Ice Bath vs. Hot Bath: Pros & Cons of Each

by Jon Miksis
Ice bath vs. hot bath featured image
This post may have affiliate links, where I may receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

When it comes to soaking in the tub, you’ve got two choices: hot or cold! And believe it or not, each one has its own unique benefits for both your mind and body. You can also switch off between hot and cold therapy, which is great for muscle recovery. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about ice bath vs. hot bath.

Hot baths are like a warm hug for your muscles. They help to increase blood flow, relieve muscle tension and soreness, and even boost your mood thanks to the release of feel-good hormones. It’s like a spa day in your own home!

On the other hand, ice baths are like a polar plunge for your body. They are commonly used by athletes to reduce swelling and inflammation after a workout, but they can also help to improve recovery time and increase endurance. Taking an ice bath is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a great way to push your limits and challenge yourself.

So, whether you’re looking for a relaxing soak or a shock to the system, there’s a bath for you! Here is everything you need to know about ice baths vs. hot baths. Just remember, don’t stay in the ice bath for too long, or you’ll turn into a human popsicle!

Read also: Wim Hof Ice Bath Technique & Breathing Method

Hot or cold baths on sore muscles tips
This article on hot and cold baths for sore muscles contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

#1 biohacking tip for contrast therapy

Before jumping into the A-Z on hot and cold baths, I first want to cover a key tip on contrast therapy.

If you’re serious about your physical (and mental) performance, you gotta make ice baths a priority. That means making it easy and convenient to implement into your daily routine. After all, ice baths aren’t fun…it’s easy to make up excuses and talk yourself out of doing it. By having a dedicated ice bath in your own home, you’ll reduce the barriers of resistance.

Ditch the idea of having to wait 20 minutes to fill up your bathtub and run to the nearest convenience store to get ice. When all is said and done, these extra steps will make it easy for you to get out of the habit of taking daily cold plunges. This is no offense to you – it’s just how life works. To eliminate all these unnecessary steps, it’s worth investing in a dedicated cold plunge that can also act as a hot tub.

Sure, you can create your own DIY ice bath using one of these Rubbermaid stock tanks. If you are new to ice bathing, this is not a bad idea. However, if you are really serious about cold immersion and want to up your fitness game, it’s worth paying extra for a freestanding tub that can be used for ice and hot baths.

My go-to contrast therapy solution

At home, I’ve been using the Edge Tub by Edge Theory Labs, an inflatable tub that can go as cold as 37°F (2.8°C) and as warm as 105°F (40.6°C) in just a couple of hours. It’s durable, easy to use, and it waits for me in the living room every morning. I’d have to go out of my way not to use it, which means I end up jumping in it every morning. Using the Edge tub as part of my daily routine has totally transformed my life, so I couldn’t recommend it anymore.

Interested in the Edge Tub? Here’s my exclusive discount code that will save you $150: JON150!

The Edge Tub will make you excited to get out of bed every morning
The Edge Tub will make you excited to get out of bed every morning

In addition to the Edge Tub, here are the other tubs I recommend for contrast therapy:

Budget: $Ice Barrel
Mid: $$The Edge Tub
Luxury: $$$Renu Therapy

Read next: Edge Cold Tub Review

The Edge Tub is the best portable cold tub on the market today
The Edge Tub is the best portable cold tub on the market today

Which is better for recovery: hot baths or ice baths?

Wondering whether to do hot baths or ice baths for recovery? The answer is that it depends on what you’re recovering from.

If you’re dealing with muscle soreness, a hot bath is the way to go. The heat helps to increase blood flow and relax tight muscles, reducing pain and stiffness. For example, if you had a hard workout a couple of days ago and the acute pain is gone, a hot bath can help you get over the lingering soreness by boosting circulation. Plus, it’s a great way to unwind and de-stress after a long day.

But if you’re recovering from an injury or intense workout, an ice bath might be the better choice. The cold temperature helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, which can speed up the healing process. By limiting the body’s inflammatory response, cold exposure following a workout can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It’s like giving your body a mini-vacation from the aches and pains of everyday life.

So, whether you prefer a warm soak or a bracing plunge, just remember to listen to your body and do what’s best for you.

Read next: Top Health Benefits of Ice Baths

Each type of bath has its benefits for warm and cold therapy.
Each type of bath has its benefits for warm and cold therapy.

Hot or cold baths after weight lifting

Weightlifting requires that muscles be pushed to their limits. And to perform at their best, they need to be properly cared for post-workout. The choice between an ice bath and a hot bath is a controversial one – each having its unique benefits and drawbacks.

Ice baths are a popular option for weightlifters as they reduce inflammation, soreness, and swelling. They work by constricting blood vessels, which slows down blood flow to the muscles. As such, it helps to reduce the buildup of metabolic waste products that can cause pain and stiffness. The icy water stimulates the release of endorphins, which can help to reduce pain and improve overall recovery.

Hot baths, on the other hand, increase blood flow and promote relaxation. The warm water dilates blood vessels, allowing for an increased flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. This increased circulation helps to speed up the removal of metabolic waste products and improve overall recovery. The heat from the water also helps to reduce muscle tightness and stiffness, and is used as a means of loosening up before a workout.

Read also: Top 10 ice bath recovery tips

Curious about hot or cold baths after working out? Both work great to boost recovery and muscle tone
Curious about hot or cold baths after working out? Both work great to boost recovery and muscle tone

Ice bath or hot tub after workout

So when is a good time to take an ice bath or a hot bath? It’s recommended to take an ice bath immediately after a workout, when the muscles are still warm and can be effectively cooled down. A hot bath, however, is best taken before a workout to help prepare the muscles for the upcoming physical stress.

