However, do not completely shun the idea of using cold water when you shower – not only after a workout, but also on an intermittent basis.
Dr. Joseph Mercola says: “Exposure to cold temperatures via cold water and ice baths, otherwise known as cold water immersion or ‘cryotherapy,’ is a popular technique among amateur and professional athletes, but it can offer health-boosting benefits for virtually everyone.”
How Does Keeping Cool Hasten Recovery After a Workout?
An ice bath or ice pack application can benefit you by:
- Lowering your damaged tissues’ temperature, which locally constricts blood vessels
- Helping prevent bruising and swelling due to the waste and fluid buildup (when cold therapy is applied during a moment of injury)
- Bringing pain relief because it can numb nerve endings
- Lowering your heart rate and promotes blood circulation, which can lessen inflammation and speed up the recovery process
After analyzing 17 trials involving over 360 individuals who rested or used cold water therapy after strenuous physical activity, researchers showed in one analysis that cryotherapy is effective in relieving delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) one to four days after exercise. (link)
The majority of the experiments conducted on this cold therapy had participants immerse themselves in water with a temperature of 10 to 15 degrees C (or 50 to 59 degrees F) for about 24 minutes. Other trials used variables such as colder temperatures or by using “contrast immersion,” where you alternate the temperatures between warm and cold.
While the study did not reveal any significant benefits for contrast immersion, experts were able to determine that switching between temperatures can help drive oxygen and nutrients to your internal organs and promote detoxification. It can also help decrease pain and hasten recovery by reducing blood lactate concentration. (link)
How Else Can Cold Temperatures Assist You?
Dr. Mercola, who is currently experimenting with cold therapy technique right now, says that the method promotes “hardening” or “the exposure to a natural stimulus that results in increased tolerance to stress and/or disease.” This was demonstrated in a study involving 10 people who regularly swam in ice-cold water during wintertime. (link)
Other benefits of cryotherapy include:
- A drastic drop in uric acid levels – When uric acid levels exceed 5.5 milligrams per deciliter, the risk of diseases such as heart disease, fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and gout increases.
- A rise in glutathione levels – Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant. It keeps other antioxidants working at peak levels.
Can Cold Water Help You Burn Fat?
While drinking cold water increases your metabolic rate by having your body work harder to raise the temperature of the water, ice-cold showers and other cold water therapies may help enhance your fat-burning processes.
Tim Ferriss, the author of 4-Hour Body, introduces cold therapy as a means to burn fat. According to him, ice therapy helps increase your fat-burning potential by as much as 300 percent because it can activate your brown fat.
Unlike white fat, which is the fat linked to obesity, brown fat is a heat-generating type of fat that acts like muscle. It helps burn away fat instead of storing it. According to research, brown fat can be activated by ice therapy.
Ferriss’ ice therapy approach ranges from easy to “hardcore.” Some examples are:
- Apply an ice pack on your upper back and upper chest for 30 minutes a day.
- Drink about 500 milliliters of ice water each morning.
- Take cold showers.
- Immerse yourself in ice water – up to your waist – for 10 minutes, three times a week. Fill your tub with cold water and ice cubes.
If you’d like to test this technique, you should exercise great caution. It is not advisable to go straight to an ice bath if your body is not used to frigid temperatures. Right now, most studies on this technique reveal very minimal or no side effects.
Lastly, Dr. Mercola advises: “Of course, common sense is advised. When you immerse yourself in cold water, it will shock your body to some degree so you need to make sure the water is not too cold, and that you do not stay in it for too long. As always, listen to your body and work up to the more advanced ice-therapy techniques gradually.”