The Ultimate Guide to Ice Baths
Do you ever marvel at the resilience of penguins? These tuxedo-clad birds seem to defy the icy landscape that surrounds them.
Polar bears don’t mind the freezing temperatures either. They lie for hours on the numbing ice, patiently waiting to pounce on seals as they emerge from their holes.
These two are a testament of their remarkable ability to adapt to extreme conditions. What’s more astonishing is that the human body can also adapt to similarly harsh conditions, such as enduring a freezing ice bath.
It’s intriguing that over the years, different cultures have embraced cold therapy after discovering that it comes with benefits.
This practice has captured our attention, and we’ve embraced it to improve our performance, boost our immune system, and speed up recovery.
In this guide, we’ll explore interesting topics that will help you understand ice baths at a deeper level. We’ll discuss:
- The origin of ice baths and how they’ve evolved
- How the body reacts when immersed in ice-cold water
- The benefits of regularly taking ice bath sessions
- Important factors to consider when selecting an ice bath
- Practices to maximise the benefits of an ice bath
Ice Bath Chronicles: History and Evolution
The origin of ice baths is quite elusive, but references indicate that Greeks were among the earliest adopters of cold therapy.
The legendary Hippocrates and another physician named Claudius Galen later realised its benefits and incorporated it into their medical practice. They used it to control their patients’ fever, manage swelling, and aid in muscle recovery.
This practice later spread to other cultures, who took a novel approach towards it. For instance, while the Greeks adopted it for medicinal purposes, the Nordic folks used it as a secret recipe for relaxation and invigoration.
Currently, more societies have gained a better understanding of cold water therapy, and ice baths are now used more purposefully.
The practice is integrated in sports recovery, helping athletes reduce muscle inflammation and soreness.
Our community has also adopted the use of ice bath therapy due to its ability to help us achieve our physical and mental potential.
The Science Behind the Ice: How Your Body Reacts
Have you ever wondered how the body reacts when inside an ice bath? Do the organs recoil in horror at the shock or do they secretly embrace the experience? Let’s find out.
An ice bath session requires immersing your body in very cold water (10–15℃) for a brief period (maximum of 15 minutes). This temperature definitely triggers several physiological responses.
1 - Narrowing of Blood Vessels (Vasoconstriction)
Immediately you immerse your body in the ice bath, your body temperature takes a nosedive. The blood vessels constrict, directing your blood from the extremities into the heart, brain, lungs, and other vital organs.
The narrowing of vessels serves a dual purpose. It conserves heat that’s getting lost due to the cold water, and also ensures that vital organs get ample oxygen to optimise their performance.
2 - Release of Cold Shock Proteins
Due to the stress caused by the cold water, your body releases proteins such as CARHSP1, Lin28, and YB1. They’re the guardians that protect your cells from shock.
These proteins encourage cell regeneration and therefore play a major role in promoting muscle recovery and wound healing.
The Remarkable Benefits of Ice Baths
The mention of an ice bath is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine as it conjures memories of chattering teeth.
However, when you learn of the benefits to your well being, you’ll view this frosty experience from a different perspective.
Here are the benefits you’ll reap from taking regular ice baths:
- Pain relief: The numbing effect of ice-cold water is effective in alleviating pain caused by strains, sprains, arthritis and muscle spasms.
- Reduced inflammation: Ice baths thwart tissue destruction caused by acute inflammation due to injury or infection. The reduction in inflammation promotes faster recovery.
- Enhanced mood: Ice baths not only boost our mood, they also help us achieve intense focus, mental clarity, emotional balance, improved energy, and increased productivity.
- Increased metabolism: Cold therapy forces the body to work harder by inducing shivering in order to generate heat. The increased metabolism helps burn calories and manage weight to a certain extent.
The next time you contemplate whether to take an ice bath or back out, remember that beyond the chill, the benefits bring you recovery and rejuvenation.
Setting Up Your Ice Bath
Whether you’re seasoned in cold therapy or a beginner who is just dipping their toes in the waters, ice baths offer your body and mind an invigorating experience.
We’re here to walk you through and ensure your bath sessions are comfortable, safe, and fun.
Selecting the Right Ice Bath Container
Selecting the most suitable container for your needs is determined by several factors:
- Available space: It should fit comfortably in your home while leaving room for extras, such as a step stool for the tub, or a small closet for your towels and bath supplies.
- Capacity: Consider whether there’s a chance other folks might join you for a dip. In that case, the Iced Tub iCed Ach Oval Ice Bath can fit two people seated, while the Avantopool Hanki Ice Bath can fit three people standing.
- Portability: If you travel alot and want to do your ice bath sessions while on the move, you can opt for an inflatable Ice Bath that fits in your backpack.
- Personal style: We all have our personal preferences. Whether you want a robust Metal Ice Bath, a classic Wooden Ice Bath, or a tub with stunning modern finishes like the Avantopool Kinos Ice Bath, The Peak Athletic has a wide range of ice baths for sale.
Once you have the right tub for your needs, place it in your ideal place. If you cherish your privacy, you can set it in the bathroom, basement or fitness area. If you love an outdoor experience, your garden, deck, or pool area will provide a great backdrop for your sessions.
Sourcing Ice for Your Ice Bath
How you source your ice depends on your preference, cost considerations, and how convenient the method is for you.
Let’s look at the options:
- Buy commercial ice: You can easily purchase bags of ice from a convenient store or gas station. Commercial ice is available in different sizes, allowing you to choose what works for your needs.
- Use an ice-maker: If you take daily cold plunges, you need a constant supply of ice. Investing in an ice-making machine ensures you don’t run out of ice.