In terms of regenerating muscle fibers, both ice and hot baths can play a role. The cold water in an ice bath reduces inflammation and swelling, thus speeding up the healing process. Alternatively, hot baths help to increase blood flow and oxygenation, which promotes muscle regeneration. It’s important to keep in mind that too much time spent in either bath can stifle the regeneration process by over-taxing the muscles and causing fatigue.

All in all, ice baths and hot baths each have their unique benefits for weightlifters. The choice between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference. So, listen to your body and choose the type of bath that will best serve your recovery needs.

Read next: Science-backed benefits of wearing a weighted vest

Most weight lifters use ice baths as part of their fitness regimen
Most weight lifters use ice baths as part of their fitness regimen

Ice bath vs. hot bath for runners

For runners, the choice between an ice bath and a hot bath can be a bit more nuanced. Here’s a breakdown of how each one affects the body and when it’s best to use them:

Ice baths for runners

Taking an ice bath after a run can help to reduce swelling and inflammation in the muscles, which can speed up recovery time. The cold temperature also constricts blood vessels, reducing the flow of blood and helping to prevent injury. It’s like giving your body a little first-aid on the go! Just be sure to limit your ice bath to no more than 10-15 minutes at a time, as prolonged exposure to the cold can actually have the opposite effect and slow down recovery.

Ice baths and hot baths after running will effect the body in different ways
Ice baths and hot baths after running will effect the body in different ways

Hot baths for runners

A hot bath can be especially beneficial for runners who are dealing with muscle soreness or stiffness. The heat helps to increase blood flow, which can relieve pain and promote healing. A hot bath can also help to loosen up tight muscles and improve range of motion. If you’re feeling particularly tired or run down, a hot bath can also help to boost your energy levels and improve your mood. Just be careful not to make the water too hot, as high temperatures can cause dehydration.

So, when is the best time to do a hot bath versus an ice bath? If you’re dealing with swelling or inflammation after a run, an ice bath is the way to go. But if you’re looking for a way to soothe sore muscles and improve recovery, a hot bath is the better choice. Of course, there’s always the option to alternate between the two for the ultimate recovery experience!

Ice baths after running is always a good idea
Ice baths after running is always a good idea

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about hot and cold baths for sore muscles

Here are some popular questions and answers about how cold vs. hot baths affect muscle recovery. We’ll also discuss other elements of contrast therapy – cycling between hot and cold exposure to improve athletic performance.

What is the difference between an ice bath and a hot bath?

An ice bath is like a shock to the system, reducing inflammation and soothing soreness, while a hot bath is like a warm hug, increasing blood flow and helping muscles relax. It’s like choosing between a cold drink on a hot day or a warm drink on a cold day, both have their benefits!

With its hot and cold settings, The Edge Tub is the ultimate wellness solution for post recovery
With its hot and cold settings, The Edge Tub is the ultimate wellness solution for post recovery

Is it good to go from ice bath to hot tub?

Alternating between hot and cold temperatures helps to stimulate your circulation and enhance your recovery routine. However, if you are cycling between hot and cold baths, it’s always best to end with cold.

Many of the health benefits of cold immersion occur in the minutes and hours after getting out of the cold. For instance, the activation of brown fat and increased metabolism occur when the body warms up naturally. So, by ending with warm (i.e. a hot shower, hot bath, or sauna), you would be forgoing the body’s natural heating (and healing) processes.

If you want to give your body the ultimate recovery experience, end your contrast therapy session with a dip in the ice bath. It may be more challenging this way, but you’ll be doing something healthy for your body.

Hot and cold tub made easy
Hot and cold tub made easy

What goes first – ice bath or hot bath?

The choice is yours, but I recommend starting with warm and ending with cold. Feel free to cycle between hot and cold therapy in any order you’d like. However, if you end with cold, you’ll be maximizing the health benefits associated with contrast therapy.

Is an ice bath painful?

It can be a little shocking at first, but the benefits of reducing inflammation and soothing soreness are worth it. Think of it like diving into a pool on a hot day, it may be a bit of a shock at first, but you’ll soon feel refreshed!

Is a cold bath better than a hot bath after workout?

The answer really depends on what your body needs! A cold bath after a workout can be invigorating and help reduce inflammation, while a hot bath can soothe sore muscles and increase blood flow. It’s like having two different treatments for your muscles, and the right one for you will depend on the type of workout you just had and what feels good for your body.

Cold baths are like a burst of energy for your muscles, while hot baths are like a warm hug after a long day. Try both and see what works best for you!

Hot tubs are an incredible tool for reducing muscle soreness
Hot tubs are an incredible tool for reducing muscle soreness

How hot and cold water affect recovery after workouts

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on ice baths vs. hot baths. Knowing when to use hot and cold water after a workout is key in promoting muscle recovery. The hot water acts like a warm hug, increasing blood flow and helping your muscles relax. Meanwhile, the cold water is like a burst of energy, reducing inflammation and soothing soreness. It’s like having the best of both worlds for your muscles! So, whether you prefer the invigoration of an ice bath or the relaxation of a hot tub, your body will thank you for the TLC. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and find what works best for you!

Ice bath vs. hot bath tips for all types of people
Enjoyed reading about these ice bath vs. hot bath tips? Pin it!

You may also like

Leave a Comment