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For a long time, ice baths have been used by athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and adventurers alike for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Everyone raves about the positive effects these freezing plunges can have on your health, but what is the actual science behind ice baths, and are they something that you should try to work into your health routine?
The Theory Behind Ice Baths…
In theory, by reducing the temperature of your body, the ice bath will als reduce your blood flow. This in turn decreases swelling and inflammation in the tissues of your muscles. This is not the only response your body has however. Taking the “polar plunge” triggers a biological reaction in your body that is usually reserved for our survival. Basically, taking an ice bath is one way to trigger your fight or flight response.
There is a neurotransmitter and hormone called Norepinephrine (or noradrenaline) that is released when our body is exposed to the extreme cold. It is said to be able to improve your focus, attention span, alertness, and memory recall. People who regularly practice cold water immersion say that it can even teach your body to warm itself without shivering.
Believed Benefits Of Ice Baths…
Ice Baths Relieve Inflammation.
This comes from the constriction of your blood vessels. Ice baths are also said to help flush lactic acid out of your muscles.
Ice Baths Relax Your Nervous System.
Cold water immersion can strengthen your Vagus nerve. This nerve is responsible for the regulation of some pretty important internal organ functions such as digestion, heart rate, respiratory rate, and reflex actions. This means that by strengthening the Vagus nerve, you can improve digestion, cognition, mood, and anxiety.
Ice Baths Restore Your Core Temperature.
When overheating, an ice bath is one of the most efficient ways to help cool down your body temperature.
Ice Baths Help You Lose Weight.
When your body cools down, it forces your body to burn more calories in an attempt to stay warm. Some studies have even shown that the cold can trigger the production of the healthiest fat cells called brown fat instead of white fat.
Ice Baths Can Boost Your Immune System.
The science behind this theory is still new, however it has been seen that people who train under extremely cold conditions can have improved immune systems compared to people who do not.
So, What Is The Science Behind Ice Baths?
Honestly, there isn’t a lot of solid evidence in scientific studies of ice baths. There have been many studies however, many times the results are inconclusive. This is because when it comes to an ice bath, there is no placebo. You can’t fake an ice bath. Some studies claim that they provide all of the benefits above and more, while others claim that simply doing an active recovery session is just as beneficial. At the end of the day, many people say that you should just try it out and see how it works for you!
How To Make An Ice Bath…
Tips For Taking An Ice Bath…
How cold should the water be?
No colder than 54-59 degrees F (12-15 C) If you’re a beginner, try with a warmer temperature to start.
How long should you spend in an ice bath?
If it is your first time, start off with 5 minutes. The maximum time spent in the ice bath should be no longer than 15 min.
When should you take an ice bath?
After a workout or competition.
How far should you go in?
Try to submerge yourself fully. It’s going to feel like a huge shock, but this is the best way to allow your body to benefit as much as possible and learn those stress control techniques.
Whether you’re ready to take the plunge or only dip a toe, we hope this helped you understand a little bit more about ice baths and how they can help you further your fitness journey and recovery. As always remember to drink plenty of water, fuel your body, and keep working hard towards your goals.