Ditch the ice bath for hot baths? Ditch beet juice for dark chocolate?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I’m having some computer problems at home and I have a backlog of articles I’ve wanted to write out. So, as I’m in the process of ditching my old computer for a new one, it seems fitting that I write about a couple things runners may soon consider ditching.

Ditch the ice bath?

Who likes ice baths? I’m going out on a limb and guessing nobody. Those of us who use them don’t do them because they are enjoyable. We do them because they help us recover.

I do question whether that’s always what we want (see here and here). However, more importantly, can bigger gains be made by taking a hot bath or, better, hitting the sauna after your workout? Maybe.

It’s not the same effect. In short, this is heat training, not a recovery aid. It’s similar to why some cold climate runners overdress when preparing for warm weather races. You can increase your blood plasma volume, which helps performance. In this case, a hot conditions (90+ degrees F) 5K time trial improved by 5% on average. Unfortunately, in more moderate conditions (just short of 65 degrees F) performance didn’t improve. I do wonder if it might be more beneficial in more moderate conditions if the distance were longer. 65 isn’t all that taxing when running a 5K, it can be when running a marathon.

I’m not saying we should all jump on the hot bath or sauna train. However, if you’re training for a race in hot weather or I’d argue a longer race in more moderate weather, this is a result worth considering.

Ditch beet juice?

Most of us have probably heard of beet juice as a performance enhancing supplement. The nitrate in the juice is converted into nitric oxide, which has been shown to improve blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the muscles.

However, beet juice tastes…well…not so good. What if you could get the same effects by having something more appetizing? Such as, let’s say, some dark chocolate.

As noted, this isn’t perfect because you can’t guarantee a consistent dosage but it sure sounds better than the alternative. This seems worth keeping an eye on at least.

I’ll hopefully be back with some more original content next week once the new computer is up and running.

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