When it comes to soothing post-workout pains and aches, more and more athletes are choosing to do an ice bath. While ice baths have been around for quite a while and can be used by non-athletes as well, they are increasing in popularity due to the great benefits and how easy they can be with the right tools and products.
In this blog post, we’ll plunge into the deep end, exploring more about ice baths and their benefits specifically for athletes. First, let's look at exactly what an ice bath is for those who are new to the concept.
What is an ice bath?
An ice bath is when someone submerges in a tub or container of ice-cold water. It is also referred to as cold plunging, cold therapy, or cold-water therapy. Ice baths are used by athletes most commonly as part of a post-workout routine but really can be beneficial any time of the day.
The water temperature is typically between 39-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice baths have increased in popularity over recent years especially with athletes because of the growing evidence of their benefits which we will discuss next.
Why do athletes take ice baths?
There are many reasons why athletes might choose to sit in an ice bath after a workout to aid with recovery. Here are just a few of the benefits for athletes:
Inflammation is the body's response to injury and is marked by pain, redness, and swelling. Ice baths may help reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels and reducing the flow of blood to the area. This can help reduce pain and swelling from workouts and strenuous physical activities.
Reduces muscle soreness
Muscle soreness is common for athletes after strenuous exercise. Muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscle that occur during exercise which is part of the process that helps muscles to grow stronger. However, they can cause pain and discomfort. Ice baths may help to reduce muscle soreness by numbing the area and reducing inflammation.
Swelling is often a result of injury or inflammation - both common for athletes. Ice baths may help to reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to further extremities short-term. When you submerge into the cold water, blood instantly begins to flow closer to your vital organs near your core and away from outer extremities.
Poor circulation can lead to and worsen a number of problems, including pain, swelling, and cramping. Ice baths may help improve circulation by increasing blood flow which can help to reduce pain and discomfort. After you leave your ice bath, your body starts to warm up again and increase circulation to outer extremities and muscles. Long-term, this constriction then increases in blood flow helps improve circulation.
How long do athletes sit in ice baths?
When it comes to how long to sit in an ice bath, the sweet spot to get the benefits without going into the danger zone is 2-10 minutes. Some people may choose to stay in shorter or longer, but there is little evidence to suggest that over 2 minutes provides any additional benefits. It’s also important to not stay in for longer than 10 minutes.
Do ice baths really work for post-workout recovery?
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that ice baths can be beneficial for post-workout recovery. There have been many studies done on the benefits of ice baths for athletes after they have performed physical activities like a sports game or a workout. This research confirms that ice baths do have several benefits, primarily:
- They facilitate recovery
- Athletes experience decreased soreness
- They help to reduce the risk of injury
There is actually a bit of science behind an ice bath, which you can read about here. When it comes to ice baths, it is important that follow protocols to ensure you get the maximum benefit out of them.
Luckily, we have free science-based protocols on how to best cold plunge for the best benefits and results. Click the link below to get your free PDF of our protocols!
Can ice baths improve sports performance?
There is some evidence to suggest that ice baths may improve sports performance. One study found that athletes who took ice baths after exercise had less muscle soreness and were able to train for longer periods of time than those who did not take ice baths.
The National Library of Medicine has looked into ice baths in great detail and their findings highlight the various scientifically-backed benefits they provide when it comes to sports performance.
Are there risks for athletes during an ice bath?
As with all things, there are some risks associated with ice bathing but these are minimal. The most important thing to remember is to consider consulting with your doctor before jumping into an ice bath or starting a cold plunging routine. Here are a few documented risks:
Cold injuries: Sitting in cold water for too long can lead to cold injuries such as frostbite or hypothermia. This is why it’s important to make sure that the water temperature is not too low (39 degrees is plenty cold!) and to get out of the tub if you start to feel pain or extreme discomfort. Stick to the 10-minute max rule.
Dizziness: Sitting in an ice bath can cause blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to dizziness. It is important to get out of the tub if you start to feel dizzy at any point.
Do many athletes actually use ice baths?
There are plenty of professional athletes, and even your weekend warriors, that swear by the ice bath. From elite runners and weightlifters, to football and basketball players, the post-workout ice bath is a common part of a recovery routine for many athletes.
Professional sports personalities such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt are renowned for their praise of the ice bath and other forms of cold therapy. In fact, Ronaldo once bought a $50,000 cryotherapy ice chamber. Luckily, you don’t need to drop $50k on an ice bath tub when you can get a top-quality cold plunge tub that’s more inexpensive than similar tubs on the market. The PLUNGE tub starts at under $5,000 and saves you time and money in the long run.
Can non-athletes do ice baths?
They certainly can and do. Whether you are an athlete, someone who wants to perform their best, or someone who just wants to try an ice bath, cold plunging has benefits for everyone. Here are just a few more ice bath benefits that are ideal for all:
- It boosts your metabolism & immune system
- It trains you to deal with stressful situations
- It helps you sleep better
- It boosts blood circulation
As you can see there are many benefits to jumping into an ice bath. If you are looking to try one out for the first time, it's important you know exactly how to do so. This blog post covers what you need to know about ice bathing and will equip you with all the info you need to have a successful experience.
Cold Plunge tub vs. traditional ice bath
While anyone with a tub can create their own ice bath, it can be quite a hassle. You need to buy the ice, carry it to the tub, fill it up, wait for water to chill, then keep testing and adding ice until it’s the temperature you want. Not to mention the draining and cleaning after each time With our cold plunge tub, you simply:
- Set your temperature
- Enjoy clean filtered water on demand
Our revolutionary Cold Plunge uses sanitation, filtration, and powerful cooling to create the perfect conditions for an effective ice bath. The simple draining system also saves you time so you can get back to the rest of your daily routine quicker. It is far superior to any chest freezer or ice bath. Why not take a look for yourself?
Don’t forget to grab our FREE protocols while you’re here to get the most out of your ice bathing experience!