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Cold Plunge Benefits & Tips From 5,130 Mins Of Cold Therapy

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byNick

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17 Minutes

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Cold Plunge Benefits Ftd1
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The sight of a large tub filled with ice. Unappealing to beginners and seasoned pros alike.

But is plunging into the cold the ultimate biohack for:

  • Arthritis
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Weight loss
  • Hangovers
  • Migraines
  • Energy
  • Muscle soreness

And much more?

Some health experts will rant and rave about the myriad benefits. From boosting levels of motivation-enhancing dopamine, to accelerating (brown) fat loss, energizing with norepinephrine, and lowering whole-body inflammation.

But is it really the health activity it’s made out to be?

In this article, we’ll explore everything you should know about cold plunging. The science, how it works, all the potential benefits, the drawbacks, the best time to go, and the key factors to know before trying it yourself. By the end, you’ll know how to strategically use cold for optimal health.

What is Cold Water Immersion

A bath tub in the middle of the arctic
While an intimidating-looking practice, cold immersion has amazing benefits if done correctly

Cold water immersion, a form of hydrotherapy, is the practice of briefly submerging your body in cold water.

This distinctly uncomfortable technique has centuries of use and has a wide variety of potential benefits when used in the right dose (time and temperature).

Although widespread adoption has only recently begun, athletes have relied on cold therapy for decades. It provides rapid relief from muscle soreness, inflammation, and fatigue and is fairly easy to add to a biohacked recovery routine.

Cold plunging vs ice bathing vs cryotherapy

Among the many, I’ve used each of the terms “cold plunging”, “cold thermogenesis”, “cryotherapy”, “cold exposure”, “ice bathing”, and “cold therapy” interchangeably throughout this post.

Most people refer to them as the same things. Submerging your body and/or head into cold water. They technically all fall into the category of deliberate cold exposure or cold therapy, with water ranging from 30-55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Athletes generally use the term ice bathing, and technically it refers to very cold water that contains ice.

Although we need more research, many experts agree that you probably don’t need to bathe in ice water for maximum benefit.

The Transformational Power of Regular Cold Exposure

Modern humans mostly live temperature-controlled lifestyles. The less variation we experience, the less our body must adapt.

The issue is that adaption has beneficial effects. Our body ramps up its production of antioxidants, cellular defense systems, and other signaling molecules that help us become more resilient humans.

Cold is one such powerful tool to stimulate adaptation and activate ancient protective pathways.

“There is no doubt, if I’ve been training a lot and I wake up achey, if I sauna/ice bath I feel 50% better” — Chris Hemsworth on Peter Attia Drive

This increased resilience is one of the hallmarks of preventative medicine and holistic health. But some major caveats determine if cold acts medicinally or is poisonous to your body.

Factors that make or break your experience

Deliberate cold exposure isn’t for everyone. It has definite pros and cons, as we will discuss later.

Before considering cold therapy, you’ll want to know the following:

  • Genetics and constitutional makeup
  • Season & weather
  • Stress status
  • Health level
  • Hydration level

While Instagram influencers tell you that extreme cold is for everyone, our unique bioindividuality says otherwise.

If your ancestors lived in the tropics, you may want to scale back your cold exposure as it’s a biological mismatch. Conversely, if you descend from a region of cold, harsh winters, you’ll probably thrive.

This is the perspective of ancient biological sciences like Ayurveda, and now modern genetic analysis tools confirm that your DNA dramatically influences your experience of cold.

Intuitively, the current season and weather impact your cold plunge significantly. It’s generally more beneficial as a tool to cool down in the summer than in peak winter.

Cold dose accumulates, so you can get great benefits with minimal time in the winter.

At the same time, if you’re under heavy stress, bathing in ice can do more harm than good. That’s because the body doesn’t exactly differentiate between different forms of stress (called “allostatic load”).

So if you’re already burdened by physical, chemical, emotional, or social stress, take it easier.

Generally, the more subcutaneous fat you have, the more extreme environments you can handle. Underweight individuals should be extra cautious when using cold.

Finally, your degree of hydration (water intake and electrolytes) also impacts your cold experience.

