An ice bath is a type of passive-active therapy used by athletes to ease sore muscles. Discover the potential benefits and uses of ice bath soaking in your wellness routine by reading on.
A cold bath has benefits, right? Athletes or fitness enthusiasts frequently dive into a chilly pool of water after a hard workout or critical game. It is also known as cryotherapy or cold-water immersion (CWI). Ice bath is designed to hasten muscle recovery after intense exercise sessions and to minimize muscle stiffness and pain.
It is wise to take most actions into account while determining their efficiency. Read on to find out if ice baths work. What benefits do they have for your body after a tough workout, and how to utilize them?
Cold water has been used in medicine for a long time, and even more recently. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was accustomed to using cold water to treat even the most severe illnesses.
What Is an Ice Bath?
An ice bath is a form of cryotherapy. In this, a patient briefly submerges their body in an ice-cold bath. Cold-water immersion is commonly referred to as an ice bath. It is a form of passive-active therapy that, by boosting blood flow, may lessen inflammation and ease muscular soreness. Ice baths are becoming a more common part of athletes’ training and recovery schedules. After a time of difficult exercise, athletes will spend 10-15 min in a tub of ice-cold water. It is between 50- and fifty-nine-degrees Fahrenheit.
The argument for taking an ice bath following exercise
Intense workouts can cause microtrauma, a small tear in your muscle fibers. The result is the stimulation, healing, and strengthening of muscles. Lactic acids and other waste products build up in your muscles as they use energy. It causes discomfort and pain. It will naturally remove over a period of 24 to 72 hours. An ice bath can be used to speed up this treatment and cut the recovery period in half.
When you immerse yourself in cold water, your body reacts to the stress reaction in your brain. It reacts by increasing blood flow to your core to increase its warmth. When fresh, oxygenated blood is absorbed, toxins are quickly eliminated. In this way, your muscle healing time increases. The “fight-or-flight” response of the body causes this to happen.
Benefits of Ice baths
Despite the numerous health advantages of ice bathing, there is conflicting scientific evidence to support these claims. If you were considering taking an ice bath; you might be wondering whether it would be beneficial to subject your body to such an intense cold.
The good news is that taking an ice bath could be advantageous; especially for athletes or people who regularly work out:
Lowering the risk of muscle discomfort
Supporters of post-workout ice baths praise the ability of the cold water. It is to relax tense muscles and speed up recovery time between taxing sessions. When you take an ice bath, exposure to the cold causes your blood vessels to narrow. These arteries quickly expand after being removed from the cold water. It may lessen delayed-onset muscle pain by boosting blood flow and removing metabolic waste products.
Possibly improving sleep
Ice baths may strengthen the central nervous system by improving sleep. With more sound sleep and a sound neurological system; you can lessen tiredness, strengthen your immune system, and improve your mental health. Learn more about getting a good night’s sleep.
Provides you with extra energy and uplifts your mood
One of the ice bath’s most well-known benefits is its ability to influence mood. After having an ice bath, more hormones and other transmitters, such as norepinephrine, are released. Dopamine is one of the hormones that is known to regulate strength, attention, and focus. Increases in this hormone can produce potent, all-natural painkillers, according to studies.
Regulation by the central nervous system
When you are suddenly exposed to cold water, your body suffers stress. But doing so can help you manage stress better. How? via management of the nervous system. After the initial shock, when your body becomes adjusted to the cold water; and when your neurological system can regain control, your fight-or-flight response reduces.
The body learns to unwind and relax by taking an ice bath. As a result, it aids in enhancing your emotional and mental health. You can better manage your stress responses if you have control over your nervous system.
Could raise efficiency
By increasing quickness and response time, an ice bath supports a healthy nervous system. It could improve performance during subsequent workouts.
There isn’t any concrete evidence to support its benefits. Many athletes have used exposure to cold water to improve their performance. Even though this is closely tied to the temperature of the water; the duration of immersion, and other factors such as rest, recovery, food, and hydration. There is some significant evidence that speed and strength are boosted.
Cold dips trigger the body’s brown fat or brown fat. Your metabolism will pick up speed, your insulin sensitivity will improve, and you’ll start to lose white fat. It’s important to keep in mind that cold diving alone won’t help you lose weight. It must also include a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, and enough rest and recovery time.
The mind usually prevails when it comes to diving (pun intended!). Getting into an ice bath is challenging when the outside temperature is below zero. It might get a little tense. You’ll grow tougher and ultimately stronger if you can overcome your doubt or uncertainty.
