Last updated on December 5th, 2023 at 10:52 pm
My Experience With Cold Plunging
In spite of the incredibly traumatic experience of taking my first polar dip and discovering what it truly meant to shake uncontrollably; my personal experience with cold plunge has had a profound, net positive effect on my overall well-being.
New "fads" seem to come and go on the daily, most of them only managing to hang in there for a short period of time before dying off and remembered as an "era".
With all the new health tips and tricks coming at you like a mesmerizing blizzard, you may easily find yourself in a sort of paralysis-by-analysis state preventing you from ever pulling the trigger and committing to something that may optimize your health, performance and overall well-being.
I can say that cold plunge has been here ~ for what's believed to be centuries ~ and is not going anywhere anytime soon. Now let's dive into the benefits of cold plunge.
1. Relieves Muscle Soreness
Cold plunges may help relieve muscle soreness, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), by reducing inflammation and promoting recovery.
Immersion in cold water causes constriction of blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to the muscles, decrease inflammation and swelling, and reduce muscle soreness. Cold water immersion also activates the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body.
2. May Enhance Recovery From Exercise
Cold Plunge may enhance muscle recovery from exercise by reducing inflammation and soreness, as well as improving circulation and reducing muscle fatigue.
That being said, there has been significant evidence that would suggest that cold water immersion post-workout, particularly strength training, may actually hinder hypertrophy and strength gains due to your muscles inability to recover properly.
Although the literature doesn't seem to be absolute, someone who is considering adding cold plunge to their routine may consider doing so early in the day, before rigorous exercise or perhaps on rest days in order to mitigate the aforementioned negative effects.
If you are able to add cold plunge to your routine prior to exercise, the studies have shown that this is far more advantageous due to the release of dopamine and epinephrine that can last for hours.
3. Improves Mood
Cold plunge may have a positive effect on mood by increasing the release of endorphins , which are natural pain-relieving chemicals found in the body that can also improve mood and stress.
Cold plunge can also activate the sympathetic nervous system, which can lead to a feeling of invigoration and alertness.
In addition, cold plunge is also associated with the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine, both of which can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Cold immersion can be considered as a form of mild stressor that activates adaptive stress response, which can lead to an overall improvement of mood, focus and cognitive function.
4. May Reduce Pain
As mentioned before, cold water exposure is also associated with the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine, both of which act as natural pain relief.
Cold plunge can also be used as a form of cryotherapy, which is a treatment that uses cold temperatures to reduce pain and inflammation. Cold water immersion therapeutic techniques have been used to reduce pain in conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and sore muscles.
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5. Improves Your Sleep
Cold water therapy has a stimulating effect on the body, which increases alertness and energy levels. However, after the initial stimulation, the body begins to relax, which can lead to improved sleep quality and duration.
In addition, cold water therapy has been shown to regulate the body's internal temperature, which has a key role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
By exposing the body to cold water, the body's internal temperature drops, which can promote drowsiness and help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
6. Improves Blood Circulation
Cold plunging is thought to improve circulation by constricting blood vessels and increasing the flow of blood to the body's core.
This process is known as vasoconstriction. The body then re-warm's itself after the therapy, which causes the blood vessels to dilate and increases blood flow to the extremities. This process is know as vasodilation. The overall result is improved blood flow and circulation throughout the body.
In addition, as we discussed earlier, cold water therapy also releases endorphins which can aid in the reduction of pain and inflammation and increases the white blood cell count which is helpful with regards to fighting off infection and disease.
7. Prevents (and Improves) Mental Health Conditions
There is some evidence that suggest that cold water exposure may have an impact on mental health conditions such as depression. This is thought to occur through a few different mechanisms.
One possibility is that cold water immersion may trigger the release of endorphins that can have a net positive effect on mood regulation
Another possibility, is that cold immersion therapy can help to regulate the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which also play vital roles in mood regulation.
8. Increases Energy Level
Cold water immersion can increase energy levels by stimulating the production of adrenaline, which is a hormone that can boost energy and alertness.
Additionally, cold plunge can also increase circulation, which can help to deliver oxygen and essential nutrients to the cells in the body. Endorphins that are released by means of cold shock may also improve mood and feelings of fatigue.
9. Boosts the Immune System
Cold immersion, specifically cold water immersion, can boost the immune system by promoting the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infection and disease.
Cold immersion can also increase the flow of blood to the internal organs, which can help deliver more white blood cells and other immune cells to the areas of the body that need them most.
Additionally, since cold water immersion reduces inflammation in the body, this can also prevent infections from taking hold. It is worth noting that cold water immersion can also lower the body's temperature temporarily, which can also stimulate the production of white blood cells.
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10. Offers Neurocognitive Benefits
There have been multiple studies that have shown that cold plunge can provide neurocognitive benefits such as increased alertness, improved mood and focus, reduced stress, and enhanced athletic performance.