Dehydration makes it harder for your body to re-regulate to a stable temperature in cold water. Leading to a less comfortable experience and increasing the risk of cold-related injuries.

Benefits of Cold Plunge Therapy

What does the science say about the benefits of Cold Water Immersion (CWI)?

Potent health optimization practice or overhyped biohack?

It’s a bit hard to compile all the research because this cold therapy goes by many names.

But at the time of my writing in 2024, PubMed shows 2,859 papers on CWI alone.

PubMed statistics on cold water immersion papers over the years
Booming interest and research on cold plunges in recent years

Some of the commonly reported benefits of cold therapy include:

  • Energy
  • Resilience against stress
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Neurocognitive
  • Pain relief
  • Mental toughness
  • Blood flow and detox
  • Sleep
  • Beauty
  • Biomarker balancing
  • Longevity

Let’s explore each of them in more detail.

Energy, fatigue, and stress

One of the first things new cold plungers notice is a marked uptick in energy post-session.

Cold immersion immediately causes your sympathetic “fight or flight” branch of your autonomic nervous system to activate. This causes a large release of norepinephrine, a neurohormone responsible for energy, focus, and concentration [R].

Increasing norepinephrine can also improve executive functioning, “cognition, motivation, and intellect” [R].

If you use deliberate breathwork during your session to re-regulate your nervous system, it overcompensates by shifting into the parasympathetic “rest and digest” state.

When you get out, the combination of controlled breathing with elevated norepinephrine alleviates any negative mental chatter and dramatically lessens feelings of stress.

Pre-cooling is also currently being researched for its ergogenic performance-enhancing benefits. It blunts the toughness of the workout (rate of perceived exertion).

Between the greater energy, lessened nerves, and slower time to fatigue, athletes sometimes use cold immersion before training.

Brain health & cognitive performance

Exposure to cold has profound impacts on the structure and function of the brain. It has both short-term and long-term benefits.

In the short term, cold increases parameters of cognition like alertness, focus, and memory. This is believed to partly occur via increased levels of the body’s natural pain-killing substances called endorphins [R, R].

I certainly feel my brain “turn on” from cold water immersion, making it a great natural nootropic. What I don’t notice, however, is the protective effect.

Cold shock proteins are a special class of proteins that help the body work more efficiently. Experiments show that these can help the brain repair itself (synapses). Cold exposure upregulates their production [R].

Researchers believe that these cold shock proteins can also help protect humans against Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurological conditions [R].

It doesn’t take a huge long-term core body temperature drop to get these benefits. Just 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mood, anxiety & depression

Over a decade ago, before even knowing about the effects on the brain, I emerged from my very first ice bath feeling great.

Negative mental chatter, worries, and preoccupations faded away, replaced by feeling alive and vital.

Research supports this, cold water immersion can improve feelings of wellness while simultaneously alleviating stress and anxiety [R].

This is believed to occur because cold exposure increases norepinephrine in the brain.

By stimulating cold receptors on the skin, your peripheral nerve endings send anti-depressive electrical signals to the brain via norepinephrine and serotonin [R]. Contributing to better overall mental health.

Interestingly, those same researchers concluded (emphasis mine) [R],

“Therapeutic agents which specifically increase NE activity are effective antidepressants, and there is evidence that those acting simultaneously on [serotonin] and [norepinephrine] neurotransmission may have an antidepressant action superior to SSRIs.

Those combined with the dramatically increased levels of the body’s natural, pain-killing endorphins.

Most of the reports on cold immersion improving symptoms of anxiety are anecdotal. Several studies have noticed lower levels of anxiety as a secondary benefit [R].

Cold likely impacts worry and fear through similar pathways as above.

Mental resilience & hormesis

A man meditating with a view of the horizon
Cold plunging builds mental clarity and resilience

After several consecutive sessions, cold plunging gets easier.

Exposure to cold water certainly increases your body’s tolerance to stress (hormesis) as well as builds mental resilience.

