What Is Cold Water Immersion?
Cold water immersion is a routine involving submerging oneself in a body of water that’s below 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a predetermined amount of time. A key factor of gaining the benefits of cold water immersion (CWI) is attention to the details, both how cold the water is and how long the session is. Keeping a close eye on these critical factors will not only ensure the best results but keep you safe. To help you uncover the potential training benefits of CWI, we’re going to touch on some of the most pertinent points and what leading research is telling us about CWI. Read on to learn if CWI is something you should add to your training program.
Does Cold Water Immersion Improve Recovery?
One of the most pressing questions athletes have about CWI is whether or not it can improve their recovery from training. To say the least, treatment of sore muscles is at the top of the list of benefits athletes seek when recovering from training. So what does the research say so far?
What’s the Research on How Cold Water Immersion Improves Recovery?
In one research study by Burke et al. (2000), participants exhibited a greater increase in isometric hip flexor strength after only 5 days of isometric training in combination with cold water immersion therapy (10 min at 8 ± 1°C) compared with only passive recovery after each session.
Acute Vs. Chronic Adaptation Studies
Researchers have been studying how CWI can speed up short-term (acute) recovery by reducing inflammatory pathways. However, whether or not using CWI is an effective modality for reducing long-term (chronic) adaptations in physical development (e.g. strength, hypertrophy etc) is still uncertain. Does dunking in a cold plunge tub after most training sessions reduce vascular and muscular adaptations long-term?
If it’s determined that continual use of CWI could hamper chronic adaptations, this could suggest that it may only be a worthwhile therapy during intense training periods rather than on regular schedules.
Potential Issues With Cold Water Immersion
One potential downside of CWI is the accessibility and/or transportability of cold plunge tubs. Cold plunge tubs can be pricey pieces of equipment, requiring an abundance of space. RENU Therapy offers more affordable CWI solutions that have more reasonable space requirements than old-school ice bathtubs of professional sports therapy clinics.
Duration Of Immersion
Current research has tested CWI with substantial variations between immersion durations, ranging from 1-15 minutes but without common agreement on what the optimal time is. Some studies suggest it could take approximately 10-minutes for the movement of interstitial-intravascular fluid to occur, indicating cold immersion sessions should be at least 10-minutes for achieving the optimal benefits for training recovery.
Practicality of Cold Therapy After a Workout
Although cold showers can provide some health benefits that boost your workouts, they aren’t as potent as a cold plunge tub. When you want the most from cold tub immersion, being able to take the water temperature down to a frigid 39 degrees makes a big difference. RENU Therapy cold water immersion tubs provide greater convenience for at-home CWI that delivers the maximum benefits compared with cold showers or putting ice in a regular tub. With temperature settings from 39 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, RENU makes it convenient to achieve the perfect temperature for your training recovery.
Burn More Fat, Even When Not Working Out
Studies have shown that brown fat generates heat energy in cold environments, but since brown fat doesn’t burn off, unlike white fat, the body uses white fat for energy instead. By triggering brown fat’s ability to activate white fat as an energy source, CWI offers weight loss benefits as well as training recovery benefits. It’s kind of like turning on an internal furnace that burns fat.
One study found that a 3-hour session of cold exposure led to expending 250 extra calories through brown fat, which came almost entirely from burning white fat. Until recently, it was believed that brown fat almost completely disappears as humans mature into adulthood. However, recent studies indicate brown fat is only absent in some adults—ironically, obese adults have the least brown fat, also called brown adipose tissue (BAT). In fact, brown fat has been linked with leanness at all stages in life, as children with more brown fat tend to grow up to be leaner adults.
Leptin and Cold Water Therapy for Weight Loss
A hormone called leptin has been found to be an important regulator of body mass, much the way brown fat helps keep white fat levels at bay. Brown fat activation through cold exposure could potentially play a role in addressing the hormonal dysfunctions that often accompany obesity.
Essentially, the hormone leptin works like an internal thermostat that works to regulate body mass by increasing appetites when fat stores become low and decreasing appetites when fat stores are high. Of course, the downside to this effect is that it can be incredibly difficult for obese people to lose weight for good, as they basically have to fight their own bodies.
Boost Your Desire to Train With CWI
Aside from the weight loss and exercise recovery benefits, CWI can also help boost athletes’ desire to train. Some studies suggest that athletes experience variability in “desire to train,” a subjective indicator that goes beyond modern biofeedback metrics such as Heart Rate Variability, pulse oximeters, and sleep quality. And while self-scored metrics are subjective, there’s no denying some days are easier to get motivated to train than others. If a method proves effective for motivating your training, it’s hard to ignore this benefit.
CWI Whenever You Need to Increase Training Outcomes
RENU Therapy makes it easy to increase your training outcomes by enabling cold water immersion at home after your workouts. With attractive designs that complement the finest of home interiors, our cold plunge tubs look as good as they make you feel. Find your perfect cold plunge tub design today!