Post Workout Cold Showers: Benefits to Health and Stength
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If you don’t shower after workouts, well gross, and you should look into adding that into your workout plan.
Those of us that do choose to be clean after working out have wondered if it is more beneficial to shower in a cold shower due to Wim Hof and others espousing the benefits, so what does a cold shower do after a workout?
There is plenty of information that shows cold showers can help reduce muscle soreness after intense workouts. Since rushing your body with cold water has regenerative properties it can help your muscles to relax and repair after you have a tough workout session.
Since we spoke above about the benefits that a cold shower can have on your muscles after a hard workout let’s take a look in more detail at cold showers and what they can yield for you.
Not everything is always positive but in this case, the research is overwhelmingly positive which does make sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
Are Cold Showers Good or Bad?
A cold shower can help accelerate your circulatory system by tightening the vessels which help in speeding up the recovery time from strenuous exercises and work.
This study from the NIH(source) shows benefits from cold showers as to health and overall benefits to lowering the chance of sickness when moving from a hot to a cold shower.
As a risk factor if you have pre-existing heart or cardiovascular issues this cold water immersion leads to a very fast heart rate increase and blood vessel constriction which drives pressure to your blood pressure and heart.
Are Cold Showers Healthy?
For almost everyone there are no health issues with taking cold showers as that is how humans evolved, we didn’t have contained hot water until only very recently in history as something available to all people.
Taking a cold shower for a healthy individual also has a wide range of benefits like helping you recover faster from workouts and a myriad list of additional benefits we explain below.
How Long Should You Take a Cold Shower?
There are a few ways you can get to taking cold showers consistently.
Some people will jump straight into a 5-10 minute cold shower without issue immediately getting to washing and cleaning.
Other people will need to adjust and increase the time they stay in the cold water.
When this is done you will typically start with a warm shower and then change to a cold shower for a short period from 30 seconds or longer, some lasting up to two minutes.
As you adapt you would push the cold time in the shower longer to work towards a ten-minute cold shower, why ten minutes you may ask?
Well, when not sitting in warm water you will focus and shower much faster with far less lounging, that I promise!!!
Should I Take a Cold Shower After a Workout?
There are a few key benefits to taking an ice bath or a really cold shower after your workout.
The main benefit is to aid in decreasing inflammation of your muscles, joints, and tendons which helps speed recovery.
This basically helps your body not overcompensate for the levels of inflammation due to a highly stressed workout period, this can happen if you go hard at your workout after a long period of not pushing it the same way.
A cycle of warm to cold showers can also help(source) with DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, from causing the typical later soreness or blunting its full impact.
Which for a beginner could be very helpful in helping you get to work out more often.
How Long After a Workout Should I Take a Cold Shower?
The overall consensus is that you should wait at least 20 minutes after your workout to take your shower to allow for some cool down to naturally occur.
This may be more of a personal decision but typically after you complete your workout most will do some sort of cardio or cool-down process in the first place before hitting the showers anyway.
Do Cold Showers Affect Muscle Growth?
I found a study(source) showing loss in strength after ice baths but that could be in the vessel restriction occurs when it is seriously cold in the muscles.
Though the argument is definitely solid that you want the body to flood the muscle for repairs.
A muscle that has restricted blood flow is by the same restriction getting fewer repair operations done to the broken down tissues.
This would then mean taking a cold shower may not be the best, though most of the studies are around ice baths.
Does Cold Water Make Your Muscles Bigger?
While it helps speed recovery the reading and information I have found show that there was impaired strength and size when cold water was used in the form of ice baths.
Cold showers of any length weren’t really covered well in the studies I could find on the NIH site, mostly because people do have a hard time taking an honestly cold and long-duration shower when it’s easier to put them in a bath for a set time.
Do Cold Showers Decrease Gains?
This is a complex answer as overall there are studies, I even linked one above, that show cold ice baths do make you lose strength but this is balanced out by faster recovery in my opinion.
Please remember I am not a scientist and am just learning and moving forward in my journey, I read a lot and just don’t see a huge negative unless you are maybe aiming for size and not necessarily strength.
It may stop your muscles from additional repairs or may just slow it enough to make it almost imperceptible but you are, by shortening your recovery, able to work out additional times.
Do Cold Showers Burn Calories?
There is a load of back and forth around this topic as many will quote the “brown fat” as helping to escalate calorie burning when the temperatures drop too much.
For those who haven’t heard of it before, brown fat and white fat exist and serve different purposes for your body.
White fat is the “storage fat” that takes the excess calories and contains them as stored energy.
Whereas brown fat is a supportive system designed to help maintain your body heat and to stop freezing, this “helps” to burn more calories but most studies have shown it to be 76 calories over an hour of freezing and shivering.
So while it is possible to burn additional calories with a cold shower it is far more effective to do any other type of workout as you will burn far more calories with the exercise than by shivering in the cold shower for an hour.
Do Cold Showers Boost Metabolism?
It definitely starts brown fat burning calories, this is a boost to the metabolism but is it enough to become viable?
To me, the answer to this is that while it increases your metabolism the benefits of this additional burn aren’t typically worth the cold when a walk would be more effective for the same time.