With repeated exposures, your body adapts to the initial shock of extreme temperatures. It begins to disrupt your biology less, and you become inoculated against cold stress. This is the process of hormesis, and it’s not unique to cold.

Your biology reacts similarly to heat stress (sauna), exercise, and other healthy practices.

If you take a break and go a while without ice bathing, you lose some of that adaptation and it temporarily feels difficult again.

The mental resilience benefit alone keeps me coming back to cold therapy. Which is highly related to the next one.

Discipline

No one has an easy time voluntarily choosing to plunge into freezing cold water. Hundreds of sessions later, I still hesitate at the idea every time (well, except not in 100+ degree Texas summers).

Anyone can do it. For most people, it’s the initial thought through the first five seconds that’s by far the hardest.

But committing to submerging yourself into the cold—and following through—builds tremendous mental fortitude and discipline.

Unlike exercise or most other uncomfortable healthy habits, this one only takes a few minutes of your time.

By the time you commit, shed your clothing, and dry off, you’ve already set up the rest of your day for success.

Cold plunging is one of the best ways to rapidly build your discipline, and it carries over to everything else you do.

Lowers inflammation

Cold therapy is well-known to bring down inflammation. This is exactly what virtually every sports science institute has taught for decades.

It works through a process called cold-induced vasoconstriction. When you expose your body to cold water, the blood vessels constrict, which reduces blood flow to inflamed areas of the body. This decreases swelling and pain that can exacerbate inflammation.

Cold also causes the release of anti-inflammatory molecules such as the cytokine interleukin-10 and other substances.

At the same time, cold exposure reduces the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).

Together, shifting the body towards an anti-inflammatory state.

When swelling is beneficial, you want to be careful about your exposure to excess cold as it can blunt the benefits (such as after resistance training).

Pain relief

Cold immersion has definite pain-relieving benefits.

There’s the obvious numbing effect of extremely cold water on the skin.

The same natural pain-relieving endorphins that we’ve discussed multiple times certainly play a role here too.

When I’ve had injuries from Rugby and American Football, ice baths definitely took the edge off the pain.

I much preferred cold to NSAIDs and other synthetic pain relievers.

Note that these analgesic effects only provide temporary pain relief. Cold therapy doesn’t address the root causes of pain. Although in some cases, any relief makes a dramatic difference.

Testosterone & growth hormones

Among the hotly debated potentials of cold therapy, is its effect on testosterone levels.

Many folks display photos of their total testosterone blood tests dramatically increasing after cold therapy. But it’s impossible to isolate this increase purely to the cold exclusively.

Some of the research suggests that while testosterone levels may not change, cortisol does. Cortisol directly opposes testosterone, so a drop in cortisol can cause still greater anabolism without impacting testosterone directly [R, R].

A 2021 rat study showed that training in cold water significantly increased their testosterone and growth hormone levels [R].

Another study of elite Olympic weightlifters found an insignificant average effect on the hormones for the group but with some individuals responding very well to cold [R].

This certainly wouldn’t be my primary reason to use cold therapy. If you’re seeking a greater anabolic hormonal response, you might want to consider heat therapy instead [R].

Muscle recovery & soreness

Woman experience muscle soreness after exercise
Cold immersion is a prime solution against muscle soreness

I first began using cold water immersion as a tool to biohack my muscle recovery for weekends when we had back-to-back rugby matches.

Cold can help against muscle soreness, inflammation, and accelerate recovery by minimizing tissue damage and improving muscle repair [R].

Best of all, it severely reduces the dreaded and debilitating delayed onset muscle soreness (D.O.M.S).

I’d practically limp into our shower bathtubs (that had been filled with ice), and emerge about five minutes later feeling significantly better. Good enough to play the entire 80-minute match the following day.

Athletes at every level often use it for exactly this [R].

Don’t worry, this isn’t just for the pros or elite athletes. Anyone can benefit from the reduced soreness which then allows you to train again sooner.

The way it works is that the blood vessels in your arms and legs constrict when you jump into chilly water. This keeps your warm blood protecting your organs.

The consequence, however, is a temporary restriction of your circulation to your extremities.

