You may wonder about the benefits of an ice bath after a vigorous workout. Research suggests that cold water immersion is one of the best options for post-exercise recovery.
Elite athletes in all major sports tout the efficacy of ice baths for combating muscle fatigue, reducing pain, decreasing the buildup of lactic acid in muscle tissue, decreasing metabolic activity, and reducing swelling.
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What Is an Ice Bath?
During an ice bath, you submerge your body in a tub with temperatures between 40°F and 60°F. This recovery method frequently follows high-intensity workouts to reduce muscle aches and flush metabolic waste.
You should spend as much time as you can in these ice baths, but if you’re feeling the freeze, try to stay submerged from the neck down for one to five minutes. Your target goal is at least eleven minutes of cold water immersion per week.
Now that you’ve survived your very own polar plunge, what should you do next? Here are eight things you should do after an ice bath.
1. Gradually Rewarm Your Body
Grabbing warm drinks and warm clothing are the first things to do after an ice bath, and the main objective is passive rewarming. Wrap up in your favorite robes or sweats and sip on your favorite hot beverage.
2. Warm Up With a Shower or Bath
Warming up with a shower is popular after an ice bath. Warm showers are an essential part of contrast therapy, a type of physical therapy that relies on heat and cold for effectiveness.
A warm and relaxing shower is a great motivational tool and a reward for braving your cold water immersion therapy. To ensure the effectiveness of your ice bath, wait at least ten minutes before your warm shower.
3. Say No to Alcohol
The idea of a glass of warm brandy seems tempting but just say no to alcohol after you’ve completed your ice bath. Alcohol is a vasodilator that reduces your body temperature even after you’re out of the ice bath and wrapped in your robe. Instead, heat your favorite warm beverage and sip on that.
4. Understand Your Body’s Reaction to Ice Baths
Some people dip in chilly water and hop out with no effects, while others may suffer from headaches, dizziness, or nausea after spending too long in an ice bath.
Warm up gradually with blankets and clothing and lie down until the symptoms pass. Your next bath needs to be warmer and potentially shorter if you’ve had any adverse reactions.
Listen to your body and immediately get out of the ice bath if you feel unwell and call your physician after severe reactions, such as chest pain or passing out.
5. Pat, Don’t Rub
After your ice bath, gently pat your skin dry instead of vigorously rubbing it with your towel. Because your skin has reduced sensitivity after exposure to cold temperatures, rubbing your skin to dry increases the possibility of skin damage.
6. Stretch It Out
Make sure to stretch out your muscles after an ice bath. Stretching will help eliminate toxins from your muscles and reduce aches and pains. Whole body stretches and targeted muscle stretches help you get the most benefit from cold water immersion sessions.
It may surprise you to learn that ice baths potentially cause dehydration. The possibility of dehydration is because exposure to ice and extreme cold causes vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow to the skin and lessening oxygen flow to your muscles.
After you’ve dried off and put on warm clothing, drink water to replenish your body. Heat lemon water to treat your dehydration and warm up.
8. Have Patience
You’ve just spent ten minutes or more in icy water, so it’s going to take a while to warm back up. You should expect the process to take around 20 minutes using passive rewarming techniques.
Numbness in your skin is a normal occurrence after an ice bath, so be very careful if you’re going to shower or run a warm bath after your session.
Remember that your skin isn’t going to feel “heat” the same way for nearly 20 minutes after cold water immersion, and accidental scalding is possible.
When Should You Take an Ice Bath?
Now that you understand the benefits of cold water immersion sessions, you are probably wondering when an ice bath is most effective.
Some cold water immersion enthusiasts prefer an icy dip as part of their early morning wake-up routine, while some athletes choose a post-workout ice bath.
Those suffering from chronic pain may choose to bathe in icy water as a pain-relieving tactic, and some people believe that an ice bath before bed helps improve their sleep quality.
The perfect time for taking the chilly plunge will depend on what you hope to accomplish from your session.
Immediately After a Workout
The optimal time for an ice bath is post-exercise or training sessions if you want to reduce your post-workout recovery time. That’s because ice baths:
- boost circulation
- remove toxins such as lactic acid from muscles
- ease muscular aches and pains
- assist in cool down
- Decreasing the inflammatory response
Studies show that post-workout ice baths are effective ways to jump-start your recovery. Follow your ice bath with a warm shower and a stretching routine to benefit from your cold water immersion therapy sessions.
2. Within Two Hours of a Workout
If you choose to cool down and stretch immediately after exercise or training, you can hold off on your ice bath for up to two hours post-workout.
Waiting longer than two hours will reduce the effectiveness of your chilly plunge, though, so make sure to hit the water within the recommended two-hour timeframe.
3. For Immediate Pain Relief
Sufferers of chronic back pain and inflammatory disease processes such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia may find immediate pain relief following an ice bath.
Starting the day with cold water immersion therapy will also help reduce inflammation throughout the day, so you can spend less of your waking time in pain and more of your day doing what you love.
4. First Thing in the Morning
Some people love the mental stimulation of an ice bath immediately upon waking. The benefits of a morning cold water session include mental alertness, speeding up your reaction times, and improved circulation. In addition, a cold bath improves your mood and boosts your immune system.
If you want to feel awake and ready for your day, start your morning with an ice bath followed by a warm shower.
