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Should You Take Ice Baths Before or After a Workout?

If you’re thinking about trying out an ice bath to assist your body in being the best it possibly can be, the first question is when to take it? Is it better to take an ice bath before workout or after? The answer to that question changes depending on who you ask.

ice bath before workout or after

Ice baths are, without a doubt, useful for helping your body stay in good condition and keeping your mental state sharp. So, what’s better? Pre-exercise or post-exercise ice baths? They’re both useful, but the answer changes depending on what kind of workouts you do.

I’ll give you the rundown on what’s best for your exercise routine and how to take them, as well as their general benefits so you can have a more informed opinion. Be sure to stick around to hear what ice baths can do for your testosterone, as well.

 

Benefits of Pre-Exercise Ice Baths

Benefits of Ice Baths Before Workouts

Pre-exercise ice baths, also known as “pre-cooling” to those who partake, is well known to endurance athletes.

When it comes to endurance, keeping that core temperature lowered for as long as possible is important. When we workout and our body temperature starts to rise, we have a “critical temperature threshold” that we don’t want to cross. Once we reach it, our stamina is drained at a faster rate, and stamina is key for endurance workouts. Endurance athletes want to hold off reaching that threshold as long as possible, and by using an ice bath (the most effective form of pre-cooling) before an event, you’re able to enhance your performance by as much as 16%.

Taking ice baths are also useful for if you want to build muscle. By taking an ice bath after a workout, you hinder protein synthesis, which is vital for maintaining your gains.

Overall, if you want to build your muscle and increase alertness before an event, and elevate your mood, you’re going to want to take an ice bath before you perform.

 

Benefits of Post-Exercise Ice Baths

Benefits of Ice Baths After Workouts

If you’re trying to perform at your peak, you’re going to want to prevent the stiffness and fatigue that can usually come from intense workouts. You can find this mainly present in demanding training schedules or sports that are highly “fixture congested”, such as baseball or soccer. Along with this can come inflammation and muscle soreness that is just difficult to dispel.

This is where ice baths come in; they’re extremely useful for stemming inflation and are particularly helpful in relieving and muscle soreness. It also helps to prevent that stiffness and fatigue I was referring to earlier. People who use ice baths while participating in rigorous training are usually able to retain their performance in both the short-term and the long-term.

I mentioned it briefly with the pre-exercise ice baths, but ice baths have been proven to help athletes and gym-goers maintain a positive mental state. In fact, some have even said that ice baths and an antidepressant effect on the body, which is most likely due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve.

So, if you would like to maintain a healthy mindset and also help your body recover after some intense training, you’re going to want to try taking one after your workouts.

 

Protocols for an Ice Bath

How to Take an Ice Bath

Not everyone knows what is meant by “ice baths”. There are people who genuinely go ahead and dump ice into their baths in order to get the full experience (trust me, I’ve seen it), but not only is that not necessary; it’s dangerous. Just set the water to cold, get in, then get out after a small period of time. Cold showers are also viable, too. There are also products you can use specifically for ice baths.

Here is what you need to know if you want to keep your body sharp.

  • High-intensity exercise. If you’re partaking in some high-intensity exercise training, you’re going to want to use an ice bath to recover. A 3-5 minute bath at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit should be enough to decrease soreness.
  • Energy. If you’re looking to be more alert and energized, a nice ice bath can bring you the jolt you’re looking for. It should be just a 1-3 minute bath at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • General Wellness. If you want benefits like reduced inflammation, improved immune function, and increased cardiovascular health, you’re going to want an ice bath for 5-10 minutes at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

More Health Related Benefits

Reduce inflammation with Ice Baths

Ice baths are perfect for helping your body prepare for or recover from a workout. However, they also have more benefits to boast about that aren’t centered around fitness. They can just be useful in general, so if you find yourself feeling off, you might want to consider taking an ice bath.

Here are some of the benefits you’ll be able to find when taking an ice bath.

