The Benefits of Ice Bath: Does it Really Work?

The Benefits of Ice Bath: Does it Really Work?

Everyone is talking about it, but is there any real evidence behind the madness?

Cold therapy, cold plunge, or an ice bath, whatever you call it – it's not comfortable. It may even be the worst way you could willingly spend 3 minutes of your life. So, why do people do it? Do the benefits outweigh the discomfort or are we just on the wrong end of a bad joke?

Let's see what the evidence has to say.

COLD PLUNGE: WHAT IS IT?

Much has been said about the benefits of hard things – and cold exposure fits that bill. Immersing yourself in freezing cold water is painful, to say the least, so you better be sure that you know why you're embracing the chill.

A cold plunge is when you immerse your body in water at or below 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). You may be thinking, "that's not very cold," but consider that your body regulates its temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). Exposure to conditions well below your regular body temperature can cause serious discomfort.

Ever heard of homeostasis? Cold exposure will tip the scales from equilibrium to stress, which may leave you asking…

WHY DO IT?

Whether you have studied the science or braved the elements, cold exposure provides a range of benefits that are felt hours after you plunge. By enduring the stress of cold-water immersion, we naturally regulate our nervous system and become more prepared to combat future stressors.

Evidence supports positive influences on athletic performance, recovery, sleep quality, stress management, and natural energy with consistent practice of cold-water immersion. More on each of these benefits later, but first…

HOW DO YOU "PLUNGE" PROPERLY?

Let's look at the right way to cold plunge for the best results:

  • Submerge your entire body in cold water (up to your neck)
  • Control your breathing with long, deep inhales and exhales
  • Plunge for 3-5 minutes (or build up to this point with practice)
  • Aim for 2-4 days per week as a start for the greatest benefits
People in an ice bath.

3 PROVEN BENEFITS OF COLD THERAPY

Benefit one is all about your daily life. Natural energy is essential for a happy, productive life; still, many people lack the pep in their steps necessary to get things done. Are you looking for greater levels of energy and alertness? Find some cold water and hop in!

Immersion in cold water improves blood circulation – one of the most important factors in your health and well-being. Through a process called 'cold thermogenesis,' cold water increases oxygen levels, heart rate, and respiration rate during exposure, leading to greater physical and mental alertness in the following hours.

In just a few short minutes, cold-induced discomfort can provide you with 10x the time of increased physical and mental productivity – a level of energy that is unmatched by your daily dose (or three) of caffeine!

Benefit two is your key to better performance. Because if you don't recover properly, you can't continue to perform from session to session. Cold therapy is a powerful strategy in the toolbox of many professional athletes.

Studies prove that cold-water immersion accelerates the recovery of athletes through a reduction in inflammation and lower levels of delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS). The cold water helps to manage pain by causing your blood vessels to constrict, limiting blood flow to the problem area, and reducing the nagging pains that easily disrupt performance.

By exposing yourself to cold water, you can recover faster without the hours of work that some other practices demand. Plus, cold water immersion is cheap (maybe even free) compared to other recovery tools!

Benefit three is your natural remedy for deeper, high-quality sleep. A regular cold plunge practice can help your body better regulate stress.

Your autonomic nervous system controls the body's unconscious processes (i.e., moments where your awareness is heightened, or anxiety elevated). By intentionally exposing yourself to the stress induced by cold water, you gain control over these responses and can better relax when it's time to wind down each night!

It may sound counterintuitive but exposing yourself to stress regularly will ultimately help you lower your stress levels in the long term. Get cold and chill out!

COLD PLUNGE OR SHOWER?

Any level of cold exposure is better than nothing! Whether you turn the shower all the way blue or have a designated tub to plunge into, you will see many positive results by consistently enduring the stress of cold water.

TIME TO CHILL

Cold-water immersion practices can make all the difference in promoting better performance and well-being. It's truly the most time-efficient and effective strategy you can use to feel better daily. Experience a heightened mental state, increased natural energy, and a quicker recovery rate, all in just 12-15 minutes each week.

The hype is there, and the evidence supports it. It may finally be your time to dive headfirst (okay, not really) into cold water. We can't say it will be easy, but it will be worth it. And around here, we are always willing to embrace a new challenge.

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