An ice bath or cold-water immersion is very popular with sports people as it helps to speed up recovery. You probably have seen footy players jumping in a cold-water bath after a game and wonder why the hell would you do that for? The answer is simple: speed up recovery after a hard game.
This type of recovery isn’t new amongst athletes, but it has become more popular with people and gym goers. The practice of jumping in ice cold water seems like a crazy idea but once you know the benefits you might change your mind.
How does an ice bath work?
Cold water immersion or ice bath is a form of cryotherapy. This type of therapy puts your body into cold water for a period of 10 to 20 minutes. The water is chilled between 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.
When you first start this type of therapy, it’s best to commence with a short period to get your body used to it, and then eventually increase the time. It will feel uncomfortable and painful to start with but stick with it to build up your tolerance and see the benefits.
How can ice baths help you?
After exercising your body will retain a lot of waste product (lactic acid), which makes you sore. This “soreness” is known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). No one likes DOMS. It makes your body sore and fatigued, which can prevent you from going back to the gym for a few days. Speeding up the recovery process after a session can help you to maximise performance as well as reduce fatigue.
When you immerse yourself in ice-cold water, your blood vessels tighten, which will then send blood to your core and heart to keep you warm. Once you get out, your vessels dilate, and the process of contraction and dilation will help your body to flush out toxins.
The benefits of ice baths:
- Promotes healing of muscles and joints.
- Reduces inflammation after physical exercise by flushing lactic acid.
- Increases metabolism as your body responds to a temperature change.
- Speeds up recovery after strenuous exercise as well as injuries.
- May help to burn fat as your body will need to burn more energy to keep you warm.
The downside of cryotherapy
We know that to build muscle your body needs to repair the muscle damage done by exercising. If you are trying to build muscle, jumping in cold water may reduce your chances of “growing”.
This happens because your body needs some inflammation to help repair muscles. This reduction in body temperature stops your body from repairing, meaning fewer gains.
Alternatives to cold baths
If you are not keen on taking ice baths, there are other alternatives to it:
- Light stretching
- Foam rolling
- Dynamic range of motion exercises such as yoga
Immersing yourself in ice-cold water might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of recovery. This type of therapy gives you many benefits to your body and mind. From a speedy recovery after strenuous exercise to a better nights sleep, ice baths are also very effective to get rid of toxins. Try it out and bounce back faster so you can get back to the gym in no time.