It’s a common belief that the best time for an ice bath is right after training or competing. While this may be true for a number of sports, it isn’t always the case. Here’s a brief explanation of ice bath timing based on athletic goals.
Post-Exercise Ice Baths
Thanks to their ability to stem inflammation, ice baths are particularly potent at easing muscle soreness. This is useful in sports that are highly ‘fixture congested’ (such as soccer or baseball), or for athletes following a demanding training schedule.
They prevent the development of stiffness and fatigue that may otherwise hinder the user from performing at their peak. A 2020 study of national-level volleyball players, for example, found that participants who undertook cold immersion during a rigorous training camp were better able to retain their jump height both in the short term – over the course of two days – and the long term – over the course of three weeks.
The benefits of ice baths aren’t just physical, either. Whether they’ve just clutched a nail-biting victory from the jaws of defeat, or they’re lamenting an unfortunate loss, cold immersion helps athletes maintain a positive mental state. A 2014 review even went so far as to say they have an antidepressant effect, one likely triggered by the cascade of biological processes that follow stimulation of the vagus nerve. For competitors that are subject to high-stress, high-pressure environments, this can be the key to a long, successful career.
In summary; athletes whose goal is to compete consistently and control their mindset would do well to incorporate a post-exercise ice bath into their routine. This includes cyclists, soccer players, baseballers, drivers, basketballers, and runners.
Pre-Exercise Ice Baths
‘Pre-cooling’ is a term endurance athletes are likely already familiar with. It involves cooling the body as much as possible before an event in order to delay the inevitable core temperature rise that comes with exertion. It’s a wise idea, as hitting this ‘critical temperature threshold’ saps stamina and significantly impacts performance. Ice baths have been recognised as the most effective method of pre-cooling, capable of boosting performance by as much as 16%.
Taking ice baths before exercise may also be ideal for those looking to build muscle. Unfortunately, the same process that sees cold immersion stem inflammation also hinders muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, in order to reap the benefits of cold plunges without sacrificing your gains, it’s recommended that you take a dip before your workout rather than after. This comes with the added benefit of elevating your mood, focus, and energy levels while you train. It certainly works for Hollywood superstar Chris Hemsworth, who swears by the practice.
Overall, pre-exercise ice baths are recommended for those looking to build muscle, increase alertness, or pre-cool before a lengthy event. This encompasses all manner of athletes such as runners, cyclists, triathletes, bodybuilders, footballers, strongmen, powerlifters, martial artists, drivers, rugby players, gymnasts, and more.
Should I Take my Ice Bath in the Morning, or at Night?
Having taken into account the benefits for your particular sport or goals, the question then remains: what time of day should you take your ice bath?
If your situation allows, it’s preferable to do so in the morning. Your body temperature will actually rise following cold immersion, which aligns with the natural biological heating that occurs upon waking. If ice baths are taken too late, you may find this effect disturbs your sleep, leading to less-than-optimal athletic performance. Having said that, afternoon or early evening plunges usually pose no issue.
Where Can I Buy a Quality Ice Bath?
The athletic applications listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, just about every athlete has something to gain by incorporating ice baths into their routine.
iCoolsport offers a range of ice baths for varying needs. iCool invented modern ice baths and we are the largest global supplier. From the single-person IceOne bath to solutions big enough for teams, we cover all bases.
Our iCool Compact Chill chiller is suitable for baths of up to 500L, and can maintain a constant water temperature of as little as five degrees. With easy to use one touch start and wifi remote controls, it takes the hassle out of regular ice baths, and allows you to increase your cold tolerance gradually and consistently.