The Cold Hard Truth About Cold Showers After Working Out 

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Ever heard of people taking a cold shower after working out? While it might seem strange at first, there are actually many reasons why you might want to take on this particular practice and one big reason you might want to skip it. Now let’s delve into some of the advantages of taking cold showers and one significant reason why you might want to avoid it after a workout.

The Benefits of Cold Showers After Exercise 

One of the main benefits (but also downfall, see more below) of taking a cold shower after working out is that it can reduce muscle soreness. This is because cold temperatures can constrict blood vessels, which helps reduce inflammation and therefore decrease soreness. Cold showers can also help improve circulation, as well as reduce swelling from lactic acid buildup in muscles. Additionally, cold showers may help to boost your immune system, which can be weakened by intense physical activity. 

Cold showers boost dopamine levels, which can help you feel energized. This is because cold showers cause your body to release endorphins and other hormones that give you a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. Furthermore, taking a cold shower after exercise can help strengthen the mind-body connection, helping you become more aware of how your body feels during workouts. 

Cold showers help to improve your sleep quality. Taking a cold shower before bed will reduce your body temperature, which can make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

In addition to the physical benefits, there are also psychological benefits to taking cold showers after exercise. Taking a cold shower can give you a much-needed mental boost and help you wind down after an intense workout session. Taking a few minutes to stand under the chilly water and reflecting on what has been accomplished can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying. Not to mention, it’s great for clearing your head and getting rid of any lingering stress or anxiety! 

…here are ten other astounding benefits of a cold shower that researchers have discovered:

  1. It triggers deep breathing which in turn increases your oxygen levels, your heart rate, and your overall cardiac function.
  2. It improves circulation and helps your arteries more efficiently pump blood.
  3. It lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune systems.
  4. According to a 1994 study it drastically decreases uric acid levels while it also increases gluthathione (glutathione is an antioxidant that works to make sure other antioxidants do their job).
  5. It triggers your sympathetic nervous system to elevate beta-endorphin and noradrenaline, the feel good chemical cocktail that gives you a sense of optimism and energy. Noradrenaline and dopamine, which also contribute to positive feelings increased by 530% and by 250%, respectively. While cortisol, the hormone produced by stress which usually signals inflammation, went down.
  6. 2008 study found that it also floods the temperature receptors in your epidermis triggering an anti-depressive effect.

Does taking a cold shower after a workout reduce muscle adaptation?

Unfortunately the answer appears to be yes. Research has found that cold showers can actually reduce muscle adaptation to exercise. Inflammation and DOMS signals to the body to repair and build more muscle, if you take a cold shower after this process you are reducing the body’s ability to do so. Therefore, it is generally not recommended that you take a cold shower directly after your workout if your goal is increased muscle growth and strength.

Inflammation is the body’s way of signaling that healing and repair need to occur, and if we are trying to grow our muscles, we want this process to occur. Using cold showers (cold water immersion, or CWI, in research), long-term, will attenuate the anabolic signaling that occurs in muscles2 through the reduction of inflammation. I.e., you will decrease your ability to build a maximum amount of muscle, which directly contradicts the goal of building muscle. CWI will reduce muscular inflammation and help decrease DOMS, which is great under the right circumstances, typically in between bouts of competitions where you don’t want excessive muscle soreness to limit your performance capabilities. 

This subject has sparked considerable controversy within the fitness community, with many prominent influencers taking strong stances on either side of the debate.

Why NOT Showering With Cold Water is KILLING Your Gains!

What if you take a cold shower at a different time during the day, not after your workout? Can it still be beneficial?

In fact, taking a cold shower at a time that isn’t immediately following your workout can have a muscle growth inducing effect. The exact opposite response as was experienced with the submersion after working out. This is due to an important hormonal response that occurs in some people, particularly those that have high baseline levels of cortisol.


Why Cold Showers Are KILLING Your Muscle Gains (7 scientific studies)

As mentioned in the above video most of the studies are based on cold water immersion and not cold showers. We don’t know for sure if cold showers would have exactly the same effect.

So should be take a cold shower after every workout, probably not if your goal is build muscle and strength. It’s best to limit cold showers after workouts and use them sparingly when trying to reduce the effects of DOMS. If your goal is increased muscle growth, then it’s important to allow for full recovery and adaptation of the muscles by avoiding cold showering directly after exercise.  Of course always listen to your body and if a cold shower will make you feel better after a workout then go for it. The key is to do what’s best for your body and its needs at the time. And remember that there are plenty of other benefits of taking cold showers, from helping with sleep quality to boosting your mood, so don’t be afraid to give them a try!

Read The Studies For Yourself

Sonkodi B, Berkes I, Koltai E. Have We Looked in the Wrong Direction for More Than 100 Years? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Is, in Fact, Neural Microdamage Rather Than Muscle Damage. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Mar 5;9(3):212. doi: 10.3390/antiox9030212. PMID: 32150878; PMCID: PMC7139782.

Roberts LA, Raastad T, Markworth JF, Figueiredo VC, Egner IM, Shield A, Cameron-Smith D, Coombes JS, Peake JM. Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training. J Physiol. 2015 Sep 15;593(18):4285-301. doi: 10.1113/JP270570. Epub 2015 Aug 13. PMID: 26174323; PMCID: PMC4594298.

Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. N Am J Med Sci. 2014 May;6(5):199-209. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714.132935. PMID: 24926444; PMCID: PMC4049052.

Werner G. Siems, Frederik J.G.M. van Kuijk, Ralph Maass, Rainer Brenke, Uric acid and glutathione levels during short-term whole body cold exposure, Free Radical Biology and Medicine

Shevchuk NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):995-1001. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2007.04.052. Epub 2007 Nov 13. PMID: 17993252.

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