10 Things You Shouldn’t Do If You’re Trying to Build Muscle: Body Building

10. Do post-workout cold water plunges.

Cold water plunges can help restore performance and reduce recovery times in hard-charging athletes and professional sports teams are beginning to install ice baths in their facilities to take advantage of this. But emerging evidence suggests this may come at a cost: reduced strength and muscle gains. In one recent paper, researchers separated athletes into two 12-week resistance training groups. One group sat in cold water for 10 minutes after training. One group practiced active recovery for 10 minutes. After 12 weeks, the active recovery group enjoyed greater strength and mass gains than the cold immersion group. For the second phase of the study, they measured acute changes in anabolic biomarkers and found that cold water immersion blunted post-workout activation of key proteins in muscle cells for up to two days.

Cold plunges are still useful for trainees. If you need to recover quickly from a game of Ultimate, or you’ve got another event coming up in the CrossFit games, or you’re on a ski trip and intend to make the most of every single day, dunking your body into cold water after a session can help you reach your goals. If you’re an endurance athlete, cold water plunges appear to be beneficial (PDF). If you’re competing, it will probably help you recover. And I’ve had great success using alternating cold/hot plunges at night to improve my sleep. But if your goal is to gain muscle above all else, post-workout cold water plunges may interfere and should be delayed to rest days.

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