Should I be using ice after workouts?

A recent article in Outside Magazine, Stress Tested, challenged the widely held concept that we must do everything possible to eliminate inflammation in our bodies.  This theory has been put forth by trainers and alternative healers as the antidote to both local and systemic inflammation which is often cited as the primary cause of disease and degeneration in the body. This message is problematic because inflammation is the main mechanism for self healing and strength gains in our bodies. When we train a muscle group or joint complex we are essentially causing small amounts of damage to the muscle fibers which stimulates an inflammatory response in the surrounding tissues. Both white and red blood cells flood into the area along with lymph fluids which carry these helpful cells in and cellular debris out. In the short term this process is essential if we wish to heal an injury and/or increase the strength and function of a muscle.

This article also suggests that while strength and speed training release oxidizing agents/ (called free radicals) into the body, we might not want to be in such a rush to suppress them with anti-oxidants in the form of large vitamin supplements. Like inflammation, oxidative stress is labeled as a primary disease agent leading to chronic illness, but like inflammation, it is also part of the healing and strengthening process of the body. Stopping either of these natural functions from occurring may not only limit recovery and gains but may also habituate our bodies to these therapies. This may have the unintended result of lowering their therapeutic effect in the event that we do need to ice and injury or take NSAIDs to control pain.

The management of inflammation and oxidation in the body plays an important role in our long terms health. However, the natural function of inflammation is crucial for our body’s recovery and growth in our physical activities. Perhaps we should let these needs, managing oxidation and inflammation, be filled with our well chosen foods rather than accumulating more products under the onslaught of dietary and nutritional advice pushed on us in the name of strength and longevity. Train, eat, sleep, and rest to recover.



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