The real magic happens when you get out of the water. Your blood vessels dilate and oxygen-rich blood flood your muscle tissues. Almost like a mechanical pumping action.

But for the greatest possible results, you can combine cold and hot therapy. A 15-20 minute sauna session will dramatically dilate your blood vessels. Then the cold constricts them.

Called “contrast therapy”, this is an excellent way to flush metabolic waste and cellular debris from your system. I do this 3-4X per week.

Boosts metabolism & weight loss

Can cold plunging really yield the benefit of enhancing your weight loss efforts?

Exposure to cold likely contributes to fat loss via several mechanisms:

  • Activating brown fat
  • Sensitizing you to insulin
  • Stabilizing blood sugar

Cold water activates a special kind of body fat called brown adipose tissue (BAT) [R]. Your body tries harder to maintain its normal core temperature, so your BAT gets burned as heat (mitochondrial uncoupling).

This, in turn, increases your metabolic rate. Leading to greater caloric expenditure throughout the rest of your day.

All that shivering also causes you to burn through muscle glycogen (stored carbs), which improves your ability to efficiently use dietary fuels [R]. So cold improves insulin sensitivity, a key marker of your metabolic health [R].

Other folks, like a prominent NASA scientist named Ray Cronise, claim to have doubled their weight loss over a short period via deliberate cold therapy.

The best way to use cold plunging for weight loss is to combine it with the other tenets of healthy living (sleep, exercise, etc).

Improved immunity

Regularly diving into cold water strengthens your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells in circulation.

White blood cell count is a key biomarker of immune system readiness and ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

But it’s not just your white blood cells. Red blood cells and platelet count change from swimming in cold water too [R].

Indirectly, whole-body cold water immersion also increases your body’s production of a potent antioxidant called glutathione [R]. This substance has multiple immune-enhancing roles throughout the body.

There’s definitely a dose-dependent response. Extremely long cold exposures can tax the immune system and make you more susceptible to infection.

Detoxification

Cold water immersion improves detoxification in several ways.

First, by increasing circulation and nutrient delivery through the body. When exposed to cold water, the blood vessels constrict. Then they dilate when warmed up, promoting circulation.

It also enhances the lymphatic system, which is a network designed to help the body clear cellular waste products and toxins from the body.

As we discussed previously, cold activates brown adipose tissue, which burns body fat and metabolizes toxins stored within it.

If you must pick one modality, most experts agree that the sauna is a better biohack for natural cellular detox. But my favorite is to combine them for contrast therapy.

Blood flow

Blood vessels flowing with increased circulation
After a cold plunge, oxygen-rich blood circulates more effectively throughout the body

Since cold narrows your blood vessels (vasoconstricts), it seems unlikely that this therapy could improve blood flow.

That’s true, cold exposure temporarily restricts blood flow.

Afterward, however, the body hyper-compensates. Once you get out of the cold water, your blood vessels dilate, triggering increased blood flow and oxygenation to the tissues in your extremities and skin [R].

Over time, this can significantly improve cardiovascular circulation.

Again, for maximum benefits, this is another opportunity to add in a heat therapy practice like the sauna and do contrast therapy.

Skin health & hair

Cold water can improve the health and appearance of both your skin and hair.

Skin and hair specialists often recommend against hot showers. This is because hot water removes the protective oily layer of your skin and hair.

Cold water can still clean and it also helps tighten your pores. Improving the way your hair and skin look.

You don’t need to eliminate your showers. Try keeping them warm (instead of hot) and limiting the total duration both help your complexion and appearance.

Sleep

Among the consistent effects I notice, is longer and higher quality sleep the night following cold exposure.

No matter if my session is early in the morning or in the late evening, my Oura ring shows better overall sleep and recovery biometrics.

A 2021 study of well-trained athletes had similar results. Whole-body immersion increased sleepiness, reduced movement throughout the night, and increased the highly restorative slow-wave phase of sleep [R].

Another showed that elite cyclists fell asleep faster from cold water immersion [R].

There’s tremendous variability among individuals for the best time to use cold therapy to enhance sleep. Because of the effect on your hormones and neurotransmitters, some people can’t do it within four hours of sleep.