Helping perhaps with stress management
Another benefit of cold-water immersion is the capacity to better control stress. After a brief exposure to cold temperatures; the mind may be better able to withstand discomfort and adjust to drastic environmental changes. Additionally, the practice aids in breathing improvement. It is necessary for surviving the discomfort of cold-water therapy.
Minimize the risk of injury
Ice bath rapidly lowers body temperature. Taking an ice bath right after a tough workout can help prevent heat diseases like exercise-induced hyperthermia.
The immune system is altered
An ice bath immediately affects the immune system because it requires your body to work outside of its comfort zone. Your immune system can be strengthened by taking cold showers. Also, by practicing focused breathing exercises simultaneously.
After a hard workout, a brief dip in cool water may assist lower cardiac tension. With hormonal restoration or physiological stress, it might not always be helpful. In contrast to passive recovery, participants’ heart rates can be decreased more quickly by immersion in cold water.
Decrease in muscle pain
The cold water causes your blood vessels to narrow. It causes a rush of blood from your extremities to all of your vital organs. As you emerge from the water, these blood vessels enlarge, sending extra blood to the muscles in your limbs. The blood vessels contraction and expansion result in a significant increase in blood flow. Through this process, toxins are removed from the body and oxygenated blood is pumped to the muscles, feeding them with nutrition. It encourages faster muscle repair and naturally reduces chronic inflammation.
Thus, ice baths hasten the healing process and ease muscular pain. It postpones the appearance of discomfort for a longer period than mere rest.
Reducing the heat
Similar to a cold shower, taking an ice bath can help the body cool off during hot or extreme conditions. A cold bath helps lower body temperature and treat the heat, a condition when the body becomes overheated.
How to Safely Use Ice Baths for Healing
Ice baths can help a fitness enthusiast or professional athlete recover from a difficult workout when done appropriately. Try to take the ice bath no later than 30 minutes after your training or competition. This time is to receive any potential benefits.
An ice bath can be made in a variety of ways. As a result, the majority of knowledge on the appropriate water temperature, how long to spend in an ice bath, and how often to take one comes from studies and direct accounts. You have several options if you decide to try ice baths. Visit a gym or spa instead, or get a temperature-controlled at-home ice bath. But there’s no need for a luxurious ice bath. Additionally, use your bathtub. All you need are ice cubes, a thermometer, and a timer.
Observe these instructions to wash safely and successfully in ice:
Fill a tub with cold water
Ice cubes and cold water should be added to a tub halfway. One to three bags of ice should be enough to achieve the appropriate water temperature. It is between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your level of cold intolerance.
Prepare your post
Swimming costumes After your ice bath, you must dry off and put on warm clothing to raise your body temperature. Prepare your post-bath attire in the bathroom before entering the tub so you can easily find it.
You should cover up when taking an ice bath to protect your skin, such as with shorts and a T-shirt. Some people also choose to wear hoodies and booties to keep their feet and bodies warm.
Make a timer (optional)
You can set a timer on your phone. It is to ensure that you don’t spend more time in the ice bath than the 15 minutes. This has been recommended for this sort of cryotherapy.
Enter the ice-cold tub
Slowly lower your legs, feet, and waist into the ice bath. Jumping into the water too quickly can shock your body, so it’s best to ease into it. You can enter with more tranquility if you breathe deeply. The parts of your body (that are immersed in the water) will start to feel numb after a short while.
Spend a maximum of 15 minutes in the chilly tub
Once you’ve gotten used to the water, you can briefly immerse portions of your upper body. You might want to practice meditation to divert your attention from the sudden drop in temperature. Take a soak for up to fifteen minutes. If you take an ice bath for more than fifteen minutes, your risk of hypothermia and burning increases.
Go outside and warm up
Take care when exiting the tub. You should immediately remove and set aside your soaked clothing. Put on the heated, dry clothes you’ve set up nearby after drying yourself off with a towel. You’ll warm up more rapidly if you drink anything warm.
After exercise, taking an ice bath carries some danger. Applying this technique incorrectly could cause panic, coldness, and/or severe pain. Those with high blood pressure, cardiovascular illness, or diabetes should consult a doctor before utilizing this form of cold therapy. Additionally, if you’re just beginning your workout routine or attempting to get back in shape after a break; avoid ice baths because they may impair muscle growth.
Tips for taking an ice bath
If you’re prepared to take the dip; there are a few things you should know before submerging your body in ice.
- The temperature of an ice bath
An ice bath should be between 10-15° Celsius, or 50-59° Fahrenheit.
- Taking an ice bath
Too much time spent in an ice bath can be harmful. Therefore, you should limit your time to no more than 10 to 15 minutes.
