Updated Cold Plunge Info: New Research and Best Practices

Updated Cold Plunge Info: New Research and Best Practices

Imagine transforming your workout routine with a simple change that boosts your performance and recovery (additional recovery hacks that you haven't thought about). 


Cold plunging (traditionally recommended post-workout for reducing muscle soreness and inflammation) is now gaining attention for its potential benefits when done before exercising. 


We'll explore the latest research (as of May 2024) on cold plunging, compare past and present recommendations, and provide practical advice on integrating this practice into your fitness regimen.


Before you begin - always consult your physician before beginning any exercise or dietary program(s). This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription or dietary program that's right for you. 



Traditional Recommendations for Cold Plunging


Traditional Views of Cold Plunging Benefits

Post-Workout Practice:

Cold plunging has long been recommended as an effective post-workout recovery method. By immersing yourself in cold water after intense physical activity, you can help your muscles recover more quickly and reduce the discomfort associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The idea behind this practice is that the cold temperature helps constrict blood vessels, which reduces inflammation and swelling.


The Supporting Evidence:

Several studies and expert opinions have supported the post-workout use of cold plunging. 


For instance, the Cleveland Clinic highlights how cold water immersion can significantly reduce muscle inflammation and soreness after strenuous exercise. This method has been prevalent among athletes, marathon runners, and fitness enthusiasts who need to expedite their recovery to maintain high-performance levels​ (src: Cleveland Clinic)​.


Research published in the Journal of Athletic Training has shown that cold plunging can effectively decrease the symptoms of DOMS (as shared by NIH), allowing for faster recovery and a quicker return to training. This benefit is important for those involved in regular, high-intensity workouts where minimizing downtime is crucial.


Benefits Highlighted:

By incorporating cold plunging into your post-workout routine, you can experience several benefits that enhance your overall fitness and recovery. 


These benefits include:

  1. Reduced Muscle Soreness: Cold plunging can significantly lessen the intensity of muscle soreness after a challenging workout. This reduction in soreness is due to the cold water's ability to decrease muscle tissue temperature and reduce the metabolic rate, which helps mitigate the pain associated with muscle damage.
  2. Decreased Inflammation: The constriction of blood vessels during a cold plunge helps to reduce inflammation and swelling in the muscles. This process can accelerate your body's healing response, leading to faster recovery.
  3. Faster Recovery: Cold plunging allows you to recover more quickly by limiting inflammation and muscle soreness. This accelerated recovery can enable you to maintain a more consistent workout schedule, improving your overall fitness and performance.
  4. Enhanced Circulation: Following a cold plunge, the body's subsequent rewarming leads to vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels. This increased blood flow can help flush out metabolic waste products from your muscles, further aiding recovery.


Traditionally, the advice has been that incorporating cold plunging into your post-workout routine can provide significant benefits, helping you recover faster and perform better in your fitness journey. 



New Research & Insights Into the Cold Plunge (updated: May 2024)

New Research and Benefits for Cold Plunging

Pre-Workout Cold Plunging:

Emerging research suggests that cold plunging before a workout might offer significant benefits, shifting the traditional use of this practice. 


New studies indicate that immersing yourself in cold water before exercising can enhance performance and improve mental clarity, providing a fresh perspective on incorporating cold plunging into your fitness routine.


Research Findings:

Pre-workout cold plunging can positively impact both physical and mental aspects of performance. 


An article on Mindbodygreen highlights that cold water immersion before exercise can improve circulation and prepare your muscles for the upcoming physical activity (and can be a "pre-workout booster"). 


Additionally, Cold Plunge Culture notes that the shock of cold water can increase alertness and focus, potentially leading to better workout outcomes.


A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that athletes who engaged in cold water immersion before their training sessions reported enhanced endurance and strength during their workouts (discussed more on NIH). 


These findings suggest that the physiological responses triggered by cold water immersion can create a more favorable environment for physical exertion.


Physiological Impact:

The physiological changes induced by pre-workout cold plunging include:

  1. Improved Circulation: The initial vasoconstriction followed by vasodilation increases blood flow to your muscles, delivering more oxygen and nutrients. This process prepares your body for physical activity, potentially reducing the risk of injury and enhancing performance.
  2. Increased Alertness: The cold shock response triggers the release of adrenaline, heightening your alertness and focus. This increased mental clarity can help you perform better during your workout, maintaining a higher level of concentration and motivation.
  3. Mental Benefits: Cold plunging can also lead to the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. This can improve your mental state, making you feel more motivated and ready to tackle your workout.


