How Long Should You Ice Bath for Optimal Recovery?

Sep 12 | th7admin

Our ice baths are a great form of recovery to relieve sore muscles. Ice baths have various benefits when done correctly; they positively affect your central nervous system and help ease muscle soreness after intense workouts.

Knowing how long to ice bath and how to do it is essential.


Regular cold exposure may have the ability to help us: 

WHY DOES AN ICE BATH SPEED RECOVERY?

After exercise, the body launches an inflammatory response to support tissue repair, followed by an anti-inflammatory response. Having an ice bath appears to dampen the inflammatory response and aid the anti-inflammatory response.


One randomized control trial show that cold water therapy immediately after strength training blunts hypertrophy and strength adaptations. This suggests the inflammatory response is beneficial for optimal mass gains and therefore shouldn’t be inhibited if hypertrophy (muscle gain) are primary training goals.  


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.


Research suggests, however, after endurance training, cold therapy can reduce inflammation, enhance muscle recovery and increase mitochondrial biogenesis (increase the number of energy powerhouses of the cell). Adding mitochondria to muscle cells increases the muscle’s aerobic capacity which may also play a role in the performance enhancements observed in the studies.  If you’re an endurance athlete or train to improve your cardiovascular fitness, cold thermogenesis is undeniably beneficial.

HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN AN ICE BATH?

Research suggests that 10-15 minutes at 10-15 degrees is optimal for muscle recovery. If you stay in any longer than that, you face the risk of after drop or hypothermia. Your body does not need to freeze to get the full effect.


You can gradually build your time up if you are new to ice baths. An ice bath is not particularly pleasant and will shock your body and take some time to get used to. So you can ease your way in and build your way up to 10-15 minutes overtime.


The two minutes can be intense, but it gets easier once your body gets use to it. It is best to relax and focus on your breathing when doing cold water therapy. You can also alternate between a hot pool if you find it too intense.


The best thing is to slowly get in to the ice bath in one smooth motion. Don’t try to overthink it as your mind will tell you no. For the first 30 seconds to a minute you will feel quite a lot of discomfort, but eventually, your body will become numb and acclimate to the cold water. The quicker you can settle your breath the easier it will be.


If you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, it is best to check with your doctor if it is safe to practice cold therapy.

WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD AN ICE BATH BE?

In order for the ice bath to be effective, the water should be anything between 10 and 15 °C. Ice baths that are too cold will be hard to keep up, and if the ice bath is too warm, you will not benefit appropriately from the cold water immersion.


If you do an ice bath at home, you will need to use a thermometer to ensure that the temperature is just right.


Using our ice baths at TH7 BodyLab is the best way to get the full experience and all of the ice bath benefits as the whole process is in a controlled environment and is done safely.


Since ice baths are so cold, your body goes into a state of fight or flight. Most people then start to take fast and shallow breaths, but the key is control and focus on your breathing. The quicker you settle the breath, the easier it will be and the faster the time will go (trust us). It’s important to set a timer, and don’t just watch the clock, focus on your breath or try to distract your mind.


Slow inhales through the nose will allow more oxygen to enter your lungs and move around your body, so constant and deeper breathing should be your aim.


Try breathing in for five seconds, hold your breath for five seconds, and then breathe out again for five seconds. Finding a good breathing rhythm will make the whole experience more bearable.

WHAT TO WEAR FOR YOUR ICE BATH

You will need to wear swimming clothes when taking an ice bath so that your skin is protected where it needs to be.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IMMEDIATELY AFTER AN ICE BATH?

Once your ten to fifteen minutes are done, it is best to get yourself out of the ice bath slowly. Dry yourself off, take your time and take a cold shower to wash off. Try to avoid having a hot shower, as you want your body to naturally heat up over the next few minutes.


After your shower, put some warm clothes on, and a nice cup of coffee or tea can help you warm up as well.

ARE ICE BATHS SAFE?

They are with us because it is done in a controlled environment, and someone will be there to assist you.


So having someone present will ensure that you do not stay in longer than the required time, and they can help you in any way you might need during your cold water immersion therapy.


Hypothermia and frostbite are also potential risks during extreme cold ice baths. However, both of these are rather unlikely. The ice baths at TH7 BodyLabs are 10-12 degrees, we also have a small ice bath which will be 6 degrees, so frostbite is doubtful, and you should only be in the ice bath for 1 minute per degree the water is or less – hypothermia sets in about 20 minutes in at 4 degrees.


However, everyone’s body is different, so rather do what feels right for you and always listen to your body!

FAQS

HOW LONG SHOULD A POST-WORKOUT ICE BATH BE?

Studies found that people got the best results after sitting in an ice bath for 10-15 minutes. Never go in for more than recommended as there are risks. If you stay in for longer than 15 minutes, you increase the risk of afterdrop and hypothermia.

CAN YOU ICE BATH EVERY DAY?

Everything is more effective when done regularly. So you certainly could ice bath daily. Some athletes take an ice bath twice a day, while others may only do it once a month. It also comes down to personal preference and what you find works best for you and your body.

SHOULD I MASSAGE AFTER AN ICE BATH?

Massages are also an excellent tool for recovery. Various studies have shown that a massage can help speed up recovery too. You do not need to have a massage after an ice bath, but you can opt for one as it will help your body recover.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Ice baths may not be for everyone, but there is no doubt that cold water immersion can help almost everyone.


There is nothing worse than having sore muscles after a good training session, and post-workout ice baths are the best way to reduce muscle soreness so that your body is fit and ready for another effective and intense workout.