5. Before Bed
It may be surprising to learn that taking an ice bath before bed increases your quality of sleep. Some benefits of a pre-bedtime ice bath include:
- Lowering body temperature to tell your brain it’s time for bed
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces stress
- Boosts immune system
- Boosts metabolism
It’s recommended to take your chilly night dip about an hour before your expected bedtime for optimal results.
Important Things To Keep in Mind During Your Ice Bath
Remember that while an ice bath has many benefits, you must always ensure your body responds appropriately to the chilly dip. Get out of your bath immediately if you notice:
- bluish skin
- severe hypothermia
- chest pain
- nausea or vomiting
Should you stretch after an ice bath?
You should not stretch immediately after an ice bath when you are cold. It is important to move around throughout the day or evening after a race to aid in recovery and prevent muscle tightness. Avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time as this can hinder recovery and cause muscle tightness.
Should I massage after ice bath?
Restating the question: “You should massage after an ice bath.”Rephrased answer: Recent studies suggest that for faster recovery, it is recommended to transition from an ice bath to a massage session.
Is it better to warm up naturally after ice bath?
It is better to allow your body to warm up naturally after an ice bath. According to Leary, shivering is expected once you exit the water and it may take some time for your body to reach its normal temperature. However, by letting your body naturally warm up, the benefits of cold water therapy are enhanced.
Why do I feel so good after ice bath?
After an ice bath, you feel good because your blood vessels dilate, allowing for increased circulation. This increased blood flow to your muscles helps eliminate metabolic waste that accumulates during exercise, which is why ice baths are commonly used for post-workout recovery.
How long after ice bath can I warm up?
You should not rush out immediately after an ice bath to avoid slipping. Instead, take your time and either dry off or take a warm shower to alleviate the numbness. It typically takes around 20 minutes for most people to return to their normal state. If you still feel cold, drinking a warm tea or coffee can help expedite the warming process.
Do ice baths speed up muscle recovery?
Ice baths do speed up muscle recovery by reducing muscle inflammation, swelling, achiness, and eliminating any accumulated lactic acid in the body.
How long should I wait to shower after ice bath?
You should wait two hours before taking a warm bath or shower after an ice bath. Jumping straight into a warm shower or bath afterwards may diminish the benefits of cold therapy and there is a risk of “passing out” due to the sudden temperature change, according to Gough. Eflerova suggests waiting for a two-hour period before indulging in a warm bath or shower.
How fast should you warm up after an ice bath?
You should not rush out after an ice bath to avoid slipping. Instead, take your time and either dry off or have a warm shower to alleviate the numbness. It typically takes around 20 minutes for some individuals to return to their normal state. If you feel chilled, consuming a warm tea or coffee can expedite the warming process.
Is it better to take an ice bath or warm bath after a long run?
It is more beneficial to opt for an ice bath rather than a warm bath after completing a long run. Ice baths prove to be an efficient post-race treatment as they help alleviate inflammation and soreness resulting from the physical strain and impact endured during long runs and marathons.
Are ice baths good for you?
Ice baths are beneficial for the body as they cause the blood vessels to constrict due to the cold temperature. This constriction leads to a decrease in blood flow to the muscles, resulting in a reduction of inflammation and swelling. Studies indicate that ice baths are more effective in reducing post-exercise inflammation compared to alternative methods such as compression socks.
Should you sleep after an ice bath?
You should sleep after an ice bath because the melatonin output that follows has a remarkable calming effect, making it beneficial for achieving a deep and restful sleep. For optimal results, it is recommended to time your ice bath less than 20 minutes before bedtime.
How should your body feel after a ice bath?
Your body should feel more relaxed and rested after an ice bath, which may also improve your sleep quality. Cold water immersion has been reported to help individuals feel more relaxed after intense physical activity, especially when they are feeling hot and sweaty. Some people even find that it helps them sleep better.
How long to warm up after ice bath?
The recommended duration to warm up after an ice bath varies, but it is generally advised to take your time and avoid rushing out to prevent slipping. Instead, you can choose to dry off or have a warm shower to alleviate the numbness caused by the ice bath. It typically takes around 20 minutes for some individuals to return to their normal state. If you still feel cold, consuming a warm tea or coffee can help expedite the warming process.
Do ice baths speed up recovery?
Ice baths do speed up recovery by preventing inflammation, stimulating the central nervous system, and promoting regulated breathing, especially when taken after strength training.
What happens if I shower after an ice bath?
Showering after an ice bath may hinder the long-term benefits of cold exposure therapy, as the body’s natural warming process plays a significant role in reaping these benefits.
What is the protocol for ice baths?
The protocol for ice baths involves filling a tub halfway with cold water and ice, staging your post-bath clothing, donning the proper attire, optionally setting an alarm, entering the ice bath, soaking in it for a maximum of fifteen minutes, and then getting out and warming up.
How long should you stay in a cold plunge?
You should stay in a cold plunge for a duration of three minutes as a good target time. As you progress, you can gradually increase the time spent, but it is crucial to pay attention to your body’s signals. If you are new to cold plunges, you can start by building your tolerance through short dips (around 30 seconds) or regular cold showers.
Is it good to go from ice bath to hot tub?
It is beneficial to transition from an ice bath to a hot tub. By first utilizing cold therapy to reduce swelling and inflammation, followed by hot therapy to enhance blood flow to the affected area, this alternating approach can effectively promote improved circulation and expedite the recovery process over time.