If you’ve been in the health and wellness space for even a minute, you’ve heard of all the supposed benefits of cold water immersion therapy. Pain reduction, improved recovery and metabolism, reversing tissue inflammation, and mental health benefits only scratch the surface. Specifically, cryotherapy appears to reduce inflammation by influencing norepinephrine and endorphins, thereby telling your body to stop the inflammatory process.
Legends like Joe Rogan, Tony Robbins, and Wim Hof swear by it. And the best part, too, is that the research that backs these claims is strong.
The problem until now(ish), though, has been that the main barrier to entry for normal people has been finding a way to actually implement cold immersion therapy into their lifestyles. Like, yeah, you can fill up a trash can with a sh*t ton of ice, but that’s more of a one-and-done solution.
Professional athletes have had it good for years. Not only are they hot, but they’ve had access to cold plunge tanks at training facilities for years. But fear not, because…
Enter: at home cold plunge tubs. 💥 Companies like Plunge have turned vision into reality by designing cold immersion tubs that are not only as good as the ones you’d use in an athletic facility, but they’re also pretty damn affordable.
We’re gonna start off by looking at the Cold Plunge (because that’s why you’re here), and then we’ll talk about the benefits of cold immersion therapy and dig into the scientific research that backs up these claims. All to see if investing in a cold plunge tub is right for you.
Let’s get it.
Table of Contents
What is cryotherapy / cold immersion therapy?
As a California kid who hates the cold, it pains me to say this, but: the cold is good for us.
You know that feeling you get when you’re out in snowy weather with an irresponsible lack of layers on? It’s like a switch flips in your body; your brain is like WTF, your body starts to go numb, and suddenly you’re wide awake. Your body responds by starting to shiver.
Cold causes stress to our bodies. Maybe it’s just my San Diego talking, but why would anyone WANT to expose themself to extreme cold? Well as it turns out, a controlled and managed burst of exposure to extreme cold has a ton of benefits. In practice, this calculated exposure to the cold is known as cryotherapy.
When our bodies are exposed to the extreme cold of cryotherapy, our bodies experience what’s known as hormetic stress. Basically, it’s our bodies’ response to an environmental stressor. If you’ve ever fasted, done an intense workout, or felt the extreme heat of a steam room, you’ve felt this hormetic stress. And in studies, it’s been found that this is exactly what fights off inflammation and boosts the mood and immune system.
We’re gonna cover all the research and benefits in a sec, but let’s start off by looking at the best cold plunge tubs on the market, so you can compare and contrast.
Which is the best cold plunge tub for me?
First off, there’s really no avoiding the fact that cold plunge tubs are a pretty significant purchase. Even at the low end of the market, buying a Cold Plunge will run you about $5,000. I don’t know your income or whatever, but my guess is that you’ll want to put in significant research buying smashing that buy button; I know I did. So that’s why I’m sharing.
And secondly, remember that price ain’t everything. Just like with any product, one brand is gonna offer a premium (and expensive) product than others. And each cold immersion tank will be a reflection of the qualities of their brand and what they care about. Take a look at the major cold plunge tanks on the market:
The Best Cold Plunge Alternatives
It really does seem like Plunge is the most budget-friendly, “universal” option, when it comes to at home cold plunge tanks.
But if you’re someone who maybe doesn’t care so much about budget, and would be fine paying a premium for a luxury, wooden tub that matches your sauna, the Renu Cold Stoic or Morozko Forge are excellent choices.
Ice Barrel has some really mixed reviews online. On one hand, it’s way cheaper than anything else on the market. On the other, it’s not really comparable. At the end of the day, it’s just a (you guessed it) barrel that you fill with ice.
If you’re serious about choosing the right cold plunge tub for you, I’d encourage you to think about each of the following criteria:
- Energy efficiency
- Materials and build quality
- Ease of installation and maintenance
- Durability (indoors vs outdoors)
- Tank size
☃️ Cold Plunge Benefits
Athletes have long used cold plunge tanks as a way to speed up muscle and injury recovery. But it can also help with lymphatic circulation, cardiovascular health and increase red blood cell and growth hormone levels.
Let’s roll through all the benefits and dig into the supporting evidence.
💪 Reduced inflammation and muscle recovery
Probably the first one that comes to mind is how athletes have long been using cold therapy to speed up muscle and injury recovery. Specifically, cryotherapy appears to reduce inflammation by influencing norepinephrine, which tells your body to stop proinflammatory processes.
In a randomized controlled trial, patients who underwent multiple sessions of whole-body cryotherapy saw decreased pain levels. It’s reported that it may also reduce the pain. andinflammation that’s associated with arthritis.
