Taking an ice bath after a good workout comes with loads of benefits. It includes much more than physically helping your body; it can benefit your mind and overall health. All it takes is a couple of minutes in some ice-cold water.
The global popularity of cold showers, ice baths and cryotherapy has become increasingly popular with the likes of Wim Hof, Tim Ferris, Tony Robins, Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Mark Wahlberg is a testament to the increased interest in an ice bath.
Here are some of the best ice bath benefits.
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF AN ICE BATH?
Ice baths, cold hydrotherapy, or cold water immersion are great for active recovery. The ice bath aims to improve recovery and reduce inflammation by causing a small amount of stress on the body in order to produce an adaptive beneficial, hormetic response.
The primary purpose of an ice bath for an athlete is to aid in muscle recovery after an intense workout, but luckily there are tons of ice bath benefits that make the whole idea of it a lot more appealing to the everyday person.
THE BENEFITS OF AN ICE BATH
EASES MUSCLE PAIN
After a very intense training session, the ice-cold water can speed up recovery and relieve sore muscles. Your blood vessels constrict when you expose yourself to the cold during cold water immersion.
And when you remove yourself from the water again, all of these vessels quickly dilate; this potentially eases the delayed muscle pain you usually feel after working out by increasing your blood flow and flushing metabolic waste products.
Your muscles will feel less sore to the decreased inflammation.
Exposure to cold temperatures improves your mind’s ability to cope with stressful environmental changes and withstanding any discomfort. Ice baths can also teach you to breathe slowly and calm down your nervous system when you are in a stressful situation.
Cold water immersion can stimulate your vagus nerve, which lowers your heart rate and, in turn, can reduce stress.
CAN IMPROVE WORKOUT RECOVERY
Ice baths are said to help athletes train faster and harder as it speeds up the recovery time. When your blood vessels quickly dilate, it delivers nutrients and oxygen to all of your muscles, and this helps your muscles recover a lot faster.
Since ice baths stimulate recovery, it also means that you are less likely to injure yourself. By allowing your body to recover, you also prepare your body for your next workout and allow your body to train at a higher quality.
Blood rushes to all of your vital organs when you submerge your body in an ice-cold bath. The goal is to calm yourself when you are in the cold. When you get out, your heart beats faster and pushes blood through to all your peripheries, giving your body the vital nutrients and oxygen it needs.
This improves your circulation, flushes toxins, and decreases inflammation in the body.
BOOSTS YOUR MOOD
Cold water immersion can cause an increase in norepinephrine, and this is associated with mood, cognition and can give you a euphoric feeling. This is because your body releases endorphins which relieve pain and make you feel happy.
There are cold receptors in your skin, and when you take an ice bath, electrical impulses are sent to the brain. This increases norepinephrine, which betters your brain focus and releases endorphins that boost your mood.
BOOSTS YOUR METABOLISM
When you sit in ice-cold water, your body needs to work harder to keep itself warm, and because of this, you will start to burn calories much faster. Thermogenesis (your body’s ability to heat up) is the most taxing on the body. The colder the ice bath, the harder and faster your body needs to work to turn fat stores into energy.
INCREASES MENTAL HEALTH
Cold showers and baths have been shown to have an anti-depressant effect. This is because of the massive release of norepinephrine which is a key player in mood and cognitive-enhancing effects.
BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
Ice baths are also said to support a strong and healthy immune system. This is because cold therapy pushes the production of disease and infection-fighting immune cells.
Studies have shown that cold water immersion causes a rise in the activity and number of natural killer cells and white blood cells that circulate in your body and help reduce the chance of the common cold and flu.
IS AN ICE BATH RIGHT FOR YOU?
An ice bath is not particularly enjoyable and will take some time to get used to, but the benefits of ice baths make the whole experience worth it.
Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or merely enjoy keeping active for your physical and mental health – an ice bath is for you! The main goal of an ice bath is to prevent muscle soreness and speed up recovery after working out.
There are various other ways to ease muscle pain. It all comes down to what you prefer and what works for your body. You should only question taking an ice bath if you have type one or type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or high blood pressure.
It is always a good idea to check with your doctor first.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU BE IN AN ICE BATH?
Research suggests that 10-15 minutes at 10-15 degrees is optimal for muscle recovery. The general rule for the most benefits is one minute per degree the water is. This can be accumulated by swapping between hot and cold pools.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TAKE ICE BATHS?
This depends on how often you exercise and on your personal preference. You can benefit a lot from one ice bath, but as with most things, it is more effective if you do it regularly.
Some people have an ice bath twice a day, others will take ice baths for ten consecutive days, and some may take one once a month. Do it as often as needed; it is best to do it after an intense endurance workout and always listen to your body.
WHEN SHOULD YOU NOT TAKE AN ICE BATH?
If strength and size are your primary training goals, the research suggests that you should refrain from using cold exposure to aid recovery by at least 4-6 hours after training.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IMMEDIATELY AFTER AN ICE BATH?
As soon as your 10-15 minutes of cold water therapy are up, you should slowly get out of the bath, dry yourself off and put some warm clothes on to bring your body temperature back up again. You can also have a warm cup of tea or coffee to speed this process up a bit. Try to avoid having a hot shower, as you want your body to naturally heat up over the next few minutes.
SHOULD YOU TAKE A SHOWER BEFORE AN ICE BATH?
Yes you should always take a shower before an ice bath. This is to wash off any sweat or dirt and keep your ice bath clean. At TH7 BodyLabs we ensure all customers have a shower before getting into our ice bath.
Ice baths certainly have various benefits, from your physical and mental health to the whole way your body functions.
It is definitely worth giving it a try; it will be challenging and uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it, and when you start reaping the benefits, you’ll come to realize why you started doing it.