What is Cold Therapy?
Cold therapy is a way to purposely expose your body to an extreme temperature fluctuation (cold) that provides a short term stressor to the body. This will improve the body’s ability to handle stress over time. This phenomenon is known as hormesis. Hormesis is a low-dose stimulatory effect caused by exposure to a stressful agent that can be toxic at higher, prolonged doses.
What is Cold Thermogenesis?
Cold thermogenesis is a health practice gaining significant traction due to its benefits of promoting overall wellbeing through strategic exposure to cold temperatures. Cold thermogenesis is practiced by exposing the body or parts of the body to cold temperatures; typically water or air. During cold thermogenesis, the body attempts to maintain a balanced internal temperature, which is also known as homeostasis. Adopting cold therapy methods can be a highly effective strategy for enhancing metabolism and fat burning.
Brown Fat Activation: Brown vs White Fat
White body fat tissue is the type people are most familiar with (mostly because they are typically trying to get rid of it). This type of fat tissue insulates the organs; but too much of it can be really unhealthy. Brown fat, on the other hand, stores energy in smaller surfaces and can create heat without all of the shivering. This means that brown fat (vs white fat) can burn calories and promote fat loss. Cold thermogenesis stimulates brown fat to help your body become more efficient at burning fat.
Faster Metabolism and Lower Blood Sugar
Another way cold exposure helps to burn unwanted body fat through its ability to burn through blood glucose using it as fuel to assist in keeping the body warm. So, if you ate an excess of carbohydrate one day, jumping in a cold lake won’t one hundred percent get rid of the risk of potential storage of carbohydrates as fat, but could help to mitigate the damage.
Cold Therapy and Immune Health
Other benefits of exposure to the cold include better immune health and brain function. Cold exposure also boosts your immune system by increasing the level of cells in the immune system which help fight off disease and infection. Basically, you’re building your body to become more resilient to those unknown pathogens that enter the body.
Post Workout Cold Therapy: When to Ice Bath
Take ice baths whenever it is convenient for you and whatever time of day keeps you consistent. You don’t have to do them every day, but 1-3x per week on a recovery day from training is a solid schedule.
You want to make sure you don’t go overboard with cold exposure if you decide to do it right after your workout. When training, your body is exposed to inflammation which is a mild stressor. Due to this, your body will adapt and get stronger over time. A 5 minute cold shower can actually help you recover if done right after your workout, but a 20 minute ice bath is going to blunt much of that inflammatory response you want right after training. The best time to do a longer cold soak or ice bath is away from your workouts.
Can I do cold therapy at home?
Yes absolutely! Start with a cold shower. There are great benefits of cold showers as well. Turn your shower to the coldest setting and start with 30 seconds at the end of your shower. Work your way up to 3-5 minutes straight of a cold shower and then you can move on to ice baths. We recommend getting your ice bath temperature to 50-59 degrees.
Some other great tools include shiver walks (walking in minimal clothing in the winter – safely of course), keeping your home cool, and ice baths.
Do ice baths really work?
Definitely! Ice baths have been shown to improve recovery, mental clarity, and immune system strength.
Will ice bath help sore muscles?
Yes, ice baths speed up recovery including sore muscles.
How Long to Ice Bath
Start with 2 minutes and work your way up to 5. You can take an ice bath for up to 10 minutes, but we don’t recommend going past that as you can put your body at risk for hypothermia if you stay in too long. Remember, ice baths are a stressor on the body. Just like exercise and overtraining, that beneficial short term stress can start to backfire if you do too much for what your body can handle.
Can ice bath be dangerous?
Yes. Just like with any stress on the body you can over do it. Be very careful when taking ice baths. If you stay in too long, you are putting yourself at risk for hypothermia. Make sure to start with 1-2 minutes of an ice bath and work your way up to 5 minutes. We like to cap it here, but you can probably push it to 10 minutes MAX. Please consult your physician before you start incorporating ice baths into your routine.
The Ice Barrel – our #1 way to take an ice bath!
Make your ice bath set up optimal! We love the Ice Barrel for our ice baths. You don’t have to fill and drain your tub every single time you want to do an ice bath. You simply fill the Ice Barrel with water and fill with ice to desired temperature and get in to soak. You only have to switch the water and clean the barrell every 4-8 weeks so there is very little maintenance! It also stands upright so you’re not awkwardly slouching in the tub and it allows you to soak every part of your body at once – some bathtubs are small and won’t let you do this! The Ice Barrel conveniently comes with a step stool to get in and out of it safely as well. Check out the ice barrel here.