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Why Do Athletes Take Ice Baths or Cold Plunges?

why do athletes take ice baths

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Why do athletes take ice baths? What is the difference between an ice bath and a cold plunge? Are they the same thing? We cover all these questions and more in this post!

why do athletes take ice baths

Why Do Athletes Take An Ice Bath?

Athletes take ice baths because it has been proven to help reduce muscle soreness and helps with various physiological parameters (source). Ice baths have been a common practice in sports medicine for decades now, the practice is just now becoming more popularized because of people like Wim Hof and new fancy tubs hitting the masses.

Athletes swear that ice baths help recovery after intense exercise and the science shows that they are not wrong! People are waking up the benefits of submerging their bodies in cold water to get the mental and physical boost they need to live a happy and healthy life.

With the bigger overall trend of people wanting to get fitter and take health more seriously, many are considering getting their very own cold plunge or ice bath for their homes. The practice is best when you are able to consistently able to get exposure to it, the act of buying a cold plunge for your home just makes it all the more convenient!

How cold should your ice bath be?

Your ice bath should be between 45°F and 55°F. Between this range is perfect for people who are just starting out with adding the practice to their routine or for someone who has been doing this for a while.

Anything cold you do increases the risks of causing harm to the body but that is only if you truly are pushing the boundaries. If you plan on going colder (because it is not that hard to add more ice or turn your plunge device down to the lowest temperature) make sure you have someone around just in case anything goes wrong!

why should I cold plunge

Why Should You Take an Ice Bath?

Regular ice baths and cold plunges are great for the mind and body. Ice baths have been a common practice for training facilities for decades now, the term ‘cold plunging’ is still pretty new but they pretty much are interchangeable here.

The benefits of ice baths and cold plunges have been widely studied to help enhance recovery, reduce inflammation, and improve overall well-being (source).

How Frequently Do Athletes Take Ice Baths?

It is common for athletes to do an ice bath or a cold plunge every day after training sessions. Professional athletes and health enthusiasts put their entire body through an intense workout that will lead to muscle soreness. Ice baths and cold water immersion are great ways to recover and should be done frequently to keep you fresh for your next training session.

Ice Baths vs Cold Plunge

Ice baths and cold plunges are pretty much the same thing but there are some distinct differences that should be noted. First, an ice bath uses ice to cool the water, doesn’t take a genius to realize that. Cold plunges are powered by an electrical unit, much like an a/c unit, called a chiller. Based on the horsepower of the chiller, the unit does a great job at cooling the water quickly and keeping it cold while more people go in and out of the device.

The biggest downside of going with an ice bath is the fact that you have to constantly buy ice to keep the water cold. Most ice baths will be standalone tubs with no way to add flow to the water which is a key component to reaping the benefits of cold water therapy in the first place.

Outside of having to constantly have to buy ice, there is more work associated with having to keep the water cold. If you are servicing a group of people, as one person leaves the ice bath the water temperature changes due to the natural process from the human body. As more people get in and out of the tub you have to make sure the water stays cold enough for the next person, so you would have to refill it with ice.

While this may not be a big deal for most, it could be a minor annoyance for those that have to check the water of their customer or athlete and have to constantly make sure the water is cold enough so they get what they are looking to get out of the practice.

why do athletes take ice baths, benefits of ice baths

Benefits Of Ice Baths For Athletes

There are many benefits that athletes or health enthusiasts can get from taking an ice bath. Let’s look at some of the key ice bath benefits

Ice Bath Benefits: Develops Breathing

The first thing that people experience when they submerge their bodies in cold water is a sudden gasp. The experience can shock you at first and it really forces you to get in tune with your body and breath very quickly.

We always tell people that cold plunge for the first time, and focus on deep breathing. The experience of taking an ice bath is not inherently painful, but by no means is it a comfortable experience. If you go into practice with realistic expectations of what will happen, it is not as hard as you think. Box breathing techniques work great while taking ice baths.

