Benefits of Ice Bath Tubs & Cold Plunges for Athletes

Home » Blog » Benefits of Ice Bath Tubs & Cold Plunges for Athletes

Disclaimer: Our content doesn't constitute medical or fitness advice. We may be earning money from companies & products we review. Learn more

Our Top 3 Ice Bath Tubs in 2023

Best Overall Tub in 2023:Ice Barrel
Best Budget Tub:Ice Barrel
Best for Dual Hot Tub Use:The Cold Plunge

Studies have shown that cold water immersion reduces inflammation in skeletal muscle after resistance exercise.  

Many celebrities, including actors, athletes, and musicians, are using cold plunging as a way to improve their physical and mental well-being. Some examples include:

  • Anthony Rizzo, a professional baseball player who uses cold plunging as a way to recover from games and workouts.
  • Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker and self-help author, who has discussed the benefits of cold plunging for improving energy levels and reducing stress.
  • Joe Rogan, a podcast host and comedian, who has talked about the benefits of cold plunging on his show.
  • Ben Affleck, actor and director, who has been photographed taking a cold plunge in the ocean.
  • Wim Hof, also known as “The Iceman,” is a Dutch extreme athlete and proponent of cold therapy, he is known for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures.
  • Mark Wahlberg, actor and producer, who has been known to use a cold plunge as part of his intense workout routine.
  • Ryan Reynolds, actor and producer, who has been known to use a cold plunge as part of his fitness routine and recovery.
  • Tom Brady, professional football player, who has been known to use cold plunging as part of his recovery and wellness routine.
  • Justin Bieber, singer and songwriter, who has been known to use a cold plunge to help with muscle recovery and relaxation.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow, actress and wellness entrepreneur, who has been known to use cold plunging as part of her wellness routine.

It’s important to note that cold plunging can be beneficial for overall health and well-being, however, it’s not for everyone and should be approached with caution, especially for people with certain health conditions. The American Heart Association recently put out an article about cold plunging which is worth reading. It is always best to consult with a medical professional before trying any new health or fitness regimen.

Benefits of Cold Plunging

When done correctly, and after getting clearance from your healthcare practitioner, using a cold plunge tub regularly may offer you many health benefits, including:

  1. Reducing inflammation and muscle soreness: Cold water immersion can help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness caused by exercise or other physical activity.
  2. Improving recovery time: Cold water immersion can help speed up recovery time after a workout or other physical activity by reducing muscle soreness and inflammation.
  3. Improving circulation: Cold water immersion can improve circulation by constricting blood vessels and then dilating them, which can help increase blood flow to the muscles.
  4. Boosting immunity: Cold water immersion can help boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells.
  5. Improving mental clarity: Cold water immersion can improve mental clarity by increasing the production of endorphins, which are chemicals that help improve mood and reduce stress.
  6. Promoting weight loss: Cold water immersion can promote weight loss by increasing metabolism, burning calories and fat.
  7. Improving skin: Cold water immersion can improve the skin by tightening pores, improving tone and reducing wrinkles.
  8. Improving cardiovascular health: Cold water immersion can improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart and blood vessels.
  9. Improving respiratory health: Cold water immersion can improve respiratory health by strengthening the lungs and reducing asthma symptoms.
  10. Improving athletic performance: Cold water immersion can improve athletic performance by increasing endurance, power and speed.

As always, cold plunging is no magic pill! It is important to note that cold plunging should be done in a controlled environment and under the guidance of a medical professional, as it can be dangerous if done improperly.

Best Time of the Day & Frequency for Cold Plunging

The frequency and duration of cold plunging will depend on each individual’s goals and current physical condition. It is best to start with shorter duration and gradually increase the time as your body adapts.

For general health benefits, it is recommended to start with 1-2 minutes and gradually increase the time up to 5-10 minutes. Cold plunging can be done daily or several times a week.

For athletic performance, athletes may opt for more frequent and longer sessions, but again, it is best to start with a shorter duration and gradually increase the time.

It is also important to note that cold plunging should be done after a warm-up or a workout, as it can help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. However, those interested in gaining mass (hypertrophy) might jeopardize their gains if they cold plunge AFTER a workout, according to Dr Huberman. In fact, he recommends using an ice bath tub BEFORE a workout for those that are trying to bulk up.

It is always important to consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise or therapy regimen, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

Can I experience the same benefits with a cold shower?

Somewhat, but not completely. Your shower’s cold tap water doesn’t go nearly as cold as ice! You certainly can experience SOME benefits from taking cold showers, but not all.

Although cold plunging and cold showers both involve immersing the body in cold water, there are some key differences between the two:

  1. Temperature: Cold plunging typically involves immersing the body in water that is much colder than a cold shower, often around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold showers, on the other hand, are typically around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Duration: Cold plunging sessions are usually shorter than cold shower sessions, typically lasting 1-5 minutes as opposed to several minutes for a shower.
  3. Immersion: Cold plunging typically involves fully immersing the body in water, while cold showers involve standing under a stream of water.
  4. Recovery: Cold plunging is more commonly used as a recovery method after exercise or physical activity, while cold showers are more often used for general hygiene and for the benefits it provides.
  5. Specific benefits: Cold plunging is more effective in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness, improving recovery time, and promoting weight loss. Cold showers are better for improving circulation and boosting immunity.

