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Is There a Best Time to Cold Plunge?

Apr 24, 2024

 

Cold plunging is no longer health and fitness's best kept secret. The world is now tuned into the idea of cold water therapy and the health benefits of taking a cold plunge.

That being said, there's a lot of information out there. It can be hard to know when, why, how, and so on, and so forth. In this article, we will answer the "When?"

So is there a best time to cold plunge? There is! It has to do with how you're feeling, the time of day, if you've exercised recently, and other things. The benefits you will receive will differ based on how and when you approach your cold plunges. We're going to cover all of that here.

When is the Best Time to Cold Plunge?

What you want to achieve with your cold exposure is what will determine when you make it happen. Let's look at some examples.

During Moments of Stress

Cold exposure is known to increase the production of norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter that increases focus, attention, vigilance, and mood. As a result, cold therapy often increases positive feelings of calm, well-being, and happiness.

Some studies show that cold plunges also show increases in brain chemicals such as dopamine. A lot of people report what they call a "post-swim high." Cold water activates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system which prompts relaxation.

When you're feeling stressed, a cold plunge may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

After Exercising

How to best recover from strenuous workouts has been a question on everyone's minds since the dawn of time. Recent reports are indicating very positive results with post-workout cold plunges.

This is especially true for workouts that happen in the heat. When your body temperature is too high for too long, it can cause sickness and risk heat stroke. Avoiding overheating should be a priority when you work out. A cold plunge after (especially) heat-driven workouts can help cool you down, boost your ability to recover quickly, and minimize the cardio strain levels.

52 studies done in 2022 show that exposure to cold temperatures after a high-intensity exercise resulted in positive outcomes for muscle power, reduced muscle soreness, and perceived recover. People who cold plunge after their workouts often see a massive reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness.

In the Morning

There are many people who love to begin their days with some cold water swimming. Taking a dip into icy water - whether that's a cold shower, cold bath, or a dive into the backyard pond - first thing in the morning triggers certain chemical reactions throughout the body that increase mental alertness and energy.

You day doesn't have to start with caffeine when you can get a big boost of energy in another, much healthier way. The morning practice helps to regulate blood pressure and support a healthy heart from the very first day.

Before Bed

Much in the same way a cold plunge can limit stress in your life, they can calm your mind and spirit as you work your way to bed.

Remember, cold plunges are known to increase mental alertness and clarity, so right before bed is not advised. However, 1-2 hours before will reset your blood flow, clear your mind, calm your heart, and get you ready to sleep soundly.

Ice baths are also quite tiring! You might find that it knocks that remaining energy out of you just in time to prepare you for the best night's sleep you've had in a long time.

Worst Times to Take Ice Baths

Just as there are good times to cold plunge, there are also bad times. If you're not aware, you could end up damaging your health rather than improving it. Avoid that mistake by avoiding these times:

During Extreme Weather

It should go without saying that you should not be cold plunging when the weather is dangerous. Don't do it during a blizzard, flood, torrential downpour, and, if your cold plunge tub is outside, especially don't go out when there's lightening around.

This may seem like common sense, but it's entirely possible to get so focused on those things we think are helping us that we forget to consider the peripheral. By staying safe, you are, in actuality, putting your health first.

When You're Sick

When you're ill, your body is already in a state of constant stress. It's trying to heal and that means rest and recovery. The last thing you want to do when you're sick is make it harder on your body to respond the way it needs to.

Maybe you're used to taking an ice bath every day. Maybe you've already seen the cold plunge benefits from it. But placing your stressed body in an environment that is intentionally physically demanding will only prolong your sickness by weakening your immune system.

If You Are Unsure

Sometimes, our bodies tell us things that we're not really sure how to interpret. If you're hesitant, maybe the cold plunge timing is just off.

Try doing some breathwork and regulating your heart and mind to see if that remedies your hesitations. If it does not, stick to cold showers for a while more and come back when you're ready.

Is Cold Plunging Better Before or After a Workout?

There are pros and cons to each.

After a workout, you see reduced muscle soreness (likely due, in part, to the rapid constriction of the blood vessels from the cold water), enhanced feelings of general wellness, and good moods.

Cold plunges, despite what they look like, aren't a cure-all. While they might increase fat burning, they can also potentially cause the participant to overshoot calorie intakes because of increased hunger.

As a pre-workout measure, you will find a cold plunge an excellent way to wake yourself up. Even if you choose to go early in the morning, an ice bath will eliminate those feelings of sluggishness.

You will see increases in mental clarity and a reduction in stress, which can both lead to a more productive workout.

 

However, most of the benefits from cold plunges become relevant after taxing the body. If you use cold plunges as a pre-workout measure, you will miss out on those post-workout benefits.

Is It Okay to Do Cold Water Immersion on a Hot Day?

It is okay, but you have to take an extra step in order to avoid shocking your body. It is extra important on days such as these to take things slow.

If you're overheated, it is crucial that you take a cool shower before you do a cold plunge. The cold shower will lower your body temperature enough that it doesn't go into shock with the sudden drop that accompanies a cold plunge.

Should You Cold Plunge After the Sauna?

How you should treat a cold plunge after a sauna is very similar to how you should treat it on a warm day.

You must gradually lower your body temperature from very warm to very cool or you risk sending your body into a kind of shock that's hard to recover from.

Can You Make Your Own Cold Plunge at Home?

You most certainly can! DIY Pools and Spas has a DIY cold plunge kit that is specifically for DIY cold plunge construction.

This DIY cold plunge kit came about because Brandon saw that there was a need. He wanted to make cold plunges accessible to everyone, which is why he went through the process first. Brandon bought all the parts necessary and figured out the best way to assemble a cold plunge from the comfort of the home.

The kit comes with a step by step guide that walks you through everything you need to know to have a fully functioning, well-designed cold plunge without hiring outside hands. It also provides all the parts and resources needed at a discounted price to homeowners.