- Use ice moulds: In case you prefer large blocks of ice over the smaller cubes from an ice maker, you can obtain them by filling extra large ice block moulds with water and freezing them.
Preparing the Ice Bath
Before preparing an ice bath, remember to have your towels nearby. This simple step will save you from running around in wet clothing and chattering teeth in search of a towel.
Armed with the towels, you can now prepare the bath.The method depends on the type of tub you’re using. You can either add ice cubes manually or use a chiller to lower the water’s temperature. Both methods are straightforward.
- Manual preparation: Fill your tub or barrel about halfway with water, then add ice gradually while checking the temperature using a thermometer. Ensure the temperature reaches 10–15℃.
- Using a chiller: A chiller helps maintain the temperature of the water to help you reap maximum benefits. To prepare an ice bath using a chiller, simply add water to your tub, then plug in the chiller to cool the water to the desired temperature.
The Peak Athletics range of Chiller Units can help your ice bath chill or heat quickly while enhancing the technology options to control the bath.
To take your ice bath experience to another level, you can select one of our Ice Bath Kits containing a bath + chiller, and save yourself the hassle of making separate purchases.
One example of a bath and chiller combo is the Iced Tub IcedArc Oval Ice Bath Kit. It comes complete with an iCedArc Ice Bath + cooling heating unit + water pump + double filtration.
Let’s check out more Ice Bath Kits from The Peak Athletics.
Iced Tub iCed42 Ice Bath with UltiM Classic Ice Bath Chiller
The Iced Tub iCed42 Ice Bath with UltiM Classic Ice Bath Chiller is crafted using premium French Oak and Acacia wood, while the chiller boasts an electroplated rust-resistant steel exterior.
This premium handmade barrel provides full body coverage for two people in an upright position and it rapidly cools from 13.4℃ to 5℃ in less than an hour.
The bundle includes:
- A step stool
- Inside seating
- Internal water pump
- Double filtration
The water loop and electric system are separate, and the cooling unit automatically shuts off if you forget to, preventing overheating and ensuring your safety.
Iced Tub iCedArc Oval Ice Bath with UltiM Classic Ice Bath Chiller
If you like taking your ice baths by yourself, the Iced Tub iCedArc Oval Ice Bath with UltiM Classic Ice Bath Chiller is the perfect size for solo sessions, plus it’s one of the rare oval baths that can slide easily through your front door.
In this bundle you’ll find:
- A water pump
- A step stool
- A bath thermal cover
- Inside seating
You’ll also enjoy fast cooling from 13.4℃ down to 5℃ in less than an hour. With this all-in-one ice bath, you’re set to enjoy your cold therapy.
Potential Risks and Precautions
Are there risks associated with ice baths? Yes, a few:
- Exacerbation of existing heart conditions, which could result in a heart attack
- Body temperature dropping to a dangerously low point and resulting in hypothermia
- Sensitive body parts, such as the fingers and toes experiencing severe frostbite
If you have a heart condition or have experienced hypothermia and frostbite in the past, it’s best to consult a medical professional before taking the plunge. This will prevent the condition from reoccurring.
To avoid hypothermia or frostbite, make sure the temperature doesn’t go lower than 10℃. Therefore, use a temperature to test the water each time you take an ice bath.
Risk of Physical Injury
You’re at a greater risk of slipping and falling when coming out of the bath, due to the fact that your body is wet.
Take extra caution and place a non-slip mat next to the tub to step on as you come out. You’ll save yourself from potential falls.
Ice Bath Protocols
As with every other procedure, there are cool ice bath practices which ensure the experience is enjoyable and safe, and above all that you reap the benefits.
Here’s a breakdown of the protocols to observe:
- Immerse yourself slowly so that your body acclimates to the temperature. If you’re doing a full immersion, the water should reach above your shoulders while sitting or standing.
- When your session is over, exit as slowly as you entered. Avoid fast movements to minimise the risk of slipping and injuring yourself.
- Dry yourself immediately after the bath session. Don’t take a hot shower, you'll nullify the effect of the cold. Instead, let your body warm gradually.
Maximising the Benefits: Complementary Practices
It’s important to include complementary practices in your ice bath sessions in order to reap the benefits. These practices include:
- Controlling your breathing before, during, and after the ice bath. You can learn to do this by practising the Wim Hof Breathing Technique.
- Incorporating infrared saunas, red light therapy, and fitness exercises alongside your bath sessions to maintain your overall well-being.
The table below gives more information on these sessions, and how they can help improve your overall well-being.
|Mode Of Execution
|Infrared sauna sessions
|Spending 15–20 minutes in a chamber that’s heated using infrared light, which causes your body to sweat
|Red light therapy sessions
|The hair, eyes, and skin are exposed to low level red light devices for about 20 minutes per day
|Fitness exercise sessions
|Performing activity such as cardio, strength training, aerobics, and yoga 3–5 times a week
Embrace the Chilly Dip to Unlock a World of Wellness
If you’re looking to enhance the quality of your life and achieve maximum potential, ice bathing is an invigorating practice that will give you a host of benefits.
From pain relief and improved circulation, to enhanced mood and better sleep, ice baths have proven to be immensely helpful to us.
At The Peak Athletics, our goal is to make biohacking available to everyone by researching and selecting the best products that will unlock your wellness.
We hope you’ve gained enough knowledge from this guide, but at the end of the day, the choice is yours. If you truly can’t stand ice-cold water, then you can try other biohacking techniques that involve heat, such as infrared saunas.
- The Cold Plunge Cryotherapy Book: Diving Into the Healing Powers of Cold Water Exposure Therapy - Guide to Boosting Wellness Through Stress Reduction, and Increasing Energy (Cold Exposure Mastery)
- Cold Water Swimming Health Benefits and Risks