2014 study finds ice baths not detrimental and possibly helpful to elite cyclists

Selena McLeod

A 2014 study compared elite cyclists after three weeks of intense training with and without ice baths, and found that ice baths didn't hurt their performance but possibly helped.

The study was published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and carried out by researchers from Australia and New Zealand. It investigated whether ice baths were detrimental to long-term performance by impairing adaptation to training.

The researchers compared the effects of ice baths with the effects of passive rest on cycling performance during a simulated cycling grand tour. Thirty-four male highly trained competitive cyclists participated in the study.  The study consisted of seven days of baseline training, twenty-one days of intensified training and an eleven day taper. Half of the cyclists used cold-water immersion therapy four times per week (for fifteen minutes at 15°C), compared to the control group who rested during that time. Each week, the cyclists completed high-intensity interval cycling tests separated by thirty minutes.

The researchers concluded that although some of the effects of cold-water immersion therapy on performance were unclear, data from this study did not support recent speculation that cold water immersion therapy is detrimental to performance after increased training load in competitive cyclists.