Prototype Performance and Recovery Series: Part 3

The Benefits, Use, and Protocols of Cold Plunges and Cold Water Immersion

At Prototype Training Systems, we are dedicated to providing the most effective tools and strategies for performance and recovery. As part of our commitment to being one of the first performance and recovery facilities in Massachusetts, we are excited to introduce cold plunges with “The Plunge” brand into our facility. This article will delve into the benefits, uses, and protocols of cold plunges, particularly for our diverse clientele, including general population members and youth athletes in Westborough, MA.

The Science of Cold Plunges

Cold plunges, also known as cold water immersion (CWI), involve immersing the body in cold water (50-59°F or 10-15°C). This practice has been shown to offer various health and performance benefits, including reducing muscle soreness, enhancing recovery, and promoting overall well-being.

Benefits of Cold Plunges

  1. Enhanced Recovery and Reduced Muscle Soreness Cold plunges can significantly reduce muscle soreness and enhance recovery post-exercise. The cold water helps to constrict blood vessels, reducing inflammation and swelling in muscles and joints (Bleakley et al., 2012).
  2. Improved Circulation and Immune Function The cold exposure triggers a natural immune response, enhancing white blood cell activity, which can help boost the immune system (Tipton, 2013). Improved circulation also aids in delivering nutrients to tissues and removing metabolic waste.
  3. Mental Health and Stress Reduction Cold plunges can have profound effects on mental health. The cold exposure increases the production of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter associated with improved mood, focus, and stress resilience (Janský et al., 2006).
  4. Longevity and Hormesis Cold plunges induce a hormetic stress response, which is beneficial for longevity. Hormesis refers to the adaptive beneficial effect of a low dose of an agent that is otherwise harmful at higher doses. This stress can enhance the body’s resilience and longevity (Ryu et al., 2016).

Recommended Protocols

General Guidelines

  • Temperature: 50-59°F (10-15°C)
  • Duration: 5-15 minutes per session
  • Frequency: 2-3 times per week for general health benefits

Specific Protocols

  1. Stress Reduction
  • Temperature: 50-59°F
  • Duration: 5-10 minutes
  • Frequency: 2-3 times per week
  • Timing: Anytime, particularly useful post-workout for relaxation and stress relief.
  1. Muscle Soreness and Recovery
  • Temperature: 50-59°F
  • Duration: 10-15 minutes
  • Frequency: After intense exercise sessions
  • Timing: Post-exercise to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery.
  1. Energy Boost
  • Temperature: 50-59°F
  • Duration: 3-5 minutes
  • Frequency: Daily or as needed
  • Timing: Morning or pre-exercise to enhance alertness and energy levels.

Pre vs. Post Exercise Use

Pre-Exercise: Using a cold plunge before exercise can help invigorate the body and increase alertness. However, it should be used briefly (3-5 minutes) to avoid muscle stiffness.

Post-Exercise: Cold plunges are most beneficial post-exercise for reducing muscle soreness and inflammation. It is crucial for those looking to maximize muscle recovery without interfering with muscle growth.

Considerations and Contraindications

Potential Impact on Muscle Growth: Some studies suggest that cold water immersion immediately post-exercise may inhibit muscle growth by reducing anabolic signaling pathways (Roberts et al., 2015). Therefore, it may be advisable to use cold plunges after a delay post-strength training or on rest days to mitigate this effect.

Contraindications: Cold plunges may not be suitable for individuals with certain cardiovascular conditions, Raynaud’s disease, or cold sensitivity. It is essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting cold plunge therapy.

Conclusion

Cold plunges offer a range of benefits that can enhance recovery, boost mental health, and promote overall well-being. By integrating cold plunges into your routine, you can optimize your performance and recovery, contributing to a healthier, more resilient lifestyle. At Prototype Training Systems, we are excited to offer this cutting-edge recovery tool to our members, helping you achieve your fitness and wellness goals.

References

  • Bleakley, C. M., Davison, G. W., & Bieuzen, F. (2012). Whole-body cryotherapy: empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 3, 25-36. Link
  • Janský, L., Pospíšilová, D., Honzová, S., Uličný, B., Šrámek, P., Zeman, V., & Kamínková, J. (2006). Immune system of cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 57(6), 691-695. Link
  • Ryu, D., et al. (2016). Urolithin A induces mitophagy and prolongs lifespan in C. elegans and increases muscle function in rodents. Nature Medicine, 22, 879-888. Link
  • Roberts, L. A., et al. (2015). Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signaling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training. The Journal of Physiology, 593(18), 4285-4301. Link

Tipton, M. J. (2013). The thermoregulation of humans in cold water. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 72. Link