Freezing my tits off

For a long time I’ve considered cold water immersion and chickened out. After all, who in their right mind would want to stand around in the freezing cold ocean for 20 minutes.  Nick Jones, former Mr Universe, swears by it on his DVD Natural Reinvention and today I was asked at an acupuncture appointment whether I’d tried it. My answer was that I’ve taken by bathers to the beach on a cold day and chickened out. By the end of my appointment I’d had it suggested a fair few times. According the my accupuncturist, 20 minutes in the cold salty water is a sure fire way to kick your metabolism into gear by making your hypothalmus work nice and hard. With nothing much scheduled for my last day of holidays except a low intensity cardio session I thought it worth a try. After a nice long walk at Silver Sands, I stripped down to my bathers, set the timer on my watch and took the plunge. I’m not really sure if today counted, as the water is probably the warmest for the year after the whole of summer heating it up. So I’ll call this my warm-up. Though 2 hours later I’m still working on that!

After getting home I thought I’d look further into the science of cold water immersion.

For muscular recover purposes it appears the jury is still out.

There is surprisingly little evidence to either support or condemn cold-water immersion (CWI) after exercise. The logic used to support CWI is usually twofold. First, it helps clear the muscles of waste products such as lactic acid and reduces soreness. Second, the cold reduces the inflammation from the microscopic muscle tears caused by intense exercise.

Unfortunately there is little science to back up either claim. Studies examining the return of muscle metabolites to normal resting levels have shown the recovery time between hot and cold muscles is very similar. A recent French study also cast doubt on the “micro-tear” theory, suggesting the muscle cell walls are not actually damaged by intense exercise.

Source: http://www.australiancyclist.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=8904

This article about metabolic rate seems to come close to the claims I was interested in

Abstract : Several empirical models for predicting the metabolic response to a lowered body temperature have been evaluated against available data of young healthy males immersed in cold water under resisting conditions. Nude immersions took place in 20 and 24 C water for 1 h and clothed immersions took place in 10 and 15 C for 3 h. The data were pooled according to low and high percent body fat (%BF). Decreases in the mean weighted skin temperature (Tsk) ranged from 5.3 to 11.9 C and decreases in the core temperature (Tc) ranged from 0.56 to 1.54 C, while increases in the metabolic rate over the immersion period ranged from 34 to 256 W. Through regression analysis, an inverse relationship between %BF and the metabolic response for a given lowered Tsk and lowered Tc was established. When this relationship was explicitly applied to the models, significant improvements in their predictive capability were found. Variables such as body weight, body surface area and rate of change of Tsk were not found to contribute to the predictive capability of the models.

Source: http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA186914

Another study observed the recovery of sympathetic nervous system of cyclist and concluded

…. that CWI can significantly restore the impaired vagal-related HRV indexes observed after supramaximal exercise. CWI may serve as a simple and effective means to accelerate parasympathetic reactivation during the immediate period following supramaximal exercise.

Source: http://ajpheart.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/296/2/H421
Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation
M. Buchheit,1 J. J. Peiffer,2 C. R. Abbiss,3 and P. B. Laursen3

In this meta-analysis research from other studies was pooled to conclude:

CWI was associated with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory minute volume and metabolism. Decreases in end tidal carbon dioxide partial pressure and a decrease in cerebral blood flow were also reported. There was evidence of increases in peripheral catecholamine concentration, oxidative stress and a possible increase in free-radical-species formation. The magnitude of these responses may be attenuated with acclimatisation. CWI induces significant physiological and biochemical changes to the body. Much of this evidence is derived from full body immersions using resting healthy participants. The physiological and biochemical rationale for using short periods of CWI in sports recovery still remains unclear.

Source: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/44/3/179.abstract

What is the biochemical and physiological rationale for using cold-water immersion in sports recovery? A systematic review

Chris M Bleakley1, Gareth W Davison

Will I be adding this cold water immersion to my regular bag of tricks? Probably. I’m terrible at following through with recovery plans, but Kevin does love a trip to the beach and there is nowhere I feel happier than by the ocean. In July I’ll sure be fortunate that you’re allowed to drive your car right onto the beach. Brrrr.

Title Image courtesy of http://www.hennessea.com/Antarctica.htm

About Michelle

Michelle is passionate about showing people how easy it is to prepare food that is healthy and packed full of flavour. She has just completed her first recipe book, Healthy Helpings: fast food for fit physiques. She began sharing her love of food in 2007, when she produced two series of the online cooking show ‘Healthy Helpings TV’, making fast food healthy and healthy food fast. In 2008 she competed in bodybuilding as a novice figure shaping competitor and she remains passionate about physique sports. She was a 2009 Australian Masterchef semi-finalist, and contributes articles to Oxygen Magazine Australia. Michelle lives with her husband on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, where she loves to search out new ingredients and food ideas from local farmers markets, health food shops and ethnic grocers, and take her two dogs on long rambles through the vineyards. Find out more about Michelle's book