Ice Bath Alleviates Sore Muscles: Myth or Fact?

a woman taking ice bath to cure sore muscles

Athletes, fitness buffs, and weekend warriors are all known for diving into an ice bath after a workout.

The technique of taking a 10 to 15-minute plunge in extremely cold water (cold water therapy) (50-59°F) after an intensive exercise session or competition, also known as cold-water immersion (CWI) or cryotherapy, is thought to help alleviate muscle stiffness and soreness.

Cold water treatment causes the body's stem cells to produce dark fat cells rather than white fat cells. Brown fat cells are metabolically active and may burn or oxidise white fat tissues in the body, thus you want this to happen. Your body is also pushed to burn through more of its stored energy (white fat cells), resulting in weight loss.

You might be thinking How many calories can you lose in an ice bath? Here is the answer you can burn 50 grams to 300 kilocalories per day through ice bath therapy.

Ice bath benefits & studies

The use of ice baths to alleviate tight muscles has been around for decades. However, research published in 2017 may cast doubt on that assumption.

According to new research, past beliefs regarding the advantages of ice baths for athletes are incorrect, and there is no benefit to tired muscles.

While the research claims that an active recovery — such as 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise on a stationary bike — is equally as effective as CWI in terms of recovery, experts in the field still recommend ice baths.

Limitations of the research

The sample size and age of this research are key considerations. The participants in the research were nine young males between the ages of 19 and 24, who did weight training two to three times per week. To disprove the advantages of ice baths, further research and bigger trials are required.

Ice bath benefits for health

If you're thinking about taking an ice bath, you may be wondering what the advantages could be and if it's worth it to expose your body to the severe cold. The good news is that taking an ice bath may have some health advantages, particularly for persons who exercise or compete in sports.

1. Relieves hurting and tight muscles

The most significant advantage of ice baths is that they make the body feel wonderful. Cold immersion may be a respite to tired, burning muscles after an intensive exercise.

2. It is beneficial to your central nervous system

An ice bath may improve your central nervous system by promoting sleep and, as a result, helping you feel better by reducing weariness. He also claims that it will aid in improving response speed and explosiveness in future sessions.

3. It suppresses the inflammatory response

Lowering the local temperature after exercise helps reduce the inflammatory response, reducing inflammation and allowing you to recover quicker.

4. Reduces the impact of heat and humidity on the body

The effects of heat and humidity may be reduced by taking an ice bath. In settings where there is an increase in warmth or humidity, an ice bath before a lengthy race may drop core body temperature by a few degrees, which can contribute to greater performance.

5. It strengthens your vagus nerve

According to trained strength and conditioning expert CSCS, CPT, one of the key advantages of an ice bath is the ability to train your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is related to the parasympathetic nervous system, and exercising it may help you deal with stressful events more effectively.

Is it a myth or a fact? Do Ice Baths Help You Lose Weight?

While weight reduction is mostly dependent on a change in lifestyle, exercise, and improved eating habits, the way you bathe has been scientifically demonstrated to have an effect.

Ice bath side effects 

  • When you submerge your body in the chilly water, the most visible side effect of an ice bath is feeling very cold. However, there are several additional hazards to consider in addition to this cosmetic side effect.
  • The greatest danger of an ice bath is for patients who already have a heart condition or high blood pressure.
  • A drop in core temperature and immersion in ice constricts blood vessels, slowing blood flow throughout the body. This may be problematic if your blood flow is reduced, putting you at risk for cardiac arrest or stroke.
  • Hypothermia is another possibility, particularly if you stay in the ice bath for too long.
  • Ice baths should be avoided by people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes since they are both linked to a lower capacity to regulate core temperature during severe temperature fluctuations

How to Take an Ice Bath and How long should you ice bath?

If you're ready to take the leap, there are a few things to consider before donning an ice suit.

  • Ice bath temperature - An ice bath should be between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius (50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Time spent in an ice bath - Indulging in an ice bath for an extended period of time might have negative implications. As a result, you should limit your time to a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Exposure to the body - To get the optimum impact of blood vessel constriction. However, you may wish to start by exposing your feet and lower legs. You may move closer to your chest as you get more comfortable.
  • Use at home - Use a thermometer to assist you to attain the correct temperature while balancing the ice to water ratio at home if you wish to take an ice bath. If the temperature rises over 15°C (59°F), gently add ice. If the temperature is too low, gradually add warm water until the appropriate temperature is reached.
  • Bathing schedule - The sooner you get into an ice bath after a workout or competition, the better.
  • Cryotherapy - Some individuals prefer full-body cryotherapy chambers, which are essentially cold treatments in a controlled environment. These sessions are not cheap, costing anything between $45 and $100 per hour.
  • Use for a limited time - There isn't a lot of information on how frequently you should take an ice bath. However, other specialists believe that acute episodes of CWI to aid recovery are acceptable, but that chronic usage of CWI should be avoided.

Take Away

If you opt to utilise ice baths as a method of recuperation after an athletic event or a strenuous training session, be sure to adhere to the specified recommendations, particularly in terms of duration and temperature.