You may assume ice baths are just for those already in peak physical condition – like actors or athletes – but the truth is people of all fitness levels have something to gain (or lose) from them.
By assisting with weight management and aiding recovery, regular cold plunges can be an important tool to optimise health and improve performance, no matter your starting point.
How Cold Plunges Assist Fat Loss
Your body needs to burn calories in order to retain a stable core body temperature in cold environments. A lot of them. One study found that they can increase energy expenditure by as much as 48 percent.
There are two mechanisms that fuel internal heat production: shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis. Non-shivering begins when brown adipose tissue (aka brown fat) is activated by the sympathetic nervous system in response to outside triggers.
As the name suggests, shivering thermogenesis involves the contraction of skeletal muscle – a far more energy-intensive process than non-shivering thermogenesis. Essentially, the colder you get, the harder your body has to work to maintain homeostasis.
Ice baths induce both, along with a cascade of other beneficial biological effects. If you’re interested in the direct fat-burning properties of ice baths, the Soeberg Principle may be for you. Named after metabolic scientist and ice bath proponent Dr Susanna Søberg, it states that you should avoid immediately toweling off, getting dressed, or otherwise warming your body after cold immersion. Forcing your body to rewarm on its own significantly increases brown fat stimulation, and ultimately, calories spent.
Cortisol is one of the most powerful chemicals produced in the body. It’s known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone, and while certainly useful in the right circumstances, can lead to chronic stress when elevated for an extended period.
It may also lead to weight gain by heightening cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods. Keeping your body in a hyper-vigilant state is hungry work, after all.
Fortunately, ice baths have been shown to help manage cortisol levels naturally and safely. As well as producing a distinct sense of happiness and relaxation, they keep cravings at bay and promote rest – another important piece in the weight management puzzle.
Improved Insulin Resistance
Unlike the stress described above, repeated use of ice baths represents a physiological stress that can be adapted to over time. One of these key adaptations comes in the form of improved response to the blood-sugar regulating chemical insulin.
Insulin resistance means your muscles, fat, and liver can’t readily absorb glucose. When this occurs the pancreas responds by producing even more insulin. The result is a whole host of medical concerns, not the least of which being weight gain and diabetes.
Cold plunges have shown promise in preventing insulin resistance through a mechanism related to the aforementioned brown fat thermogenesis. Their effectiveness was demonstrated by a 2016 study that found: “Repeated cold water baths significantly increased insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin and leptin concentrations”.
Reduced Pain and Inflammation
Consistency is key when it comes to fat loss, so the last thing you want in the middle of an exercise regime is to be laid up with an injury or forced to endure motivation-sapping muscle soreness.
Ice baths are used by athletes in almost every sport for this very reason – they enhance recovery, reduce swelling, and mitigate the risk of injury. This is thanks to their ability to promote blood flow and stem inflammation, qualities which have been the subject of vast scientific research.
Where Can I Get a Quality Ice Bath?
If you’re looking to take advantage of the weight management benefits of ice baths, look no further than iCoolsport.
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.