In a previous blog post, we discussed the negative effects of cold-water baths on muscle development. It was found that cold-water immersion could hinder muscle protein synthesis, muscle mass, and strength gains after exercise. As a result, it was advised against using cold-water immersion as a post-workout recovery strategy for promoting muscle growth.
Conducting a Muscle Protein Synthesis Experiment
This led us to explore the potential benefits of hot-water immersion on muscle development. We conducted an experiment involving 12 healthy male adults experienced in resistance exercise. After performing a resistance exercise session, participants immersed one leg in hot water (46°C) and the other in thermoneutral water (30°C) for 20 minutes. Blood samples and muscle biopsies were collected over a 5-hour period to analyze muscle protein synthesis.
Surprisingly, the results showed no significant difference in muscle protein synthesis between the leg subjected to hot-water immersion and the one exposed to thermoneutral water. Increasing muscle temperature and blood flow did not lead to a measurable improvement in protein synthesis.
Additional Evidence of No Benefits
Furthermore, existing evidence from a study conducted on highly trained rugby athletes during a 4-week period and another 10-week study failed to demonstrate any benefits of hot-water immersion in enhancing muscle mass and strength gains.
Based on the currently available evidence, it is premature to conclude that hot-water immersion significantly contributes to muscle development. However, if you enjoy a hot tub after exercise, it will not hinder your progress in muscle development. Therefore, you can still indulge in this post-workout ritual without concerns, unlike the potential drawbacks associated with cold-water immersion.
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- Fuchs, C.J., et al., Hot-water immersion does not increase postprandial muscle protein synthesis rates during recovery from resistance-type exercise in healthy, young males. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2020. 128(4): p. 1012-1022.
- Horgan, B.G., et al., No effect of repeated post-resistance exercise cold or hot water immersion on in-season body composition and performance responses in academy rugby players: a randomised controlled cross-over design. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2022.
- McGorm, H., The effects of hot water immersion on recovery, performance and adaptation to resistance exercise. PhD Thesis, 2019