Are there any downsides to cold plunges?

While cold showers and cold plunges can offer some amazing health benefits for some people, they may not be suitable for everyone and there can be potential drawbacks or negatives associated with them. Here are some considerations:

  1. Discomfort and Shock: Cold showers can be uncomfortable, especially if you are not accustomed to cold water. The shock of cold water can lead to an initial discomfort that some individuals find unpleasant.
  2. Hypothermia Risk: Prolonged exposure to very cold water, such as in extremely cold showers or ice baths, can increase the risk of hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by a dangerously low body temperature.
  3. Constriction of Blood Vessels: Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict (vasoconstriction) in an attempt to conserve body heat. While this can be a natural response, it may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as cardiovascular issues.
  4. Skin and Hair: Cold water can be harsh on the skin and hair. It may lead to dryness, flakiness, and reduced moisture retention. Some people may also experience skin redness or irritation from cold exposure.
  5. Respiratory Response: Inhaling cold air or exposure to cold water on the chest can lead to a sudden gasping reflex, which may not be safe for individuals with respiratory conditions or those who are not prepared for it.
  6. Increased Heart Rate: Cold exposure can cause an initial increase in heart rate and blood pressure as the body attempts to maintain core temperature. This can be a concern for individuals with heart conditions.
  7. Muscle Tension: Cold water can cause muscle tension and stiffness, which may not be ideal for individuals who are recovering from intense physical activity or who have muscle-related issues.
  8. Lack of Enjoyment: Some people simply do not enjoy cold showers and find them unpleasant. This can result in reduced compliance with a cold shower routine.

It’s important to note that the effects of cold showers can vary from person to person. While some individuals may benefit from the invigorating effects of cold water exposure, others may find it uncomfortable or even detrimental to their health. If you have any underlying medical conditions or concerns, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating cold showers into your routine. Additionally, starting with shorter exposures to cold water and gradually increasing the duration and intensity can help your body adapt to the experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Cold Plunging

1. Can cold plunging help with weight loss? Cold plunging can stimulate brown fat activation, which burns calories to generate heat. While it can contribute to a calorie-burning process, it’s not a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise when it comes to weight loss.

2. What is the Wim Hof Method, and how does it relate to cold plunging? The Wim Hof Method is a technique that combines specific breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation. It’s named after Wim Hof, also known as “The Iceman.” Cold plunging is a key component of this method, believed to enhance mental and physical resilience.

3. Can cold plunging improve mental health? Cold plunging has been associated with increased production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Regular cold exposure might contribute to improved mood, stress reduction, and even potential relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety for some individuals.

4. What’s the concept of hormesis, and how does it relate to cold exposure? Hormesis is the idea that mild stressors, like exposure to cold, can actually lead to positive adaptations in the body. Cold exposure triggers hormetic responses that can improve various physiological functions over time.

5. How do advanced practitioners extend their cold exposure times? Experienced cold plungers gradually increase their exposure times by challenging themselves incrementally. This might involve starting with longer cold showers or spending more time in an ice bath in a controlled manner.

6. Are there specific breathing techniques to use during cold exposure? Deep and controlled breathing can help manage the shock of cold exposure. Techniques like the Wim Hof breathing method or simple deep diaphragmatic breathing can be effective in reducing discomfort.

7. Can cold plunging enhance athletic performance? Cold plunging might temporarily enhance alertness and circulation, which could benefit athletes before workouts. Post-exercise cold exposure can aid in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness, potentially improving recovery.

8. Is there an optimal time of day for cold plunging? The best time for cold plunging can vary based on individual preferences. Some people prefer the invigorating effects in the morning, while others find it helpful for relaxation before bed. Experiment to see what works best for you.

9. Can cold plunging improve immune function? Cold exposure has been linked to short-term immune system enhancement, but its long-term effects on immune function are still being studied. It’s important to maintain a balanced lifestyle to support overall immune health.

10. Can I practice cold plunging if I have certain medical conditions? Individuals with cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, or other medical conditions should consult a healthcare professional before attempting cold plunging. Cold exposure can stress the body, potentially exacerbating certain conditions.

11. Are there any mental techniques to overcome the discomfort of cold exposure? Mindfulness meditation and mental imagery can be useful tools to manage the discomfort of cold exposure. Focusing on positive sensations or visualizing warmth can help shift your perspective.

12. What’s the relationship between cold exposure and sleep quality? Some people report improved sleep quality after practicing cold plunging, possibly due to the relaxation and stress-reducing effects of cold exposure. However, individual responses can vary.

As you progress in your cold plunging journey, it’s important to continue learning and adapting your practice based on your experiences and goals. Always prioritize safety and consult professionals when needed, especially if you’re dealing with any health concerns.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *