Should You Do Ice Bath Before or After Workout?

Should You Do Ice Bath Before or After Workout?

When to Do a Cold Plunge: Before or After Workouts?

Hey there, fitness enthusiasts! If you've been wondering about the best time to take a cold plunge, whether it's before or after your workouts, you're in the right place.

Now let's dive straight to the point:

It will generally depend on what your fitness goal is. If your goal is muscle hypertrophy or strength, then deliberate cold exposure right after your workout might not be your best option. However, endurance or other types of training will not suffer any negative effects from ice baths, as you will soon learn.

Ice Bathing After Workout

The Downside: Cold Plunge for Hypertrophy or Strength

Science and data shows that if one gets into very cold water up to the neck at ANY TIME within the next 6 hours after strength or hypertrophy training, then the gains that one would observed will be blocked or decreased. In other words, if you don't wait for 6 hours, then you will decrease the gains you would have otherwise made.

A study showed that muscle protein synthesis rates were lower in the leg submerged in ice water compared to the leg in room temperature water after a workout.

The study involved participants who engaged in a workout session. After the workout, participants submerged one leg in room temperature water and the other leg in ice water. They were then given a protein-carbohydrate concoction to consume.

Blood samples and muscle fiber biopsies were taken from both legs before and after the immersion to measure muscle protein synthesis rates.

And guess what?

The leg that was submerged in ice water showed lower rates of muscle protein synthesis compared to the leg in room temperature water. The reduced muscle protein synthesis in the ice-submerged leg suggests that post-workout ice baths can blunt the body's natural muscle-building processes following a workout.

In summary, for individuals focused on maximizing muscle growth, then it appears that waiting at least 6 hours for your cold plunge might just be their best bet.

On the other hand, cold showers taken immediately after a workout seem not have any effects on hypertrophy or strength training.

Effectiveness of Ice Baths After Workout

As previously stated, the main concern is particularly relevant for individuals focused on building muscle mass. If you have other fitness goals, then ice baths right after a workout can have tremendous positive effects.

Cold water therapy could still be beneficial at other times, such as between multiple training sessions in a day, to aid your active recovery and manage soreness, or for mental and metabolic benefits when not directly related to hypertrophy-focused workouts.

Cold therapy is thought to help your muscles heal and lower swelling. Cold water makes your blood vessels get smaller. This helps with swelling and pushes out bad stuff from your muscles.

When you get cold, your body makes endorphins, which can block pain. This makes your muscles hurt less, so you can feel better soon after the gym.

Cold baths might also make your blood flow better by tightening and then opening up your blood vessels. This means more good stuff like oxygen and nutrients can get to your muscles, helping them heal.

Some of the benefits of Post-workout ice bath include:

  • Active recovery and performance: Speeds up how fast your muscles recover by reducing muscle soreness, potentially improving performance in subsequent training sessions.
  • Lowers swelling after exercise
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Beneficial for individuals with autoimmune diseases due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Conversion of White Fat to Brown Fat: Ice baths can convert some white fat into brown fat, which is more metabolically active.

Ice Bathing Before a Workout

Taking an ice bath before working out has both good and bad sides.


  • Particularly useful for athletes or individuals needing a quick, effective way to energize before a workout.
  • Ice baths might enhance your performance by reducing muscle fatigue and improving muscle function. By lowering muscle tiredness, they allow you to work out harder and longer.
  • The cold shock not only increases alertness and focus, preparing you for an effective workout, but also helps in managing stress by lowering cortisol levels.
  • Cold exposure significantly increases dopamine and adrenaline levels. This boost in neurotransmitters can enhance both physical and cognitive energy.


  • Prolonged cold exposure before a workout can leave muscles feeling tight and cold, potentially hampering performance and requiring additional warm-up time. This is why it's recommended to keep the cold plunge before a workout brief—around 1 minute.
  • Incorporating cold baths into a routine can be inconvenient, especially if it involves significant setup or maintenance (e.g., filling an ice tub).


If your primary goal is focused around hypertrophy and building up muscle mass, then it'll be best to leave your ice baths for another moment.

I personally take ice baths first thing in the morning.

It fills me up with energy and allows me to tackle my day as if there's no tomorrow.

And not to mention cold therapy before an intense workout.... the dopamine and energy boost can significally increase your performance.

Now, if your thing is endurance, high-intensity exercise or any other goal, then deciding whether to do cold water immersion before or after your workout will really depend on what you want to experience or what you value.

Is the recovery process, recovery time or muscle damage more important to you? Then doing cold water exposure right after your workout could be beneficial.

Or perhaps you prioritize your energy levels and the general boost of energy you get after a cold plunge? Maybe you even feel that you needed in order to perform at your best. Then go ahead and take your ice bath between 20 and 30 minutes before your workout.

Finally, in my opinion, the reason you quit in 99% of your sets and/or training sessions is NOT because your body quits; it's because your MIND does.

Getting into cold water every day will transform you into the kind of person who NEVER QUITS.