What's the best time to have an ice bath?

What’s the best time to have an ice bath?

With the growing popularity of cold water therapy, an increasingly common query among ice bath beginners is what the best time to have an ice bath is. This post will delve into the potential benefits of cold water therapy during certain parts of the day. We’ll also look at the impact of cold-water exposure before or after exercise.

Everyone may have different schedules, so the most effective time to have an ice bath will be subjective to what you have going on that particular day and your goals. Read on to understand the considerations to effectively plan the best time to have an ice bath in your day.

What is an ice bath?

An ice bath is a practice that involves submerging a substantial part of the human body in a bath or plunge-type structure in cold or icy water for a specific duration. It is also known as cold water therapy.

For most people to maximise the benefits of an ice bath, you should aim for 11 minutes a week total, this can be split between multiple sessions. By hitting 11 minutes a week you will increase your stores of brown fat which boosts core body metabolism.

Generally for cold water therapy the ideal temperature is between 10-15°(around 50-60 Fahrenheit). The common recommendation duration for an ice bath is to never exceed the number of degrees in minutes. For example, don’t exceed 10 minutes in a 10°C ice bath.

What’s the best time to have an ice bath?

The best time to have an ice bath will depend on your schedule and your goals. Some important considerations include:

  • Increased energy
  • Chronic inflammation and pains
  • Prioritisation of muscle recovery, or hypertrophy

Increased energy

A huge benefit of cold water therapy is the big boost of sustained energy and dopamine it provides. For this reason, most people like to kick off their day with an ice bath to power through their mornings and afternoons with the hours of increased energy and heightened mood that an ice bath gives. Many people turn to caffeine for energy in the morning, but arguably cold water is a healthier way to achieve this.

Another vital benefit of cold water therapy is stress resilience, starting the day with extremely cold water and teaching the body to relax and deal with that stress is huge for mental fortitude. This allows us to start the day strong and can oftentimes allow us to view the usual stressful events throughout the day as something that can be easily overcome. For example, important meetings or tight deadlines.

Of course in the context of the above points, for the usual 9-5 job, a morning ice bath makes sense. But if you are someone who works night shifts and requires energy throughout the late evening and early mornings, it could be more beneficial for you to take an ice bath in the evening.

Chronic inflammation and pain

Cold water therapy can be an effective way to treat chronic pains and inflammation in the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Most people may experience greater levels of stiffness and joint pain early in the morning, others may experience this at a different time. I would suggest an ice bath during the period of most chronic pain if you are someone who suffers. Ice baths will help promote greater blood flow circulation, additionally, the increased dopamine can have a positive impact on pain tolerance.

Muscle recovery or hypertrophy

If you are someone who uses cold water therapy and works out regularly, and you’re concerned with muscle recovery and hypertrophy then pay close attention.

There have been some studies that suggest cold exposure before exercise can increase luteinizing hormone levels suggesting greater testosterone levels over time. Cold exposure immediately after exercise was also shown to not be optimum for testosterone levels.

If your main goal during your workout is hypertrophy or strength, then you should wait at least four hours after your workout for cold exposure. This is because the anti-inflammatory benefits of cold exposure can actually limit hypertrophy, reducing potential muscle and strength gains.

For those that want to prioritise muscle recovery over hypertrophy then it may make sense to practice cold exposure immediately after exercise to reduce inflammation and restore muscles back to optimum performance quicker. This approach may be useful for people such as high-performing athletes who need to train every day.

YouTube Short on ice bath before or after workout





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