Ice Bath Benefits: Build Mental While Focusing on Recovery

Ice baths are great because you are killing two birds with one stone, since it is an active recovery method.

On one end you are actively working to get your body to recover, which is arguably one of the most important things about being an athlete.

Second, you get to work on your mental game while recovering.

The cold the tub and the more flow the water has the harder and more challenging the cold plunging experience gets. If you are an athlete looking to take your health seriously you should be regularly taking ice baths.

Many professional athletes have their own cold plunging devices right at home but if you are in the camp that does not, maybe you should consider it!

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Ice Baths Benefits: Muscle Recovery

This whole post has been about recovery so it should be no shock to you that ice baths help your muscles recover after the intense training you put it through.

We are under the assumption that you enjoy exercising and want to get back out doing what you love, regular ice baths make that possible.

How Long Should You Stay in an Ice Bath?

You should stay in an ice bath (or cold plunge) for about 3 – 5 minutes depending on a number of factors. First, if you are a complete beginner of the practice you can just go in as long as your body can bear. There is no need to dive into the deep end when you are not prepared to do so. IF you want to you can, it is safe to do so, but truly no need!

Work your way up to longer times!

If you are a seasoned vet around this practice go for a time you know would be pushing your limits. If you see any signs of your body getting troublesome side effects, do not continue to push the envelope. Before cold plunging, you should be aware of the risks that are associated.

Also, if you are pregnant, be sure to check in with a professional before deciding if cold plunging or ice baths are for you.

ice cold water, why do athletes take ice baths

FAQ

Are ice baths good for football?

We played football all our life and will tell you ice baths saved us from so much pain. While the experience of jumping into ice-cold water after practice was always something we tried to avoid because of how uncomfortable it could be, once our coaches really started to force us the benefits would show up throughout the week! Take ice baths and go into the experience knowing that it is not easy to do but it is for the betterment of your body.

Are ice baths good for wrestlers?

Wrestlers should take an ice bath. Ice baths help with muscle recovery, inflammation, pain relief, and improve the circulation of blood vessels throughout the body. There is ongoing research on the topic that states that cold plunges do have a positive effect on people’s bodies and minds. Take the plunge today!

Are ice baths good for martial artists?

Just like for people who wrestle or play football, ice baths, and cold plunges are excellent for those that train martial arts. It is not uncommon to see the highest-level UFC athletes jump into cold water immersion. They do it for a reason, it truly does help with the recovery fro the intense workouts that they put themselves through.

Does This Mean You Should Use Ice Baths?

I mean, it does not hurt to try it out! Cold Plunges and ice baths are pretty easy to replicate at home if you want to buy a couple of bags of ice. There are many wellness centers across the United States that offer some kind of cold water immersion experience, you can google ‘Cold Plunge near me’ and find your closest one!

If you want to take it one step further and go ahead and buy one of your own, be sure to check out the Best Cold Plunges article we have on our site! There you will find in-depth reviews and exclusive discounts to some of the best cold plunge tubs on the market!

Can Ice Baths Help Athletes? 

Yes, ice baths and cold plunges can be extremely beneficial for athletes. Ice baths have been used for many years as a popular recovery method in sports, especially for those that require intense training. The primary goal for ice baths is to reduce inflammation and promote recovery which in turn leads to a faster healing process.

How long do athletes sit in an ice bath?

It is typical for an athlete to sit in an ice bath for 2 – 5 minutes. It is pretty much the same time that most people are recommended to stay in a cold plunge. Athletes have to take extra care since their bodies need a recovery routine to help with muscle recovery and soreness.

When should you use the ice bath?

You should take an ice bath or cold plunge after exercise or first thing in the morning! You should not have any issues taking one in the mid-afternoon too. Try to avoid taking an ice bath at night since the practice does boost adrenaline which could lead to a harder time sleeping.

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