Hot or Cold For Recovery?

By Marilyn Trout | 07/31/12
Hot or Cold For Recovery?

Steven Depolo, “Melting Ice Cubes” July 26,2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following question is a reprint of a question from Bill Kaufner from May 2010, but still holds true.

Hot or Cold for Recovery

Hi Coach,

Hot or Cold? Heat or Ice? Near the latter stages of a long ride I often hear riders say I'm going to the hot tub tonight because I need it after today's exertion. I also see it at the gym when after vigorous workouts or classes people hit the hot tub, steam, or sauna right away. Yet I see professional athletics wrapped in ice bags after their games. So which is the best way to go after a century ride or an extreme workout?

Bill Kaufner
Road Bike rider


I like what Runner’s World writer, Dave Kuehls, says about recovery, “think of the 3 C’s: chow, chug and chill.”

Chow: The body is most efficient at replenishing carbohydrate stores in the first 60 minutes after exercise with the first 15 minutes when the body absorbs maximally. This doesn’t mean sitting down for a pasta feed, nobody wants that after a tough ride, but something like a carbohydrate-rich drink to refuel.

Chug: No matter what your speed is or how much you drink, your body will be dehydrated after a long ride. During the ride, it’s good to eat before your hungry and drink before you’re thirsty. Doing this will accelerate recovery.

Chill: Hot water may feel good but it actually inhibits recovery. Some endurance athletes spray their legs with cold water from a hose, 10 minutes each leg, while others do ice massage from an ice pack or ice cup. These cold temperatures constrict blood vessels and muscle tissue and prevent blood from pooling in your legs.  Coach Peg says, “Remember RICE = Rest, ICE, Compression, Elevation.  There's no heating in recovery.  Using the hot tub is just for making friends. There are 2 major effects of  "ICE" for use/overuse - reduces inflammation and lowers core body temperature, a major factor in speeding up recovery time.”

Chilling out is indeed a good thing.

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