For me, I sleep great when I take a long cold shower or an ice bath within an hour or two of bedtime. It shifts me into a deeply relaxing parasympathetic state and my recovery scores reflect that.

My favorite, however, is to do a 30-minute sauna session four hours before bed. Then, I let my core body temperature naturally come down. After 30 minutes outside the sauna, I end with a nice long ice bath.

Heart rate variability (HRV)

Person getting tested for heart rate variability
The HRV biomarker is a great way to learn about the current state of your nervous system

Cold plunging usually has dramatic effects on the state of your nervous system. Which is reflected by a biomarker called heart rate variability.

HRV is essentially the difference in time between heartbeats. The “delta” rate of change. To oversimplify, the greater the variation in time between heartbeats, the greater your balance between relaxation and stress.

Counterintuitively, only stressed nervous systems beat at a consistent rhythm.

You can train HRV and notice some profound stress-relieving (and more) benefits.

Bathing in ice gives you the ability to practice down-regulating your sympathetic nervous system via controlled breathing.

This helps you better manage stress and you’ll see this as a better HRV score on any modern wearable trackers.

Improved HRV is among the top improvements noticed by biohackers with a cold plunge practice [R].

But there’s a sweet spot. If you go for super long, your HRV will likely plummet afterward. There’s also a genetic component. Some people do poorly with cold plunges and see their heart rate variability crash after sessions.

Cardiovascular health

Submerging your whole body in cold water improves your cardiovascular health.

Most of us rarely experience significant vasoconstriction. Temporary immersion causes a hypercompensation of increased blood flow, oxygenation, and nutrient delivery after your session.

It also improves a number of cardiometabolic biomarkers like heart rate variability, blood pressure, and potentially even cardiac ejection fraction.

All this on top of greater stress resilience. Oxidative stress is one of the major cardiovascular disruptors.

Longevity & anti-aging

Few people talk about it, but cold plunging has indirect anti-aging and longevity benefits.

Biological age, a metric of how well our cells function, matters much more than calendar age. At least for your healthspan.

One of the common measures of biological age is what’s called telomere length. Longer telomeres correlate to younger biological age. Cold exposure can help lengthen telomeres.

It also reduces the activation of a pro-growth (yet aging) pathway called mTOR.

Could this explain why people who live in colder climates on average live several years longer than those in the tropics?

There are actually a bunch of mechanisms explaining it. Cold shock proteins are highly protective, especially against neurodegenerative conditions.

Deliberate cold exposure also upregulates the bodily production of antioxidants like glutathione.

It also may deter the accumulation of senescent “zombie” cells [R]. These are cells that consume resources without contributing to your health. They infect other cells and drive inflammation.

These, on top of the hormone and inflammation-modulating effects previously discussed.

Intuitively, we also know that cold slows down biological activity. Scientists are even working to preserve humans by freezing them.

Precautions & Dangers of Cold Therapy

Cold therapy certainly has its share of risks, drawbacks, and dangers.

There are both serious life-threatening potential complications and less significant ones.

Some of the major conditions and risks to watch out for when practicing cold water immersion include:

  • Medical conditions — folks with conditions like Raynaud’s disease, diabetes, or compromised circulation should also seek medical advice before engaging in cold therapy
  • Injury risk — this temporarily numbs the skin, increasing the risk of accidental injury. Especially when handling sharp objects or doing things that need optimal motor control
  • Frostbite — although very rare, long exposure to cold can lead to frostbite
  • Hypothermia — long sessions lower body temperature for a long time, increasing potential damage caused by hypothermia
  • Cardiovascular strain — cold causes vasoconstriction, which increases blood pressure and adds strain on the cardiovascular system. Those with hypertension or heart conditions should be especially careful as sudden cold immersion can cause tachycardia and acute peripheral vasoconstriction [R]
  • Respiratory issues — if you have a respiratory condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), extreme cold can trigger breathing issues
  • Cold hypersensitivity — while rare, some people are genetically intolerant of extreme cold and are at greater risk [R]

If any of these apply to you, certainly consider consulting a medical professional before implementing cold plunging.

