Sauna Vs Ice Bath For Recovery In Martial Arts (Pros & Cons)

Regarding post-workout recovery, many athletes will debate whether they should use a sauna or an ice bath. Both methods have pros and cons, and deciding which is right for you can be challenging. You should know certain things before deciding which is suitable for you.

Sauna Vs Ice Bath Explanation


Saunas have been used for centuries as a way to relax and unwind. The sauna’s heat can help to loosen muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation. Saunas can also help improve your cardiovascular health and respiratory function. 

Many fighters use the sauna to relax and ease their muscles after a hard training session. The sauna can also help with weight loss by promoting sweating and detoxification.

You should keep a few things in mind when using a sauna. However, spending too much time in a sauna can cause heat stroke.

Ice Bath 

Ice baths have become increasingly popular to speed up a workout’s recovery. It can also help relieve muscle soreness and improve your range of motion. All these because the water’s cold temperature helps constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation. 

Many professional fighters use ice baths as a form of recovery after training or competition. An ice bath is simply a tub filled with ice and water. The fighter will sit in the tub for a while, usually 10-15 minutes, to reduce inflammation and pain. Some fighters will use this method multiple times per week, while others may only use it once or twice.

Fighters such as Conor McGregor and Georges St-Pierre have sung the praises of ice baths, crediting them with helping them recover faster and stay healthy.

As with saunas, you should keep a few things in mind when using an ice bath. Make sure the water is not too cold – you don’t want to risk hypothermia. Also, ensure to get out of the tub after 20 minutes to avoid frostbite.

Now that you know a little bit more about saunas and ice baths, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each:

Sauna Pros

Saunas Can Help To Loosen Muscles

A sauna loosens the muscles by causing them to relax. The heat from the sauna helps to increase blood flow to the muscles, which in turn helps to loosen and relax them. This combination of heat and steam helps promote muscle relaxation. It can be beneficial for those suffering from muscle pain or stiffness.

Saunas Can Increase Blood Flow

When you spend time in a sauna, your body temperature rises. This increase in temperature causes your blood vessels to dilate or widen. The dilation of your blood vessels allows for increased blood flow throughout your body.

Increased blood flow helps to deliver oxygen to your muscles which helps to remove waste products from your body. High blood flow can also help reduce pain and inflammation throughout your body.

Saunas Can Reduce Inflammation

There are many ways in which a sauna can reduce inflammation. The most important way is by increasing blood circulation. When you increase blood circulation, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the cells and tissues in your body. This helps to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Another way a sauna can reduce inflammation is by helping remove toxins from the body. When you sweat, you help to remove toxins from your body that can contribute to inflammation. Additionally, the heat from the sauna can help to loosen tight muscles and relieve pain. This can also help to reduce inflammation.

Saunas Can Improve Cardiovascular Health

There are several ways in which a sauna can improve cardiovascular health. Saunas can help to improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress and tension. All of these factors can contribute to a healthier heart.

Saunas have also been shown to improve the elasticity of blood vessels and reduce inflammation. This can lead to a decrease in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In addition, saunas can help burn calories and promote weight loss, which is essential for maintaining a healthy heart.

So, a sauna may be a good option if you’re looking for a way to improve your cardiovascular health. Be aware that there are some risks involved with saunas. But, overall, saunas can be a great way to improve your heart health.

Saunas Can Improve Respiratory Function

There are many benefits of using a sauna, including improved respiratory function. When you use a sauna, your body temperature rises, and your blood vessels dilate. This increase in blood flow can help to clear your lungs and airways of mucus and other pollutants. In addition, the steam from the sauna can help to loosen and thin out mucus, making it easier to expel. 

Saunas are also beneficial for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions. The moist heat can help relax the muscles around the airways, making breathing easier. In addition, increased blood flow can help to reduce inflammation in the airways. If you have a respiratory condition, you must talk to your doctor before using a sauna, as the heat can sometimes worsen symptoms. 

For fighters, a sauna can also help improve their respiratory function. It has been shown that inhaling the hot air in a sauna can help to open up the airways and improve lung function. In addition, the increased blood flow can help deliver more oxygen to the muscles, enhancing athletic performance. 

Overall, saunas offer many benefits for respiratory health. The heat and steam can help to clear the lungs and airways, and the increased blood flow can reduce inflammation. 

Sauna Cons

Saunas Can Cause Dehydration If You Don’t Drink Enough Water

You can become dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water in a sauna. Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. It can also lead to more severe problems like heat stroke. To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water before and after your sauna session. 