How Many Calories Does a Cold Shower Burn?
On average in this study(source) there was an overall burn off 76 calories by being cold for 24 hours.
This also had a high of 400 in the same study but appears to be highly different per person.
Does Cold Showers Raise Testosterone?
A male scrotum resides outside of the body in order to help keep the testicles at the optimal temperature range of 95°F to 98.6°F to produce sperm and other hormones.
I did find a study(source) from 2007 on the NIH which suggests that brief exposure to cold temperatures was detrimental and actually decreased testosterone levels in the blood!
Do Cold Showers Increase Sperm Count?
Tests to see what will happen with cooler testes have shown to they have a stronger effect on DNA processes that result in higher sperm volume, quality, and mobility.
This “lower” temperature though is 88°F to 99°F and not the cold like a cold shower or ice bath provides(source).
Additional Cold Shower Benefits for Your Health
Many of the benefits of cold showers are anecdotal and not necessarily backed by any specific science.
And even then when science exists it tends to show that it is limited or really no overriding benefit to cold showers and really cold immersion in something much colder, ice baths.
One thing that anyone who submerges themselves in actual cold showers or ice baths will tell you is your alertness will jump to 100/100 and be pegged while it is working out survival.
This alertness is helpful to learn how to control as it is then able to be used at your need and you have control instead of losing control when it occurs.
Increased Fat Burn
The cold shower can help you activate your brown fat possibly helping your metabolism speed up a little and possibly for a duration after leaving the shower.
This one is up for debate though as most studies show that you will burn 76 additional calories a day when the temperature is lowered by 10 degrees.
Changing Your Comfort Zone
This is one of the most cited things about changing to cold showers which is to help you break out of your comfort zones and to adapt and push your limits further than many of us ever have.
Your comfort zone is that voice in the back of your head that tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something, it is the thing that shuts down taking a chance to jump out of a plane and parachute for example.
Learning to take back control from that voice is part of getting out of your comfort zone, it is a way to start re-training your brain and gaining that sense back.
Improving Blood Circulation
The cold helps to constrict your blood vessels which makes circulation function better and easier to move blood throughout your body.
This does come at the cost of possibly increased blood pressure though due to constriction.
Boost Muscles Recovery
The cold water helps to stop inflammation early which helps you to be able to recover from working out faster.
While this needs to be tempered by the fact it is shown that the cold will slow or possibly halt muscle gains, this means depending on your goals this may be very helpful.
Build Stronger Will
One thing the cold will do when you start to take cold showers is to help improve your willpower, you learn you are stronger than you ever thought, and standing your ground in the shower will help push this fact on you.
Even the strongest person will probably have a longer adaptation to this cold shower than they will admit at first, it is a hard thing to build up the will to walk into cold water.
Cold Shower Disadvantages for Your Health
I know we listed off a load of benefits above and they make you think this is definitely something that is super good for you and that you should do it hands down.
Well take time and read up on the below and just look at whether it is a good chance for you, as my wife would NEVER do this.
Cold Showers Cause Trauma
Let’s face it, most adults are not morning people, or at least that’s the feeling I get when I talk to my coworkers and friends.
Add to that getting up first thing and instead of taking a nice inviting shower you choose the cold instead.
When you wake up you get a shot of cortisol to kick start the engine and get it running from slumber, this is a stressor already in the body.
When you then jump into a cold shower your heart races and blood vessels constrict forcing everything to work harder and faster.
Your heart in most circumstances is fine but if you have any issue whether known or unknown you could be dialing up a risk for heart attacks.
The same thing for your blood vessels while constricted will increase your blood pressure which could be dangerous if you have pre-existing issues.
Cold Showers Aren’t Hot Showers
This one is just down to honesty for almost everyone in today’s world a hot shower is something they look forward to and will spend a long time just letting it run over them.
A cold shower can be refreshing but almost no one wants to sit under freezing cold water for any length of time, they just aren’t comfortable like the super hot waters can be.
I take a lukewarm to cold side shower almost all the time, but my wife actually says I take ice-cold showers, so this is in the eye of the beholder to some extent.
Cold Showers Are Overkill
While there are a lot of benefits when you research online you will find that many of them may really be overkill for the choice to take a cold shower.
For many, if it isn’t going to grossly increase their results they will choose comfort over the unknown.
There is plenty of research showing that cold may be beneficial to a great many things for our bodies.
But when looking at it from a muscle and size standpoint a cold shower may be very unnecessary at a minimum and maybe cause you losses at a maximum.
Final Thoughts on Cold Showers After Workouts
I have always taken lukewarm showers as I don’t necessarily like hot showers, unlike my wife who takes showers at I am pretty sure near to the temperature of the sun itself.
I have read a lot on this but have been nervous to try it out, I think I may start a test run for the next week and see how it goes as it shouldn’t be too hard to adapt over from my current shower temperature.
On a side note, I was watching “Naked and Afraid” and they spoke about how the contestants on a cold night can shiver away 3000+ calories to maintain body heat.
This supports this being a method to help nudge your needle on body fat use possibly if you could shiver for a long enough time!