With that out of the way, let’s go into my top techniques and tips to implement cold therapy into your lifestyle.

How to Do Cold Therapy (Techniques & Tips)

A man adjusting to the cold water temperature in the showe
If you want to build up to the cold plunge slowly, a shower is just one of the many ways to start

If you’re a beginner looking to incorporate cold therapy into your routine, you probably won’t want to start with a cold plunge.

Start with warmer water and shorter sessions. As you get accustomed to it, you can drop the temperature and extend your time in the water.

In fact, there’s a simple progression I like to use to acclimate to the cold. From easiest to hardest:

  1. Cold walk — if you’re not used to the cold, going on a walk with minimal clothing during the fall, winter, and spring months is the easiest way to start. 30 minutes at temperatures of 45 degrees, with shoes, shorts, and no shirt is my usual routine.
  2. Cold shower — once the walk becomes easier, you can graduate to a cold shower. Flip the temperature to max cold for the last 30 seconds of your shower. If that’s too hard, you can just submerge your face. Then, work up to five minutes of cold shower.
  3. Full cold plunge — the final level is a full cold plunge. You can either use your bathtub, or a commercial plunge (more on those later). Work your way to a temperature of 30-50 degrees. Your ideal time is inversely related to temperature. At 50 degrees, you can last five minutes. At 30 degrees, 1-2 minutes is great.

When you’re doing the full cold plunge, lay back and submerge as much of your body as possible. Control your inhalations and exhalations.

For the best results, make sure to dunk your head (which activates the “mammalian dive reflex”)

The most important part is to control your breathing. Don’t worry, this gets a LOT easier with practice.

As much as you don’t want to, go for another round tomorrow. And one the day after. You’ll be shocked by how much easier it becomes each and every day.

For a bonus, once you’re ready, you can try the frozen lake plunge. Since the cold water circulates, it subjectively feels a ton colder.

Avoid these cold plunge beginner mistakes

There are several mistakes that beginners often make.

I’ll list each common cold plunge mistake and the best practices:

  • Lack of preparation — jumping into cold without physical (or mental) prep shocks the system. Acclimate gradually and prepare your nervous system first
  • Shallow breathing — proper breathing helps offset initial shock and is key to getting the most out of your experience. Before getting in, take a minute to practice deep, controlled breaths (instead of panicking)
  • Partial submersion — any cold exposure is helpful, but you get the greatest benefit from submerging your entire body (including dunking your head). That’s also what much of the research implements
  • Ignoring health conditions — cold exposures exacerbate some health issues. If you’re unsure, consult your healthcare professional first
  • Prolonged exposure — beginners especially stay in cold water for too long. Instead, start with short durations of a minute or so
  • Temperature too cold — similarly, extreme cold for your first session increases your risk of shock, discomfort, and complications. Start at around 50 degrees and gradually decrease the water temperature over multiple sessions
  • Inconsistency — cold plunging is uncomfortable and a hard habit to build. Get the most benefits via regular practice (it gets easier by day three)
  • Skipping safety — though rare, emergencies can happen. Have someone nearby when plunging into very cold water, especially for your first times
  • Pushing too hard — severe discomfort or pain is a biofeedback signal from the body warning you of potential injury or worse. Listen to your body and get out if anything feels wrong
  • Staying cold — the cold plunge is a powerful stressor. You should gradually warm up your body after each session, especially if you’re shivering uncontrollably
  • Competition — biohackers like to compare all stats (duration and temperature) but this is a dangerous practice that misses the point. Remember that more isn’t always better

These are just a few of the common newbie mistakes you can now avoid.

Cold therapy biohacks

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you might be ready for the advanced cold plunge biohacks.

