We connected with human performance coach Todd Anderson to learn about the benefits of cold plunges and tips for how to use cold baths effectively.
- Mental Health– When you start your day out in a way that is increasing dopamine and norepinephrine 250%, you will be productive. You can utilize that energy to exercise and start new habits that will accelerate you in your life.
- Metabolism – Dr. Sodberg found out that people who did 11 minutes of cold exposure a week had lower insulin production and they better metabolized glucose.
- Grit – When you stand over an ice bath and you don’t want to do it, there’s growth to be had. It helps you build grit and get through adversity which can be applied to different things in your life.
Ideally, I’d say first thing in the morning or midday. When you get in the cold plunge it’s a stressor, your cortisol is going to shoot up and then come down to a baseline. After you do a cold plunge, your body has the opposite reaction, and it heats up. When it comes to sleep, one of the things our body needs to do is cool down and bring our core temperature. So, I would not recommend the cold plunge at night because your body has an opposite reaction and heats up afterward.
What Are the Cardiovascular Effects of Cold Plunging?
Funny enough, when you’re in the cold plunge, the immediate response is, it lowers your heart rate variability because it’s a stress and your resting heart rate tends to go up. But over time it increases your heart rate variability because you start to control your nervous system and stress. It can also assist in reducing your resting heart rate, so like all great cardiovascular adaptations. The cold plunge also has an immediate massive effect on dopamine. That’s almost immediate mental clarity, focus, motivation. Dopamine makes effort feel good when you’re working out. When you have higher dopamine levels, you lean into that.
How Long Should Your Cold Plunge Last?
Ideally, 2-3 minutes, you can do a couple of bouts. The research has shown us that you don’t want to go over 11 minutes per week. So don’t overthink it, get in there and try it out.
Cold Shower vs Ice Baths?
I’d say no because water transfers heat so much more efficiently. It’s more of a stimulus to your body to do a cold plunge. But if you only have a shower, it’s cold and you’re shivering, it’s tough to get in there. I promise you you’re going to have a great mental benefit from that. Clarity, dopamine rises, all the things we’re looking for. Don’t overthink it, cold exposure means exposing yourself to cold. Embrace it and have an awesome day.
Cold Plunging Post-Workout?
The problem with doing a plunge after a workout is that there are a lot of inflammatory and regeneration mechanisms that are triggered by strength training. So, when we get in the cold plunge it can dampen that stimulus like inflammation which sounds good short term but it’s not that useful. So, you don’t get the same response from the training, and you don’t get that same regeneration.
Is Cold Plunging a Fad?
It’s kind of exploded over the last couple of years. I think it’s because we’re realizing what it’s doing. We used to use it as a recovery tactic but that’s not the best use of it. The mental health aspect is the effect on the brain, dopamine, motivation, energy, and mental clarity. People feel awesome and there are very few side effects which is so rare.
Can You Combine the Sauna and Cold Plunge?
A lot of people like to do the sauna and cold plunge together. What I started doing is separating the sauna and cold plunge. Your body responds to exposure. When you combine them, you’re in this wave between not getting too hot or too cold. So, I think separating the two is best for getting the maximum benefit from each of them.
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