It was a Saturday afternoon and I was on the verge of dozing off in the bathtub. I was testing Oasis Recovery System’s Endurasoak product, which claims to help you recover from hard workouts. That’s just what I needed; I had just finished a 20 mile long run.
There’s been a lot of conversation recently about ice baths. New research indicates that consistent ice baths following hard workouts or long runs can actually stunt the adaptation process. That’s not good news for distance runners. When our body repairs the damage from a 20 mile long run or a track workout we adapt and get stronger.
So naturally, I wanted to test the opposite side of the spectrum: warm mineral salt baths. After some searching, I found Endurasoak to be a good option. Of course, I could have used old fashioned epsom salts that you can buy at any CVS, but I wanted a product geared toward endurance athletes. Elite marathoner Ryan Hall has written about epsom salts before, so I was eager to try a variation of this old-fashioned recovery technique.
Endurasoak combines three different types of salts and “essential oils” that claim to relieve inflammation, speed the healing process, and relieve muscle fatigue. The claims on the website are numerous and diverse and the natural skeptic in me was dubious. Nevertheless, I love trying new things.
What Does the Science Say About Mineral Salt Baths?
First, let’s recognize that “reducing inflammation” and “speeding healing” are two very different things. Inflammation helps the healing process, so if mineral salts were to help you heal from injuries they would actually increase inflammation and pain. You can’t have both.
Second, the product claims that the mineral salts are absorbed through the skin? Up until recently, there was no evidence that this was even possible. However, there is one study that saw an increase in magnesium and sulphates in the blood and urine after a salt bath. This study has not been peer-reviewed, published, or repeated by any other scientist. See this study for more info.
So even if these “therapeautic salts” can get in your skin, will they help you recover from a tough workout? The jury is out on this one. I could not find any research that demonstrates higher levels of magnesium sulfate in the body can speed recovery from muscle soreness or injury.
It seems that a lot of companies promote mineral salt baths for recovery but there’s no research to back up their claims. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there but I couldn’t find any studies. It looks like this is a therapy that is often recommended because “everyone just knows” that it helps.
My Experience with Endurasoak
My personal experience with Endurasoak led me to believe its therapeautic benefits are in its relaxation-inducing properties. The Endurasoak makes the water feel nicer. I felt like I melted in the water. I was pleasantly sleepy. The scent of rosemary and peppermint lulled me into a state of deep relaxation. Sure, I felt a little girly, but in the pursuit of advanced recovery I’ll do (almost) anything once.
It’s hard to recommend a product that has virtually no science backing its claims. I don’t think it will directly help your muscles recover faster from hard workouts. You will probably get the same benefits by soaking in a warm bath without any mineral salts.
However, I do believe in the benefits of relaxation. Not the kind where you relax on the couch and watch Jersey Shore with a bowl of popcorn. I’m referring to the deep relaxation you can only get from meditation, a long massage, or the calming effects of listening to quiet music in a dark room (Creepy?). Personally, I think there are real benefits to disconnecting from the world and getting lost in your own head.
My fiancee Meaghan also tested an Endurasoak bath and she had the same thoughts: “I think it’s good to take the time to relax and not just hammer miles before you rush off to work. Pay attention to how your body feels.” Well put Megs!
If you need a bag of Endurasoak to do that – then by all means, have at it.The science isn’t there, but I enjoyed my time in the bath.
Have you ever tried an epsom salt bath or other type of mineral salts? I’d love to hear about your experience!
Photo Credit: Oasis Recovery Systems