🏃♀️ Improved athletic performance
We know that exposure to extreme cold improves athletic performance and recovery by reducing inflammation and fighting off muscle soreness. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that timing becomes a factor here.
When you finish a workout, your body begins a proinflammatory response. Hence, all the soreness and the pump. Soon thereafter, your body turns that off and switches on an anti-inflammatory response. The combination of these two is what leads to muscle repair and growth.
But if you undergo water water immersion too soon after wrapping up your workout, you’ll just be shooting yourself in the foot by limiting your upside. This is particularly important for strength training, whereas it’s not so urgent when it comes to endurance athletes.
😄 Improved attention, focus, and mood
Cold immersion therapy can have a significant effect on mood. As mentioned already, it increases blood flow. However, regular cold exposure also increases norepinephrine levels and releases endorphins. Each of these processes has been linked to improved mood.
When your body undergoes cold immersion therapy, norepinephrine increases. Norepinephrine, if you’re not familiar, is the hormone that regulates vigilance, attention, focus, and a positive mood. So it’s not too surprising that studies have found that as cold therapy leads to an increase in norepinephrine, so, too, do attention and a positive mood.
🧠 Protection from neurodegenerative disease
Improved mood and attention aren’t the only effect of cryotherapy on the brain, though. It’s also been shown to activate cold shock proteins, which protect the body from neurodegenerative diseases. And since cryotherapy also promotes the creation of immune cells, it may also play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting the body from cancer.
🔥 Improved metabolism
When your body experiences the severe cold (which cold immersion therapy causes), it freaks the f*ck out, right? It starts going, “oh God, no no no, we need to warm up.” So it begins a process called thermogenesis.
When you shiver, what’s actually happening is that your muscles are rapidly contracting in order to produce heat. That’s known as shivering thermogenesis. But your body’s also good at something called non-shivering thermogenesis. I won’t go too deep into the details here (you can read more on that here), but just know that it’s a series of cellular responses that lead to your body creating more brown adipose tissue, which then leads to increased fat burn.
How do cold plunge tubs work?
No surprise here, but the main point of a cold plunge tub is to mimic the extreme cold and promote your body’s cryotherapeutic response.
With a cold plunge tub, you instantly unlock the ability to easily/quickly reduce the temperature of a “bath tub” down to 39°F. This is the industry standard temperature, btw, for achieving the desired effects. As a point of reference, athletic training facilities’ tubs run at 42-50°F, and ice baths at 50-59°F for 10 mins.
Traditional cold immersion therapy used water and ice. But as you can imagine, this process involves using a considerable amount of water and ice. Cold plunge tubs, on the other hand, work by circulating the same water in the tub, pumping it in and out, and cooling it with a chiller.
Sitting in moving water actually draws heat out of your body, which means that you’ll feel colder far sooner. And those cold plunge chillers are a piece of tech that uses refrigeration to cool water to your desired temperature and then recirculates it. Most cold plunge tubs should also have high-quality filtration systems that let you keep filter the same tank of water – and therefore reduce water usage.
Before Plunge, it used to be that, on average, installing a home cold plunge pool would cost around $12,000. But thanks to increased demand and economies of scale or whatever, costs have come down a lot – to around $5k with Plunge.
The Plunge is a smart-looking white acrylic tub. It stands at only 24 inches, so it’s easy to get in and out of and simple to clean. While many users could be concerned about the dangerous combination of water and electricity, the Plunge is designed to keep the electrical components hidden away, so there is no risk of electric shock.
Another welcome feature of the Cold Plunge is the covered lid that keeps the water clean when not in use. It comes with a 15-ft cord that powers the chiller and filtration system. However, if you choose to keep your Cold Plunge outdoors — which you absolutely can — you can add an extension cord. The Cold Plunge is also super efficient: you can keep your tub full of water cold all day long for around a buck a day. Not too shabby.
The Cold Plunge is easy to drain, thanks to a 1-inch outtake value that sits at the side and bottom of the tub. Finally, it also has beautiful interior side lighting to create a relaxing ambiance.
The Cold Plunge offers four different models, each with slight variations.
Cold Plunge tubs compared
|Cold Plunge||Cold Plunge Pro||Hot and Cold Plunge||Hot and Cold Plunge Pro|
|Promo code||Use code Zenmaster for $150 off||Use code Zenmaster for $150 off||Use code Zenmaster for $150 off||Use code Zenmaster for $150 off|
|Rate of water cooling||2.5°F per hour||9°F per hour||2.5°F per hour||9°F per hour|
|Rate of water heating||❌||❌||4.5°F per hour||4.5°F per hour|
The Cold Plunge is best for people who don’t want to deal with ice, but also don’t need the bells and whistles.
