Therapies with marginal benefits
- Contrast baths
- Compression garments
- Active recovery
Cold/Ice therapy is cooling the body down after exercise, such as using an ice bath. It is said to reduce swelling and inflammation. Clinical trials have only shown that this therapy gives a small and inconsistent reduction in post exercise soreness (2–4,14).
Contrast (hot/cold) baths
Contrast baths involve alternating between hot and cold baths. Clinical trials have shown these to produce a small decrease in post exercise pain (3). It is a fundamental principle of physics that things expand and contract with changes of temperature, so contrast baths would produce some sort of pumping action in the fluids in the muscles. However, it is hard to imagine this effect to be anywhere near that of the increased blood flow caused by manual or vibration massage.
Compression garments are garments that exert pressure on the muscles. They are presumed to cause a reduction in swelling. Clinical trials show that these garments can give a small decrease in post exercise pain (3).
Active recovery is the use of light or moderate exercise during the recovery phase. If we refer back to the cause of post exercise soreness and the needs for recovery we see that such exercise could have both positive and negative effects.
Positive effects of active recovery
- help stretch and relax muscles
- help stimulate blood flow
Negative effects of active recovery
- can damage healing muscle fibres
Because of this clinical trials have only shown inconsistent short term pain relief (3,4,14–16). However, active recovery is easy to do, and if done conservatively to minimize potential damage it is probably very worthwhile.
Therapies with no proven benefits
I’m not sure what these are trying to achieve, but clinical trials say they don’t help (16)
Things you need to do
During recovery you need
- adequate sleep and rest
- adequate diet and hydration
Diet and hydration
There are a lot of recommendations with regard to hydration and dietary supplements. We don’t claim expertise in relation to dietary supplementation, but these and hydration need to be considered from the principle of homeostasis. This is your body’s inbuilt mechanisms to maintain it’s environment. Lets look at how this relates to fluid levels and a dietary example.
Homeostasis and fluid levels
Your body will do it’s best to maintain optimal fluid levels. If you drink too much the excess will be expelled by your kidneys. If you don’t have enough your body will attempt to conserve fluids, but the dehydrated state will likely detriment your body’s ability to flush the wastes from the healing muscles and bring in fresh nutrients. What this means is you should re-hydrate after exercise with more fluids than you’ve lost, and drink a few extra glasses of water during the day.
Protein supplements are often recommended during recovery, but your body’s homeostasis mechanisms regulate these too. The basic building blocks of protein are amino acids. If your body has too much of an amino acid it just breaks them down, salvaging the usable parts and expelling the rest. As stated before, we are not experts in supplements so taking some may result in a beneficial short term increase, but by basic homeostasis principles as long as your diet has adequate amounts of proteins, vitamins, minerals and so forth it will keep and use what it needs and get rid of the rest.