Nothing has captured the wellness zeitgeist like cold plunge tubs and saunas. From legendary athletes like Michael Phelps to your yoga instructor, athletes and biohackers are going to extreme temperatures to improve performance and health.
But while the two seem like separate therapies, the idea of cold and hot have been combined for millenia. Known as contrast water therapy, this technique involves alternating between hot and cold water in order to promote healing, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation.
One essential component of contrast bath therapy is the use of a cold tub. While you could fill a tub with ice, a cold tub like Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tubs by Master Spas is ready when you are. The powerful chiller keeps the water at a therapeutic range, while a water care system ensures clean, clear water.
Whether you're an athlete seeking recovery or someone simply wanting to improve their well-being, hot and cold therapy can support your physical and mental well-being.
Contrast therapy basics
As we continue to unlock the secrets of the human body and its response to temperature variations, it's likely that contrast therapy will remain a valuable tool in the pursuit of better health.
What is contrast water therapy?
Contrast Water Therapy is a hydrotherapy technique that involves alternating between hot and cold water immersion. The rapid change in temperature stimulates various physiological responses in the body, triggering numerous benefits.
How does contrast water therapy work?
The alternating exposure to hot and cold water creates a pumping action in the blood vessels. This action, known as vasodilation and vasoconstriction, helps flush out waste products and increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
What are the best methods of contrast therapy?
Contrast therapy involves alternating between hot and cold temperatures. It can be as basic as changing the temperature of the water while you are in the shower. Alternately, you could go to a wellness center that offers whole body cryotherapy and sauna therapy.
However, there are at-home options for contrast therapy that don’t involve standing in the shower for a half-hour.
You can take a contrast bath approach, using a Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tub and a hot tub. Start by immersing yourself in the hot tub for 5 minutes and then switching to the cold tub for one to two minutes. You can repeat the cycle up to five times. A benefit to the contrast bath approach is the ability to dial in the temperature. You can use the Smart Life app to set the Chilly GOAT to your preferred temperature, whether it’s 40 degrees or 59 degrees. A Master Spas hot tub has a control panel, where you can easily adjust the water temp — up to 104 degrees.
New to the wellness market is the contrast tub. Part hot tub, part cold tub, a contrast tub has two unique bodies of water, allowing you to seamlessly move from hot water to cold. The Valaris contrast therapy tub from Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tubs has a modern design and premium components.
Another option is to alternate plunges in the Chilly GOAT cold tub with sessions in a sauna. Start off in the sauna, staying long enough to start sweating. Then, hop into your cold tub for one to two minutes. You can repeat the contrast therapy cycle as desired.
Sauna and ice baths are both great tools for recovery and overall health. Saunas have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, while cold water immersion has been shown to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. Using them together as contrast therapy can have a powerful impact on the body's circulation and recovery.
Hot or cold first?
Using a hot tub or sauna is encouraged as research shows that you can maximize the benefits of contrast therapy by starting hot and ending in the cold. When you finish with cold water immersion, your body has to reheat naturally. This process encourages your body to adapt, as well as activate brown fat.
More than that, it’s important to end your contrast therapy session with cold immersion. Hot water therapy or sauna can trigger your body’s inflammatory response.
Benefits of contrast water therapy
Contrast therapy is a therapeutic technique that involves alternating between hot and cold temperatures to promote various health benefits, primarily for muscle recovery, pain relief, and improved circulation. In addition, research supports that it can support immune health, relieve stress, and increase energy.
Reduces muscle soreness
Contrast water therapy is known for its ability to improve recovery time, whether you are prepping for a CrossFit competition or training for a marathon. The hot water helps to increase blood flow, which can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing. The cold water, on the other hand, helps to decrease inflammation and muscle spasms. By alternating between hot and cold water, research shows, athletes and fitness enthusiasts can experience a pumping action, which can reduce muscle inflammation, remove lactic acid build-up, and increase range of motion. The result? Speed up their recovery time and reduce overall muscle soreness.
Raise your hand if you are feeling anxious or stressed!
While we all feel stress and anxiety differently, chances are many of us find ourselves stressed at least once during the day. Research shows that 55 percent of Americans feel stressed during the day. And, Americans are the most stressed population of the world.
Contrast therapy can help you manage your stress levels. Hot water or sauna sessions can help soothe muscles and relax the body. The cold water stimulates the nervous system and increases alertness. Your body will release neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin.
If you are experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety, contrast therapy can be particularly beneficial.
Improves joint mobility
Contrast water therapy has been shown to improve joint mobility and reduce the stiffness that often accompanies arthritis and other joint-related conditions. The hot water helps to increase blood flow and loosen stiff joints, while the cold water can help to decrease inflammation and reduce joint pain. This therapy can be a great option for individuals looking to improve their joint health and overall mobility.
Supports the immune system
Can switching between hot water and cold water help you to fight off an infection or disease?
Findings reported in the PLOS ONE Journal show that alternating between hot and cold therapies provides a boost to your immune system — and a substantial one at that. The therapy increases the number of immune cells in your system, including white blood cells.
The study showed that the therapy led to a nearly 30 percent decrease in work-related absences due to illness.
Improved circulation and lymphatic flow
One benefit associated with contrast therapy is improved circulation. When you are in hot water or in a sauna, your blood vessels open up. When you are in cold water, the vessels constrict. The rapid fluctuation during your contrast therapy sessions helps increase circulation throughout your body.
Bonus: This increased circulation acts as a pump for your lymphatic system. This pump helps your body heal damaged tissue and remove metabolic toxins from the muscles. These toxins enter the bloodstream and then are processed by your body.
Increased energy levels
Contrast water therapy gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Or, at least they give you the feeling of being more energized and alert.
Alternating between hot and cold, as you can do in the Valaris, can have a stimulating effect on the nervous system. This heightened state of alertness and increased mental focus can contribute to a perception of increased energy. In addition, it triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. When you are in a better mood and feeling less stressed, it can lead to higher energy levels.
Have you heard of brown fat? Chances are that you have, especially if you have started to look into the benefits of contrast therapy
While white fat, the kind you begin to gain around your middle, brown fat is primarily found in small deposits throughout the body, including the neck, upper chest, and spine. White fat is about stored energy; brown fat is all about heat. Your body will burn brown fat and glucose to help maintain your body temperature in cold temperatures via thermogenesis.
And guess what? Your body burns calories to generate heat. As such, brown fat might play a role in regulating metabolism.
Cold water immersion and contrast therapy may activate brown fat, thus increasing your metabolism. However, more research needs to be done in this area to learn more about the effect of these therapies on brown fat.
How to buy a cold tub
Do you want to enjoy the benefits of cold water therapy without buying bag after bag of ice? Having a Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tub allows you to realize the impact of cold water. Enjoy clean, clear, cold water on demand. You can click here to find out more about the benefits of incorporating a Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT cold tub into your routine.