The Cold Plunge is the classic model. It has a cooling and filtration system, which means you just need to fill up the pool with your hose. The Cold Plunge also keeps the water clean and re-usable because of the sanitation system. This tub cools the water down by around 2.5F per hour. Easy to set up and install, this option also comes with a cool UV light.
The Cold Plunge PRO is best for people who:
- expect to use it often. Like, 5 plunges in an hour.
- want flexibility in being able to cool it down very quickly
The Cold Plunge Pro comes with all the excellent features of the Cold Plunge, but it is far more efficient at cooling water. While the Cold Plunge cools water at 2.5F per hour, the Pro achieves speeds of 9F in the same time. That’s over 3x as fast cooling.
Recommended for people who expect to use it a lot (over 5 plunges an hour) or want flexibility in being able to cool very fast.
The Hot & Cold Plunge Pro is best for people who want a built-in hot tub, without a huge investment in space or money
It’s also NECESSARY for those who live somewhere with below freezing weather to avoid ice forming in pipes
As the name suggests, the Hot & Cold Plunge can also be a hot tub. This versatility is a nice extra. It heats water up at around 4.5F per hour, so if you want to use it as both a hot and cold tub, you’ll need to use some forward planning. Water cooling is done at a rate of 2.5F per hour.
Goes up to 103F.
Takes 12 hours to go from 50 to 103.
If you live somewhere with below freezing weather and want to keep this outside, you’ll need to upgrade to the Hot and Cold Plunge (or Pro) to prevent ice from forming in the pipes.
The Hot & Cold Plunge PRO is best for people who
- want a built-in hot tub, without a huge investment in space or money
- expect to use it often. Like, 5 plunges in an hour.
- want flexibility in being able to cool it down very quickly
NECESSARY for those who live somewhere with below freezing weather to avoid ice forming in pipes
The Hot & Cold Plunge Pro is the complete offering from Plunge. Its advanced chilling system allows water to be cooled down at 9F, while users can also take advantage of its heating facilities to make it a hot tub.
The entry-level model comes in at a little under $5,000, while the most advanced version is almost $6,500. These prices are far more affordable than your average plunge pool. Additionally, the ability to cycle between cold and hot is a good option. However, the Cold Plunge model is designed to be compact. As a result, they lack the space or social nature of a traditional hot tub, which is something to consider.
🥶 Plunge Reviews: What are people on social media saying?
Conor McGregor has a Cold Plunge. Tony Hawk, too. Or how ’bout my personal favorite, Dr. Rhonda Patrick? Obviously I’m mostly kidding, and we shouldn’t make our purchasing decisions based on the number of celebrities that back a specific product.
But my point is that Plunge has created a cold plunge tub that’s being used by some of the greatest athletes and minds in the world. And that’s pretty cool.
But I also dug around to see what Averages Joes and Janes think about their Plunge. Because I’m pretty average. 🙂 And to be honest, it’s pretty tough to find negative reviews of the Plunge. I imagine that some people probably return it within the 30 day full refund period.
❄️ The Cold Truth: Are The Cold Plunge tubs worth it?
If you’re sold on the research pointing to the seemingly endless benefits of cold water immersion therapy, and you’re serious about looking for a way to implement it into your life, The Cold Plunge is probably the best option on the market. It’s got a beautiful, minimalist design that not only looks great anywhere (indoors or out), but it’s a top-of-the-line tub that’s priced way better than others on the market.
Like, half the price of competitors’ models like the Renu Cold Stoic and the Morozoko Filtered Forge. In my opinion, it looks better too. Don’t get me wrong, the wooden models these companies sell have a lovely rustic feel. But the clean, smooth acrylic of the Cold Plunge says, “I mean business.”
Another dope thing about the Cold Plunge is that it’s designed to make the most out of the space it uses. Other systems’ filtration and cooling systems are pretty bulky, which means less tub space. The Cold Plunge is just way more streamlined.
I’ve always been super into health and fitness, but I’ve never been a D1 athlete or anything. So I never really had the chance to use a cold plunge tub. But now with Plunge, that’s not the case. For a pretty reasonable price, I finally have the chance to achieve all the benefits of cold water immersion therapy.
The Cold Plunge offers more value for the price than Renu or Morozko, and it does the job just as well, if not better. So for that reason, I’m team Plunge.