These protocols, technologies, and substances can help you get greater benefits from your cold plunging:

  1. Contrast Therapy — as mentioned throughout this article, switching between the sauna and cold is a powerful therapeutic technique for overall health
  2. Intermittent Hypoxia Training — intermittent exposure to low oxygen levels (hypoxia) enhances cold adaptation and oxygen use.
  3. Photobiomodulation — applying red or near-infrared light therapy before or after ice bathing enhances cellular recovery and energy production.
  4. Neurofeedback — brain training during your sessions helps control your brainwave activity, and stress/relaxation response.
  5. Supplements — my favorite and the easiest way to amplify the benefits of cold thermogenesis. You can use different ingredients to target particular benefits of cold exposure.

Natural “heating” extracts like green tea, black pepper, red pepper, ginger, cinnamon, bitter melon, L-BAIBA, Grains of Paradise, omega-3 fatty acids, and forskolin are all powerful cold-exposure-enhancing supplements [R, R].

You also have some of the more potent adaptogens and actoprotectors that can increase tolerance to cold.

The best cold plunge tubs

You don’t need any special gear to begin cold plunging.

You can buy bulk ice, fill your bathtub, wait 30 minutes, and do it right at home.

It’s a bit of a hassle and it doesn’t get as cold as some of the commercial options.

You can also buy a chest freezer for the DIY approach and build your own.

If you have the budget and want one of the best commercial cold plunge tubs, here they are:

  • Renu
  • The Cold Plunge
  • Edge Theory Labs

That’s the only necessary equipment.

Ice Bath Q&As

Cold plunging is fairly intuitive. Nevertheless, there are a few things you should know before getting started.

Is cold plunging actually good for you?

Your genetics, age, stress, activity level, hydration, and other lifestyle factors determine if cold therapy will be beneficial or detrimental to you. Most people don’t need extremely cold temperatures or long sessions to benefit.

How long should you do a cold plunge?

1-5 minutes of cold plunging with water ranging from 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Start with warmer water and shorter sessions and gradually build over several weeks as you adapt.

What time of day is best to cold plunge?

Morning cold plunges are best for most people and increase your energy and improve mental clarity. 2-4 hours before bed is best to improve your sleep quality. Athletes and exercisers benefit most from cold plunging immediately before training.

Do cold plunges help lose weight?

Yes, cold exposure helps you lose weight because it increases your fat burning (metabolic rate and energy expenditure) as well as helps convert some of your body fat (called BAT) into heat. Combine it with exercise for a stronger effect.

What are the cons of cold plunge?

Cold plunging has its drawbacks. The most common issue is dysregulated stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine). Some people have panic attacks induced by extremely cold water. Other potential but rare consequences include tachycardia and acute peripheral vasoconstriction, frostbite, hypothermia, and dizziness.

Is a cold shower as good as an ice bath?

Cold showers are a great way to experience cold thermogenesis but with fewer benefits than an ice bath. Submerge your entire body simultaneously to drop your core body temperature and get benefits the fastest. A cold shower could be as good if it drops to a similar temperature range of 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit, but you’d need to make it much longer.

Should you dunk your head in a cold plunge?

Yes! Only by dunking your head do you activate the mammalian dive reflex. This response helps your body rapidly adapt to the cold by slowing down your heart rate, constricting blood vessels, and directing blood flow to essential organs (heart and brain). Essentially, increasing tolerance to cold temperatures and protecting the body from hypothermia.

Cold Exposure Therapy: A Magic Bullet for Optimal Health?

Cold water can be a health optimization tool or it can add excess biological stress and be a net negative.

Use appropriately, it’s a powerful way to build mental toughness, anti-fragility, and longer healthspan. While at the same time, promoting athletic recovery, better sleep, lower inflammation, optimized hormones, weight loss, metabolic health, and a whole lot more.

One of the things I love about it is the minimal gear required. You can get started with just a bag of ice and a bathtub. Or, get a chest freezer and build your own. If you want to get fancy, you can buy a commercial cold plunge.

Sidestep some of the common mistakes and use the right biohacks to amplify your results.

For the greatest benefits and most fun experience, I recommend combining the cold with a heat therapy practice like the sauna (contrast therapy).

If you’ve found this helpful, please send it to a friend or share it on social media.

Drop a comment below and let me know your experience!

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Post Tags: Biohacking, Extreme Temperatures, Fitness, Lifestyle, Recovery & Resilience

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