Saunas Can Lead To Heat Stroke If You Overdo It

A sauna can lead to heat stroke if the temperature is too high or if you stay in the sauna for too long. If you are not used to the heat, it is critical to start with a lower temperature and build up gradually. It is also essential to take breaks often.

If you start to feel faint or dizzy, it is important to leave the sauna immediately and cool down. Heat stroke can be very dangerous and can even lead to death. Suppose you think you or someone else may be suffering from heat stroke. In that case, it is important to seek medical help immediately.

Saunas May Not Be Suitable For People With Certain Medical Conditions

Saunas may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Saunas also aren’t recommended for pregnant women or young children. Many health benefits can be gained from using an infrared sauna.

However, as with anything, some risks can also be involved. It is not likely that you are a fighter with a health condition that would preclude you from enjoying an excellent infrared sauna sweat. It is always best to avoid caution and get the all-clear from your doctor before using an infrared sauna.

Saunas May Not Be Available At All Gyms Or Fitness Centers

One of the Cons of going to the gym is that saunas may not be available at all gyms or fitness centers. If you want to use the sauna, you may have to visit a different location. Another thing to remember is that some gyms or fitness centers require you to sign up for a membership to use their facilities, which can be costly.

Saunas May Not Be Affordable For Everyone

If you’re interested in trying out a sauna, be aware that they can be pretty expensive. Some people even choose to install a sauna in their homes. A good-quality sauna can cost several thousand dollars, and the most luxurious models can cost tens of thousands.

Additionally, saunas require ongoing maintenance and operational costs, such as electricity and water. As such, saunas may not be affordable for everyone. One session of a sauna in a health center or spa can start from $10. If you visit a sauna regularly, the costs can quickly add up. 

However, it can be a great way to relax and improve your health if you can afford a sauna.

 Ice Bath Pros

The duration of your cold water immersion will depend on several factors, including the temperature of the water, your fitness level, and your acclimatization to cold weather. In general, you should start with shorter periods of immersion and gradually increase the length of time as your body becomes more accustomed to the cold. Maybe start with 3 to 5 minutes, and later you can increase it to 15 minutes, if not even more.

Ice Baths Can Help To Constrict Blood Vessels

 There is some evidence to suggest that taking an ice bath can help to constrict blood vessels. This means that it can help reduce inflammation and the risk of injuries. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

If you decide to take an ice bath, ensure you do not stay in for too long, as this could lead to frostbite. It is also important to wrap yourself in a warm towel or blanket afterward to avoid getting chilled.

Some people find that taking an ice bath helps reduce muscle soreness after exercise. If you do not have a prior medical condition, then an ice bath may be a safe and effective way to reduce muscle soreness.

Taking an ice bath may not be the best option if you look for ways to improve your athletic performance. However, suppose you are trying to recover from an injury or reduce muscle soreness. In that case, an ice bath may be beneficial. 

Ice Baths Can Reduce Inflammation

When you are constantly active, your muscles are in a state of inflammation more often than not. When you work out, your muscles grow through inflammation. The goal of an ice bath is to temporarily reduce the inflammation in your muscles so they can heal properly.

When you get into an ice bath, the cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict. This reduces the amount of blood flow to your muscles and helps to reduce inflammation. Ice baths also help to numb the pain associated with inflammation and can help to speed up the healing process.

Ice Baths Can Relieve Muscle Soreness

Cold water immersion, or an ice bath, applies cold therapy to the body. The practice has been used for centuries to help reduce inflammation of the muscles and joints.

Recent studies have shown that ice baths can effectively reduce muscle soreness after exercise. In one study, participants who took an ice bath after exercising had less muscle soreness 24 hours later than those who did not take an ice bath.

Ice baths are thought to decrease muscle and tissue temperature and reduce pain. They may also help reduce swelling and promote healing.

Ice Baths Can Improve Your Range Of Motion

Ice baths can help improve your range of motion by making your muscles more flexible. They can also improve circulation and help speed up the healing process. Ice baths are typically used after workouts or injuries but can also be used as a preventative measure.

Ice baths can effectively improve your range of motion, especially if you have previously suffered an injury. Ice baths can help improve circulation and speed up healing by reducing inflammation. They are typically used after workouts or injuries but can also be a preventative measure. Ice baths should be used for 10-15 minutes for best results.

Ice Baths Can Be Done At Home

You don’t need a fancy ice bath to get the benefits of cold therapy. You can easily do it at home with some ice and a little bit of water. Fill a tub with cold water and add ice until it reaches the desired temperature. Then, get in and soak for 10-15 minutes.

