The Benefits of Ice Bath After Hard Workouts


People are taking ice baths to speed up recovery time following tough workouts.
•Research suggests that ice baths may lower inflammation and pain caused by exercise.
•Experts say that ice baths may also hinder muscle gains.
Taking an ice-cold bath may sound painful, but some believe it’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to soothe post-workout pains.

“Ice baths have been around for a while, and they’re picking up steam and popularity
What is an ice bath and commercial ice cube maker?
Also called cold water immersion, ice baths are a form of cryotherapy that call for sitting in chilly water, ideally up to your chest, for 10 to 15 minutes. There’s no need to freeze to get the full benefit–anywhere between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit works. Just be prepared that it’s not exactly pleasant.

“The first time you get in, it takes your breath away. It’s quite an experience, but after 5 to 10 minutes it gets easier, especially if you breathe and relax,” says Clayton. “The first few times it’s super uncomfortable and painful, but you do build up a tolerance.”
How do ice baths work?
Ice baths reduce inflammation and improve recovery by changing the way blood and other fluids flow through your body. When you sit in cold water, your blood vessels constrict; when you get out, they dilate (or open back up). This process helps flush away metabolic waste post-workout, says Clayton. That’s especially true with lymph, a clear fluid made up of white blood cells and fluid from your intestines, he explains.

While your heart constantly moves blood around your body, your lymph nodes don’t have a pump. Ice baths constrict and open vessels manually, which helps stagnant fluids in your lymph nodes move throughout your body. Increased blood flow also floods your cells with nutrients and oxygen to theoretically help your body.
What is contrast therapy?
Contrast water therapy is a cryotherapy alternative that switches between cold and warm water baths. Research suggests it’s as effective as ice baths for temporary pain relief.

“We do a bunch of contrast therapy because people like it,”When you’re in an ice bath and hop into a hot tub your entire body tingles for 30 seconds, so you perceive you’re getting something out of it.”
Can ice baths improve sports performance?
Post-game ice baths won’t make you a better athlete. “If you work out and jump in an ice bath, your performance isn’t going to be better the next day,” says Clayton. “You’ll feel better, but it’s more perceived than anything else.”

That said, ice baths have a positive effect on the central nervous system, which helps you sleep and feel better. This, in turn, may improve your reaction time and explosiveness in future workouts.

One caveat: Ice baths may improve performance if you take one before working out on a hot and humid day.
When should you take an ice bath?
So far, there’s no time period that’s shown to be most effective. However Clayton says the sooner you can hop in the ice after an intense workout or game, the better. “If you work out and then wait an hour, a lot of those healing processes are already happening, so they’ll have a different effect,” he says.

How long do athletes sit in ice baths?
A 2016 meta-analysis of ice bath studies found that athletes experienced the best results after soaking in water temperatures between 10 and 15 °C (50 to 59 °F) for 10 to 15 minutes.

If you’re attempting this at home, be sure to check the tub’s temperature using a thermometer. While you can just ice your legs or arms, it’s best to submerge your entire body, so more vessels contract to flush out greater quantities of metabolic waste.

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