Discover the 6 benefits of ice bath and side effects.
Some would never dare to try an ice bath, but some consider ice baths to be a very important part of recovery after exercise.
More and more high-level sports facilities already have specific areas for this practice. So should you incorporate this technique into your exercise routine?
In this article, we will see the benefits of ice baths, for which people it is most suitable, some tips to keep in mind, and its possible side effects.
After exercising, the body pumps out oxygen and detoxifies itself. Specifically, it removes compounds such as lactic acid, which cause fatigue and pain.
Lactic acid is created after the breakdown of glucose in the body, and the more intense the exercise, the more lactic acid is created.
An ice bath causes blood vessels to constrict, helping the body drain lactic acid. They also reduce swelling. When you get out of the ice water, the blood vessels widen again and let a rush of “fresh” blood through. This blood contains higher levels of oxygen, which can accelerate the recovery of worked muscles.
Cooling down muscles after exercise can reduce the muscle inflammatory response by causing vasoconstriction, thus limiting the volume of blood flow to the muscles.
Ultimately, this effect can blunt the effects of DOMS, meaning you’re less likely to experience significant muscle soreness and stiffness post-workout.
Taking an ice bath before a race in hot and humid conditions can help boost performance.
The human body does not perform at its best when it is too hot or too cold, and this technique helps to lower the body temperature before exercise, thus helping with homeostasis and regulation of body temperature during the race, also helping to improve the performance afterward.
The cold of an ice bath can acutely relieve soreness and pain simply by “making the body feel good” by releasing endorphins. This is not a long-term tactic, but it can be of great help if you want acute relief from muscle pain.
The increased metabolism of ice baths is associated with the increased metabolic energy that must be expended to raise and maintain body temperature, and this effect can last long after the bath itself.
Ice baths help lower body temperature and facilitate the release of melatonin, two factors that contribute to quality sleep. This method can be especially effective during the hotter months to cool down before bed.
Experts suggest that spending about 10 minutes in a tub of cold water should be enough, with about 15 minutes being the limit.
Do not be more than 15 minutes, because the blood vessels shouldn’t be tense for so long. For the ice bath to be effective, it should be taken about 20 minutes after training.
People who engage in intense workouts regularly can benefit from an ice bath. If you feel fatigued or have muscle weakness, taking an ice bath after you exercise might help.
Athletes who do intense training before a competition or match often find that ice baths can help prevent loss of strength and power before the event.
If you are a casual athlete or train at a low intensity, it is unlikely that you will feel the effects of an ice bath.
While an ice bath helps the recovery process in terms of detoxification and oxygenation of the muscles, it does not do the same thing as a protein shake.
Protein shakes provide protein to muscles to help gain muscle mass and speed up the repair of micro-tears in muscle tissue. Of course, both things complement each other.
If you think ice baths could help you achieve your goals, but you’re not sure you can handle the cold, you can always increase the intensity progressively.
For starters, you can try taking a cold shower or massaging your muscles with ice for 10-20 minutes after exercise.
When you’re ready to try a proper ice bath, fill a bathtub halfway with cold water. Next, empty about 2-3 large grocery store ice bags.
Don’t submerge your whole body on the first try. You can try submerging your legs or try sitting in the bathtub with water up to your waist. You can try it after an intense leg workout to get the most out of its benefits.
After you have tried several times, gradually submerge your body in the tub until you can stand the water up to your neck. Do not submerge your head at any time.
For maximum benefit, the ice bath should be taken within 20 minutes of exercise. The optimal duration of the bath is 10 minutes, and the time limit underwater is 15 minutes before it begins to be unsafe for health.
Wearing a wetsuit would be redundant because it would keep you insulated from the cold and keep you warm. The skin must be fully exposed to the ice water to take full advantage of the benefits of the ice bath.
The optimum temperature for an ice bath is around 10 degrees Celsius, although some sources cite a range of 2 to 16 degrees Celsius as also effective.
Overexposure to ice baths can cause adverse effects such as hypothermia and frostbite, so there is a recommended time limit for this methodology.
If you have an underlying medical condition, you should consult your doctor before trying things like ice baths.
Some studies suggest that an ice bath can increase blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems in hypertensive people.
However, some studies also suggest that only a modest acute rise in diastolic blood pressure occurs, so the risk should be minimal.
There are times when poor blood circulation is associated with diabetes, so ice baths may not be a very good idea, as they can dangerously limit blood circulation to the extremities. If you suffer from diabetes you should consult your doctor before trying ice baths.
Ice baths can be an effective recovery method, but should not be used to compensate for lack of sleep, diet, or training. They are simply one more tool in our toolbox to improve exercise practice.
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