If you don’t have a tub, you can fill a large container with cold water and ice and take a seated bath. Or, you can use a plastic barrel to make an ice bath. However, no research confirms that a cold water shower has the same benefits. So, an ice bath is your best bet if you’re looking for the most effective way to do cold therapy.

Whichever method you choose, ensure you’re comfortable and not shivering before getting out of the cold environment. Professional fighters often get into a barrel full of ice after training. This is because they understand the benefits of cold therapy.

Remember, while doing cold water immersion, breathing slowly and evenly through your nose and mouth is essential. This will help to prevent hyperventilation and reduce the risk of hypothermia. 

Ice Bath Cons

Ice Baths Can Cause Hypothermia If The Water Is Too Cold

Ice baths can cause hypothermia if the water is too cold. They can also cause muscle cramps and injuries if the person does not enter the water slowly. Ice baths can also be dangerous for people with heart conditions or circulatory problems.

Ice Baths Can Cause Frostbite If You Stay In For Too Long

Ice baths can cause frostbite if you stay in the water for too long. Frostbite is when the skin and tissue freeze. This can happen if the water is too cold or stays in for too long.

You can also get Raynaud’s disease from ice baths. Raynaud’s disease is a condition that affects blood flow to the extremities. The lack of blood flow can cause the fingers and toes to turn white or blue. Ice baths can trigger an attack of Raynaud’s disease, so it is important to be careful if you have this condition.

Ice Baths May Not Be Suitable For People With Certain Medical Conditions

If you have a medical condition, it is always best to speak to your doctor before taking an ice bath. Conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, and circulatory problems can all be made worse by ice baths. Ice baths are not recommended for pregnant women as they can cause contractions.

It is essential to be careful when taking an ice bath. Ensure the water is not too cold, and you don’t stay in for too long. And finally, never take an ice bath alone if something goes wrong.

Ice Baths Can Be Uncomfortable For Some People

Some people find that ice baths are uncomfortable. The cold water can cause muscle cramps and make it difficult to breathe. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, get out of the tub immediately.

It is crucial to ensure the water is not too cold before you get in. You should also only stay in for a short period. If you start to feel uncomfortable, get out of the bath immediately. 

Ice Baths Can Be Unpractical

For a proper ice bath, you will need lots of ice and a big container to fit your entire body. This can be impractical for some people. To acquire so much ice, you may have to buy it from a store. This can be expensive and finding a container that is big enough to fit your body can be challenging.

While a cold water bath may have similar effects, it is generally much more practical. All you need is a container that can fit your body and cold water from the tap. This option is generally much cheaper and easier to do.

What Does The Research Say About Saunas?

Saunas have been used for centuries to relax and detoxify the body. Recent research has suggested that they may offer some health benefits. One study found that regular sauna use was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a lower risk of dying from all causes.

Other research has suggested that saunas may help improve lung function, relieve pain and reduce the risk of several types of cancer. The evidence suggests that saunas can benefit your health, but more research is needed to confirm these effects.

Final Verdict 

Which Is Better For Athletes, Sauna or Ice Bath?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best approach for each athlete may vary depending on individual needs and preferences. However, both saunas and ice baths can offer benefits for athletes, so it is worth considering both options to see what may work best for you.

Saunas can help improve circulation and loosen muscles, making them ideal for pre-workout warmups or post-workout recovery. On the other hand, ice baths can help reduce inflammation and pain, making them a good option for athletes dealing with injuries. 

However, if we had to choose between the two, we would go with ice baths. Not only are they more effective at reducing pain and inflammation, but they also have a longer-lasting effect. So, an ice bath is probably your best bet if you’re looking for something to help you recover from a tough workout or injury.

In addition, an ice bath can also be more budget variant. When we compare the cost of a sauna, if it is to buy or use it regularly and to pay for each session, to the cost of an ice bath, we see that an ice bath would be cheaper for us. You need a lot of ice, but it’s still cheaper than paying for the electricity of the sauna or membership in some gym.


Sauna and Ice Bath both have their own set of pros and cons. Knowing your body and what it can handle is essential before deciding which one is right for you. Saunas can help with muscle recovery, but they can also lead to heat stroke if you’re not careful. Ice baths can help with inflammation but can also cause hypothermia if the water is too cold. Choose what’s best for you and your body! Thanks for reading!

Gregori Povolotski

I have been practicing martial arts since 2007. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a huge passion for combat sports, especially Muay Thai and boxing. Helping people on their martial arts journey is what drives me to keep training and learn new things. Read More About Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts