Last 30 days

Friday, June 12, 2015

Post-exercise recovery: time to reconsider our practice?

Following the last week's post (here, I have received a number of emails with valid comments. Thank you all for that!

It is evident that post-exercises strategy is a "hot" topic in sports. There is substantial literature on that topic. Does this knowledge makes a big difference in the field? 

Based on my experience, there is need for more work on the applicability of the post-recovery strategies in a real life set-up. For instance, players' compliance to some recovery methods is variable, if not low, at some periods. This is of course a fact that affects the methods' effectiveness.

In a previous post, I highlight the findings of a study that examined player's perception on recovery methods and the effectiveness of these methods on recovery (here

To summarize my thoughts, I believe that:
  • we need to implement a more holistic approach by applying various methods depending on the athlete's belief and the period of the year
  • we must improve players buy-in. If athletes believe on the method, they will comply and this might result in better recovery.

Again, your contribution is very much appreciated.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Cold water immersion for recovery: is it all in our mind?

Cold water immersion is a very popular strategy for recovery after exercise. Although there is evidence on its benefits on perception of fatigue no consensus exists on its effect on performance. In addition, many studies show no effect of this strategy on physiological functions. Part of the confusion might be due to the studies' design. Indeed, most studies have not used a placebo condition and this could have affected the conclusion and hence the practical applications.

The study of Broatch et al (2014) investigated if the placebo effect is responsible for any acute performance and psychological benefit of postexercise cold water immersion. Following a high-intensity interval session, the participants followed one of the 3 following recovery conditions i) cold water immersion at 10 oC, ii) thermoneutral water immersion placebo (34.7 oC), iii) thermoneutral water immersion control (34.7 oC). 

Their conclusion was that a recovery placebo administered after high-intensity exercise was as effective as cold water immersion in the recovery of muscle strength over 48 hours. In addition, both the cold water and the thermoneutral immersion placebo resulted in faster recovery of strength compared with the control condition.

This study shows that at least part of any benefit of cold water immersion is due to a placebo effect.

How this study might affect practice?

  • Postexercise water immersion even at around 30 oC may produce similar performance improvements compared to cold water immersion provided we lead athletes believe that thermoneutral water immersion is beneficial on performance recovery.
  • Medical & sports science staff should not be so concerned about the water temperature itself. 
  • Thermoneutral water immersion is more comfortable to athletes and this should be taken into consideration when planning a recovery strategy.

Some concerns

  • This study examined the recovery of muscle strength. We don't know what might happen with the application of the same recovery strategy on other performance parameters such as speed, repeated sprints ability and endurance.

Broatch et al (2014). Med Sci Sports Exerc, 46(11):2139-47.