- A body is visible
It is often advised to immerse your complete body in ice water to obtain the greatest blood vessel contraction. However, you might want to start by showing off your feet and lower legs first. As soon as you feel comfortable doing so, move closer to your chest.
- Household use
If you decide to take an ice bath at home, use a thermometer. It is to help you balance the ice and water mixture to the proper temperature. If the temperature is too high (above 15°C or 59°F), gently add ice. To raise the temperature if it’s too low, gradually add warm water.
- It’s time for a bath
“The sooner you get in an ice bath after simply a training or competition, the greater the effects should be.” If you wait an hour after working out; some of the healing and inflammatory processes have already begun or are already complete.
How much time do I need to spend on the ice?
It’s advantageous to take things gently when trying something new and to start small. Initial time constraints should be no longer than five minutes. If it feels comfortable, consider spending 10 to 15 minutes at 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit in the next session. Longer stays don’t offer any further benefits.
It is suggested to begin around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20 degrees Celsius. Don’t let numbers trick you! That’s still pretty cool for a bath. If you want to benefit the most from the ice bath; it is best to immerse your body in it. If you don’t feel sufficiently bold, you might want to move slowly. First, dip your calves and feet. As soon as you feel comfortable doing so, you can drop to your chest.
Are ice baths harmful?
Ice baths are good for you if done correctly and for the required length of time and temperature. Consider it if your health is good and there are no other underlying medical issues. If you concentrate on slowing your breath, you’ll be able to relax more rapidly. However, if you are unsure or simply feel overwhelmed; it helps to have a friend or partner close by who can aid you if necessary.
Exposure to cold water can cause burning or pneumonia. Do you want to stay in the water longer than is recommended and begin to shiver? You need to get out of the water immediately. Don’t disregard your body’s cues.
Who should stay away from an ice bath?
It’s critical to determine your safety before attempting an ice bath. Before having an ice bath if you have a medical condition, see your doctor. Because it can be dangerous for a person with:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Poor circulation
- An open wound
Your doctor can also assess if you have a hidden medical condition. While ice baths can help you feel better. But you shouldn’t use them: if you have a fracture, a muscle or ligament tear, or another condition that needs medical care right away. Verify that you aren’t icing over an underlying problem. Cold therapy should not be used to simply dull pain brought on by a more serious injury. It includes broken bones or damaged muscles.
Spending too much time in an ice bath might also result in hypothermia. It occurs when your body temperature drops too low. Because of this, set a timer and keep your ice baths brief. Likewise, remember to pay attention to your body. While taking an ice bath, you should immediately get out of the water if you start to shiver excessively. Or if you notice a change in the color of your skin.
Problems with ice baths
There are a few minor problems and one major problem with an ice bath:
- Minor problems
The possibility exists that inflammation could worsen if the water is too cold. Instead of a soothing cooling effect, you more often get a “freezer burn,” which irritates the situation.
It is unappealing. After the first few minutes, an ice bath may feel a little bit more acceptable. But overall, they aren’t a nice experience.
It could be difficult to set up an ice bath. It’s not always possible to do it in a bathtub, therefore you need a spot to perform it. This takes about 15 minutes. But it costs a bit because you need a lot of ice. It will either requires a lot of storage space or must be purchased.
- The major problem
Exercise causes the body to be disassembled. Our cells begin to regenerate stronger and better than before, more enzymes are created for reactions, and many other changes take place throughout the time that makes us better.
Why do athletes still prefer ice baths?
There is probably the main reason behind this:
Athletes incorrectly think that using ice baths to recover is a great way to enable them to train harder (which, in a sense, it is). Without realizing that they might be undoing some of the progress they should have achieved.
The use of ice baths as a post-workout rehabilitation method has grown in popularity. They have been shown to reduce joint and muscle pain, and they may even lift your spirits. However, they do not cover every aspect of mental or physical wellness. Even though intentionally exposing your body to freezing temperatures may seem contradictory. An ice bath offers several health benefits that have been scientifically proven. Taking an ice bath can alter the course of some people’s lives. As a result, they might choose to include it in their typical wellness routine.
Whether you are a weekend warrior or an athlete, ice baths have a lot of advantages for recovery. However, you must strictly adhere to the guidelines mentioned above.
- Ice baths help reduce inflammation, ease pain after exercise, and lift your spirits.
- One is not advised on how to perform an ice bath. However, the majority of people swim in water that is 50 to 59°F for 5 to 10 minutes.
- The risk of damage from the cold-water plunges increases for people with certain conditions. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with your healthcare provider first.