The science behind ice baths and exercise recovery

The science behind ice baths and exercise recovery

Sports have a way of bringing people off the field and bringing them together. But it can still be challenging to see what CrossFit athletes, swimmers, marathon runners, golfers, and volleyball players have in common. Some spend their time in the gym, others in the water, and still others on dirt trails. 

However, once their sessions are logged, you might find them all in a similar place — an ice bath or a Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tub by Master Spas

Ice baths, a form of cold water immersion, have been used by athletes for decades as a way to reduce soreness and speed recovery. And, the cold water can also help increase blood flow to the muscles.

It’s not just athletes who swear by the benefits of using cold water therapy for recovery, though. Scientific studies have provided evidence for the effectiveness of cold water immersion and ice baths in promoting recovery after high-intensity exercise. 

Whether you're a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, adding ice cold water immersion and a Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tub to your recovery routine can help reduce soreness and improve your overall performance.

cold water immersion science

Science of cold water immersion for athletic recovery

No pain, no gain … that’s the popular anecdote when talking about exercise. But let’s be real — most people, athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, don’t actually want to be in pain. Even the assumed muscle soreness and inflammation might not feel like you are gaining fitness. Instead, the discomfort can hold you back. 

Muscle soreness can be caused by a number of factors including the intensity of the workout, excessive stretching before your session, or improper form. 

For many athletes, though, the soreness and inflammation is caused from microtrauma to the muscles. When you exercise, you create tiny tears in the muscle fibers, which triggers an inflammatory response as your body works to repair the damage. While this process is essential for building muscle and improving fitness, it can also lead to discomfort, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the days following a tough workout.

This is where cold water immersion comes in. Soaking in a cold water tub like the Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT cold tub or an ice bath can help constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be particularly helpful in reducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS.

The benefits of cold water therapy go beyond inflammation. Soaking in an ice tub helps increase circulation and oxygen to your muscles, which can aid in the healing process. This increased blood flow can also help remove waste products from your muscles, which can contribute to soreness and stiffness.

While cold water therapy may not completely cure muscle soreness, it can be helpful. Incorporating a Chilly GOAT Cold Tub into your recovery routine can help you feel better after a tough workout and perform better during the next one.

cold water immersion science

How does cold water therapy work?

Did you know that what you do after a workout can be just as important as the workout itself? 

Your recovery routine has the potential to significantly impact your fitness level and overall sports performance. Cold water immersion and using a Chilly GOAT Cold Tub can help you repair your body and prepare for the next session. 

Typically, cold water immersion involves submerging the body in water that is below 59 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 10 minutes at a time. The colder the water, the less time you spend soaking. 

A Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tub takes the stress out of incorporating cold water immersion. Similar to a hot tub, you set the tub to your preferred temperature and enjoy clean, clear, cold water when you need it most.  

As the popularity of cold water immersion grows, researchers are studying how they can be effective.

Reducing muscle soreness

One of the most significant benefits of cold water immersion is its ability to reduce muscle soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness is a common occurrence after high-intensity exercise, particularly in resistance training. It typically reaches its peak between 24 and 48 hours after exercising, but in some cases, it can last up to 72 hours. 

DOMS is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including stiffness, swelling, and soreness. In addition, you might find that you have less strength and power. DOMS can have a significant impact on your ability to perform daily activities.

Not so sure that exercise soreness has a significant impact on your day-to-day activities? Just try to go down the stairs after leg day.

However, studies have shown that cold water immersion can alleviate DOMS, allowing athletes to recover more quickly and perform better in subsequent workouts. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that athletes who used cold water immersion had significantly lower levels of muscle soreness and recovered more quickly than those who used passive recovery methods. 

Similarly, a systematic review of 17 studies found that cold water immersion was effective in reducing muscle soreness.

Reducing inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response to tissue damage. And while it has a bad reputation, inflammation plays an essential role in the healing process. As an athlete or fitness enthusiast, though, you want to avoid excess inflammation as it can delay recovery and increase the risk of further injury. 

Cold water therapy can reduce inflammation and promote recovery. A 2021 study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that cold water immersion is an effective protocol for post exercise recovery. The researchers looked at the effect of 3 minutes of cold water immersion on healthy recreational athletes. Participants exercised for 30 minutes and then recovered for 20 minutes. Some of the athletes followed a passive recovery protocol while others did a 3-minute soak in 46.4-degree Fahrenheit water. Those who went in the cold water had lower levels of inflammation, according to the study.

Improving performance

One of the benefits of incorporating a Chilly GOAT into your recovery routine is improved performance. Multiple studies have shown that cold water immersion can improve your performance as it reduces fatigue and speeds up recovery.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that cold water immersion helped cyclists' maintain performance between time trials. Other participants could not produce the same amount of power on the second effort. 

A 2007 study in the Journal of Sport Sciences also found that ice baths can be effective in reducing muscle soreness. Participants did an intermittent shuttle run for 90 minutes. Afterward, part of the group took a 10-minute ice bath. Those who soaked in cold water reported less soreness and had better performance in a subsequent run two days later.

Calm and relaxation

Getting into a tub of 50-degree water might sound stressful. However, ice bathing can help you achieve just the opposite. 

Rest and recovery can also provide mental benefits, such as reducing stress and improving overall mood. Taking time to rest and recover — including ice bathing — can help you feel more relaxed and rejuvenated, making it easier to stick to your exercise routine over the long term.

A 2014 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that whole body cryotherapy improves your perception of recovery after working out or participating in a sport. This sense of recovery can improve your overall well-being and help you feel mentally prepared to participate in exercise. 

Research continues to underscore just how critical recovery is to anyone who is active. By allowing your body time to rest and recover, you can improve your performance, reduce your risk of injury, and feel better both physically and mentally.

best at home cold tubs

Buying an at-home 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. Start your journey today!