You may have seen or heard about athletes taking a post-workout or post-game dip into an ice bath. But, what does an ice bath do, exactly? And does it really bring any benefit to your fitness and workout routine? Let’s take a closer look at some benefits, studies, and other things to consider if you’re thinking about bringing an ice bath into your fitness or training regimen.
What is an ice bath?
Also known as cryotherapy or cold water immersion, ice baths require you to sit submerged to your chest in chilly water (around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius) for about 10-15 minutes. These cold baths that are literally breath-taking have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve recovery, and helps enhance your mental resilience.
Ice baths and Inflammation
Studies have shown that ice baths most certainly reduce inflammation which leads to less stiff muscles and reduced soreness. However, for an athlete or someone looking to gain muscles, this anti-inflammatory reaction could hinder muscle growth. Immersing yourself in cold water reduces blood flow, which could slow down muscle protein synthesis – this is when muscle rebuilds itself after strain (like an intense workout) or injury. “Damage” created after a workout signals your body to build growth in that area – by reducing or removing that damage/inflammatory signal, there is no stimulation for growth.
How can ice baths improve sports and fitness performance?
Taking an ice bath every day won’t make you a better athlete or stronger weight-lifter, but they do have some short-term benefits.
Ice baths can have a relaxing effect on your central nervous system providing better sleep, which can lead to increased performance.
Ice baths may improve performance if taken before working out on a hot or humid day, dropping your core body temperature a couple of degrees.
Participating in cold water immersion after an intense workout may provide temporary pain relief of sore muscles.
Ice baths can be useful for quick recovery between events if participating in a competition.
Are ice baths for you?
Unless you suffer from cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, you’re welcome to try and incorporate ice baths to see if they work with your personal routine and goals. Many athletes swear by the practice, claiming ice baths help them feel better in general. Give one a try and see if it works for you – just remember, if you’re looking for muscle gain, they probably aren’t the best idea. Always consult your doctor prior to starting.