However, it would be important to note that these benefits may vary based on individual factors and more research is required in order to fully understand the effects of cold water immersion on the brain.
11. Better Muscle Performance
Although the effects of cold plunge on muscle performance can vary based on individual factors and the type and intensity of physical activity, studies have largely shown the potential increase in muscle performance.
Some example's of how cold water therapy can improve overall athletic performance are as follows:
Improves recovery time: cold water exposure can reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, allowing for a faster recovery time after intense exercise.
Increases circulation: cold water exposure increases blood flow, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which can enhance athletic performance.
Boosts energy levels: cold water therapy stimulates the production of adrenaline and other hormones, giving you an energy boost, thus improving athletic performance.
Enhanced endurance: cold plunging can increase your tolerance for high-intensity exercise, allowing you to perform for longer periods of time.
Increases muscle activation: Cold water can stimulate the muscles, increasing their activation.
Reduces Fatigue: cold water therapy helps reduce fatigue, allowing you to perform at a higher level for longer periods of time.
12. Improves Lymphatic Movement
The lymphatic system is responsible for filtering waste and excess fluids from the body and aiding in the immune response.
Cold water immersion causes the blood vessels in the skin to constrict, leading to increased blood flow to internal organs. This increased circulation and pressure changes may stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to improve the removal of waste and toxins from the body.
Additionally, the physiological stress response caused by cold water immersion may activate the release of certain hormones and immune cells, further boosting the body's natural waste removal and immune process.
13. Increased Blood Alkalinity
Cold water therapy, can potentially cause a temporary increase in blood alkalinity. Exposure to to very cold water or air, can result in a process known as vasoconstriction, where the blood vessels narrow and blood is redirected to the core of the body.
This process can cause a temporary increase in blood PH, leading to a slight increase in blood alkalinity.
While proponents of increasing blood alkalinity claim that there are various health benefits, the scientific evidence support claims is limited. However, some of the proposed benefits of increasing blood alkalinity include:
Improved athletic performance: Some proponents claim that increased blood alkalinity can improve athletic performance by reducing fatigue and increasing endurance.
Reduced inflammation: proponents claim that increased blood alkalinity can help reduce inflammation in the body, which may help to alleviate symptoms of certain chronic diseases.
Improved bone health: Proponents of alkalinity increase claim that increased blood alkalinity can improve bone health by reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Improved overall health and wellbeing: proponents of alkaline blood claim that increased blood alkalinity can lead to improved overall wellbeing, with benefits such as increased energy levels better digestion, and improved skin health.
14. Cold Shock Proteins
What are they?
Cold shock proteins (CSPs) are a group of proteins that are produced in response to cold stress in organisms such as bacteria, yeast and some mammals.
They help the organism to adapt to low temperatures by stabilizing cellular structures and preventing damage from extreme changes in temperature. CSPs also play a role in processes such as protein synthesis, DNA replication and RNA metabolism.
Cold shock proteins are significant for humans because they play a role in several physiological processes, including metabolism, stress response, and immune function. Some CSPs have been found to be involved in regulation of blood glucose levels, energy production, and fat metabolism, making them important for overall health and disease management.
In addition, cold shock proteins have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may protect against cellular damage and promote recovery from injury or disease. Some CSPs have also been shown to play a role in the regulation of the immune system, which helps the body to fight off infections and diseases.
Overall, cold shock proteins are significant for humans as they play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing, and their study has the potential to lead to the development of new treatments for various medical conditions.
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15. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
How Does it Work?
Cold water therapy has shown to have numerous health benefits including stabilizing blood sugar levels. This is because the immersion in cold water leads to an increase in insulin sensitivity, which means that the body becomes more effective at using insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Additionally, the body's metabolic rate increases in response to the cold, leading to an increased rate of glucose uptake from the bloodstream.
This makes cold plunging and effective and natural way to regulate blood sugar levels, especially for individuals with conditions such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Safety Tips for Cold Immersion
As with any physical endeavor, it is important to take precaution. That being said , we have compiled some suggestions and safety tips to consider:
Start slowly: gradually increase the duration and intensity of the immersion to give your body time to adjust to the cold.
Hydrate before and after: cold water immersion can cause dehydration, so make sure to drink plenty of water before and after the cold plunge session.
Use proper technique: it's important to properly enter and exit the water to avoid slips, trips, or falls.
Avoid cold shock: practice breathing techniques to regulate rapid breathing and increased heart rate (this may take some practice). It may also be beneficial to start at a warmer temperature and gradually decrease to a desired temperature.
Monitor physical response: Pay attention to your body's stress response to the cold water and stop if you experience too much discomfort or pain.
Consult a doctor: If you have an medical conditions or are taking medications, make sure to consult with a doctor before starting cold water therapy.
Avoid immersion if ill: Cold water immersion can suppress the immune system, so avoid if you're feeling sick.