  • Long-term Wellness. Ice baths can contain long-term health benefits; in fact, just a bath a day can really do your body wonders. This is because ice baths stimulate our body’s natural defense mechanisms. This, in turn, strengthens your immune system, and it can even reduce your risk of chronic disease.
  • Taming inflammation. Like stated earlier, inflammation can be brought down by using an ice bath. Inflammation doesn’t just come from sore muscles, however. Any sort of surface-level inflammation can be handled by using an ice bath, and this includes sunburns.
  • Maintaining a positive mindset. As said before, your mood can be affected through using an ice bath. It’s said to have an almost antidepressant-like effect on the body. If you need a boost in your mindset, you may want to try an ice bath.
  • Energy. If you didn’t get enough sleep and you have something important coming up, an ice bath might be must what you need. Some time inside the cold water will help you in feeling nice and alert and ready for the day. It’s definitely healthier than caffeine.

 

Ice Bath Before Workout or After? Be Sure to Choose Wisely

Ice bath before workout vs ice bath after workout

I don’t think I need to tell you this, but everyone’s body is different. If you want to reap the benefits, you should understand why you’re doing it and how to go about getting started.

As always, it’s highly recommended that you speak to a healthcare professional before starting a new regimen.

 

How Ice Baths Can Increase Your Testosterone

Ice Baths Can Increase Your Testosterone

Very few things are as important to one’s workout as the male sex hormone: testosterone. Those who are serious about their fitness are always trying to find ways to increase their testosterone levels in order to get the most out of their workouts.

There are a few noticeable signs indicating that you are low on testosterone. And to fix that, there are a few known methods to boost your testosterone production, such as cardio, or maybe even trying something like the nofap challenge. But do ice baths help in this regard?

Well, believe it or not, ice baths are actually capable of increasing one’s testosterone by a noticeable amount. It’s also known as “cold exposure therapy”, and it’s been making the rounds lately for its very noticeable effects on our bodies.

The idea of cold exposure therapy got boosted when Joe Rogan, a UFC color commentator, martial artist, and famous podcast host. Ice baths play a central role in his rigorous health regimen, and when people heard about his experiences, the idea of using ice baths to improve one’s physical fitness really took off.

In case you’re wondering if using an ice bath is some sort of myth, it’s not. There is actual science behind how it functions. The magic stems mainly from the interplay of hormones, particularly with norepinephrine and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. It’s a complex interaction, but in the end, it leads to an increase of that vital male sex hormone.

It’s also very much recommended to take an ice bath before you go to work out. Studies have shown that those who take pre-exercise cold showers have heightened testosterone levels compared to those who took them after an intense workout.

It’s also believed that ice baths are a way to counteract the testosterone-depleting effects of aging. Age is one of the biggest factors in decreased testosterone, because after the age of 40, men’s levels of T tend to drop in a steady and significant way. By taking an ice bath or a cold shower, someone who is older will be better able to get some of that testosterone back. This is especially beneficial for older men who still like to stay fit.

 

Final Thoughts

Using ice baths is extremely beneficial to your body. Yeah, they might be a bit uncomfortable at first, but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives in this case, especially if you’re more athletically inclined. Either way, just remember to stay healthy, stay hydrated, and always do your warm-up exercises.

 

 

References

Chen, T., Lin, Y., & Lee, C. (2016). The effects of whole-body cryotherapy on recovery from high-intensity exercise: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(3), 813-820.

Sionko, M., & Waskiewicz, Z. (2018). Health Benefits of Whole-Body Cryotherapy: A Review. Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 255.

[Pritchard, H. J., Gass, G. C., & Hopkins, W. G. (2015). Cold-water immersion and recovery from high-intensity exercise: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(17), 1161-1167.

Moore E, Fuller JT, Buckley JD, Saunders S, Halson SL, Broatch JR, Bellenger CR. Impact of Cold-Water Immersion Compared with Passive Recovery Following a Single Bout of Strenuous Exercise on Athletic Performance in Physically Active Participants: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis and Meta-regression. Sports Med. 2022 Jul;52(7):1667-1688