<h3>Expert Opinions Supporting NEW Cold Plunge Recommendations:


Fitness and medical experts have started recognizing the potential benefits of pre-workout cold plunging. Dr. Mark Harper, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care, notes, "Cold water immersion before exercise can act as a stimulant, preparing both the mind and body for the exertion to come. The physiological responses can lead to improved performance and a reduced perception of effort."


Athlete and fitness coach Ben Greenfield also advocates for pre-workout cold plunging, stating, "Incorporating cold plunging before my workouts has made a noticeable difference in my energy levels and focus. It's a simple yet effective way to prime my body and mind for optimal performance."


Consider these new insights, and you can experiment with pre-workout cold plunging to see how it affects your performance and mental clarity. As always, listen to your body and adjust your routine as needed to maximize the benefits of this emerging practice.



NEW Cold Plunging Guide (updated: May 2024)


GUIDE: Creating Your Customized Approach to Update Cold Plunging Information

<h3>Timing and Frequency for Cold Plunging

To integrate cold plunging into your workout routine effectively, select which approach fits your own needs and exercise routine. 


Here's how:

  • Pre-Workout: If you opt for pre-workout cold plunging, aim to do it about 10-15 minutes before you start exercising. This timing helps boost circulation and mental alertness, preparing your body for the workout ahead.
  • Post-Workout: If you prefer cold plunging as a recovery tool, do it immediately after your workout. This helps reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, aiding in faster recovery.

For frequency, start with cold plunging 2-3 times per week. You can increase this frequency as your body adjusts based on your recovery needs and overall tolerance.


<h3>Duration and Temperature for Cold Plunging

For safe and effective cold plunging, adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Duration: Keep your cold plunges between 2-5 minutes. Beginners should start at the lower end of this range and gradually increase the duration as their tolerance builds. You'll feel your body change from completely freezing to being able to deal with the cold water. This change is what we're looking for and as you become more of a cold plunge pro, adjust your plunge time accordingly.
  • Temperature: The optimal water temperature for cold plunging is between 50-59°F (10-15°C). This range is sufficient to trigger the beneficial physiological responses without posing excessive risks.


<h3>Safety Precautions for Cold Plunging

Ensuring your safety during cold plunging is paramount. Here are some crucial safety tips:

  • Gradual Acclimatization: Start with shorter durations and higher temperatures. Gradually decrease the water temperature and increase the duration as your body gets used to the cold. This method helps prevent shock and allows your body to adapt more comfortably.
  • Medical Consultation: If you have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, consult with your healthcare provider before starting cold plunging. They can provide personalized advice and ensure it's safe for you.
  • Monitor Your Body's Response: Consider how your body reacts during and after the cold plunge. If you experience any discomfort, excessive shivering, or numbness, exit the water immediately and warm up gradually.
  • Supervision and Environment: Avoid cold plunging alone, especially if you're a beginner. Having someone with you can assist if needed. Ensure the cold plunge environment is safe, with easy access to exit the water.


Cold Plunging Tips:

Personalizing your cold plunging routine based on your specific fitness goals and body responses can help you maximize its benefits. 


Here's how you can tailor your approach:

  • Fitness Goals: If your primary goal is muscle recovery, focus on post-workout cold plunging. Pre-workout cold plunging might be more beneficial for mental clarity and performance enhancement.
  • Body Response: Listen to your body and adjust your cold plunging routine accordingly. If specific durations or temperatures are too uncomfortable, modify them to suit your tolerance level. Remember, the key is to benefit from the practice without overexerting yourself (remember that note we made above about feeling your body change from freezing to working through the cold; adjust the temperature/process according to that feeling).
  • Additional Techniques: Incorporate other recovery techniques such as stretching, hydration, and proper nutrition alongside cold plunging. This holistic approach can enhance overall recovery and performance.


Following these practical guidelines, you can safely and effectively integrate cold plunging into your workout routine, reaping its numerous benefits while minimizing risks.



Selecting Which Cold Plunge Approach Works Best for Your Needs

Cold plunging has traditionally been used post-workout to aid muscle recovery and reduce inflammation. However, new research suggests pre-workout cold plunging can enhance performance and mental clarity. By understanding the benefits and practical guidelines for both pre-and post-workout cold plunging, you can tailor this practice to your specific needs.


Experimenting with cold plunging at different times in your routine can help you find the most effective approach for your fitness goals. Incorporating cold plunging can provide significant benefits if you're looking to boost performance, improve recovery, or enhance mental focus.


Ping us on social media and share your experiences and results with cold plunging. We'd love to know how this worked for you!