bath, the water pressure is greater than the air pressure, which reduces inflammatory edema.

Cold also works as residence By temporarily alleviating the perception of pain. This decrease in pain can be explained by the production of cold-induced endorphins. In addition, cold also helps reduce Body temperature After the effort.

In fact, during intense training, repeated muscle contractions will dramatically increase the body's internal temperature.

Now we know that the body is always seeking to return to a stable resting state; That's what we call it Balance.

For several years, scientific studies have increasingly focused on improving cold recovery in high-level athletes.

Although the results are relatively heterogeneous, there appears to be consensus across all of these investigations.

For example, some studies tend to show improvement in signs associated with muscle fatigue after exercise; Thus, in some studies we find decreased concentrations of creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH).

As for markers of inflammation such as cytokines IL-6 and IL-10, the results are again not unanimous.

Numerous studies(1)(2)(3) conducted to determine the effect of different protocols using hydrothermal therapy on recovery in high-level athletes was favourable.

Similarities emerge from these different studies. Through these similarities, we will try to identify practical applications of this type of recovery protocol.

How to improve your recovery thanks to the cold

Although the results of work done on this topic vary, there appears to be a consensus on the use of aquatic therapy for recovery and performance.

Regarding whole body cryotherapy (WBC), scientific results are still mixed although almost all sports federations now use this protocol for the recovery of high-level athletes.

Remember that this protocol consists of entering, with bare skin, into a room maintained at a temperature of -110°C. Exposure time can vary from 30 seconds to 4/5 minutes.

Since full-body cryotherapy seems inaccessible to most amateur athletes, here is a list of practical tips that will help speed up the recovery process.

  • Avoid continuous hot showers/baths immediately after exercise. These would exacerbate the inflammatory condition resulting from training.
  • Prefer cold baths to showers. Partial or total immersion baths will allow the cold to act more effectively than showering.
  • When it comes to the length and temperature of your bath, studies seem to have found a consensus. The maximum temperature of your bath should be 15 degrees Celsius and you will have to stay there for about fifteen minutes to get real benefits.
  • You can have the temperature drop below 15°C, but you need to remain alert for signs of hypothermia (especially heart rate and breathing).
  • Using the so-called “contrast” method might also be interesting. This consists of alternating between hot and cold for a minimum duration. Make sure the hot water temperature is at least 38°C and ends with cold water. This technique would stimulate blood flow and also promote muscle relaxation after weight training sessions.
  • Finally, make sure you get dressed and warm up as soon as possible after getting out of the shower so you don't get sick. Remember that intense training weakens immunity, and prolonged cold puts stress on the body.

In conclusion, I would like to mention the interest in individualizing the recovery process. Therefore, the phrase “recovery strategies” takes its full meaning as the possibilities depending on the differences between individuals can be numerous.

Therefore, it would be appropriate to test different protocols to determine which one is best for you.

The use of cold and its effect on recovery among athletes

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