Hot shower

Cold or Hot Shower After Workout: Which is Better for Recovery?

Wondering if you should take a cold or hot shower after your workout? Does it even matter?

The answer is yes – although the debate on whether to take a cold or hot shower is ongoing, with each side having its own benefits and drawbacks.

Cold showers help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, while hot showers can increase circulation and improve flexibility. But which is better for recovery?

In this article, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of both cold and hot showers after a workout to help you decide which you should turn to the next time you finish up a workout session.

Benefits of Showering After Exercise

Before we tackle whether or not you should take cold or hot showers after a workout, let's talk about why it's important to shower at all. Taking a shower does a bit more than just make sure you don't smell bad when you leave the gym – it can actually have an impact on your health and your muscle recovery.

Rid skin of bacteria

The first, and fairly obvious reason you should take a shower after exercising is that it helps clean your skin of bacteria.

During a workout, you sweat and your pores open up, which can lead to the growth of bacteria on your skin. This can cause skin infections like folliculitis – an infection of the hair follicles that causes red bumps on the skin.

Showering with a mild soap or body wash immediately after exercise can help reduce the amount of bacteria on your skin and prevent skin infections.

Clearer skin

Another benefit of taking a shower is that it helps keep your skin clear. As well as bacteria, showering helps clean off the sweat and dirt that can lead to breakouts and other skin conditions like acne.

Boosts your immune system

Showering can also help temporarily boost your immune system. Besides sweat and dirt, a shower helps clean your body of other contaminants from the skin, which can reduce the risk of infection.

Showering also helps reduce stress, as warm water can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This helps relax the body and relieve tension, which in turn boosts your immune system.

Improve circulation

Taking a shower after exercise can also help improve circulation. Cold water helps constrict the blood vessels, while hot water helps open them up.

Both options increase the blood flow which can deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, aiding in the recovery process.

Benefits of a Cold Shower After Your Workout

Now let's talk about cold showers specifically. They might not always be pleasant to take, but they can have a pretty big impact on your workout recovery.

Reduces inflammation and soreness

One of the main benefits of taking a cold shower after exercise is that it can help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. Cold water constricts the blood vessels, which reduces swelling and helps flush out any lactic acid build-up in your muscles. This can reduce soreness and help speed up your recovery time after a workout.

Calming itchy skin

If you suffer from itchy skin, cold showers can also be beneficial. They can calm itchy skin by reducing blood flow and decreasing the release of histamine, which is a chemical that contributes to itching.

The cold temperature can also have a numbing effect on the skin, which can help to reduce discomfort. Additionally, cold showers can help to tighten the skin, which can reduce the appearance of itching and improve overall skin appearance.

This isn't by any means a cure for underlying skin conditions, but it can provide some temporary relief from itchy skin.

Waking you up

Another benefit of taking a cold shower is that it can help wake up and get you energized. Cold showers help to stimulate the body and can give you an extra burst of energy after a workout or just help you feel more alert throughout the day.

Potentially boosting weight loss

Another nice benefit is that cold showers may also help to boost weight loss. WebMD notes that "As your body fights to stay warm, the heightened reaction will temporarily boost your metabolism and help you shed some weight. "

Cold showers aren't going to replace regular diet and exercise, but they can be a nice addition to helping you lose weight.

Glowing hair and skin

Cold showers are also known to be good for your hair and skin. Cold water can help to seal the cuticle of your hair, which can lead to shinier and healthier-looking hair. Cold water can also help to tighten the pores on your skin, which can lead to clearer and more youthful-looking skin.

Tips for taking cold showers

If you haven't tried taking a cold shower before, they're definitely worth a try. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Limit the duration: Start with shorter showers and gradually increase the length of time as your body adjusts to the cold temperature. Aim for no more than 5-10 minutes for a cold shower.
  • Focus on breathing: Taking slow, deep breaths can help distract from the cold and reduce stress on the body.
  • Finish with a warm towel: After the shower, finish by drying off with a warm towel to help bring the body temperature back to normal.
  • Listen to your body: If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or uncomfortable during a cold shower, it's best to stop and switch to a warm shower.

Benefits of a Hot Shower After Your Workout

Now, let's examine the health benefits of taking a hot shower after exercise.

Increases flexibility

Hot showers can help increase flexibility by loosening up your muscles and improving blood flow. This helps to reduce stiffness in the joints and muscles, which is beneficial for muscle recovery and movement.

Provides relief from respiratory symptoms

Hot showers can also help to provide relief from respiratory symptoms, such as congestion and coughing. The steam generated by the hot water helps to thin out mucus, which enables it to flow more freely in your body.

Reduces stress and relaxes muscles

The heat of the shower can also help reduce tension and relax your muscles after a workout. This can help improve your overall sense of well-being and make it easier to recover from physical activity.

A hot shower can also help increase the production of endorphins which work as a natural painkiller. They can help reduce muscle pain and discomfort from your workout.

Better heart health

In addition to the above benefits, hot showers can also help improve heart health. The heat from the shower can help dilate blood vessels and improve circulation. This can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

It can also help to temporarily reduce your blood pressure and lower your heart rate.

Are Cold or Hot Showers Better Post Workout?

Now that we understand the benefits of both, it's time to announce the verdict of cold or how showers after a workout. Overall, it really depends on what you're looking to get out of it.

If you're exercising in the morning and taking a shower before you get started with your day, I think a cold one would probably offer the most benefits. It will help wake you up and energize you for the day as well as reduce inflammation and soreness.

If you're exercising in the evening, then a hot shower would probably be a good choice. The hot water can help relax your body, muscles, and mind so you can unwind better at the end of the day.

The hot shower can also help relieve any sore muscles from a long day as well as make it easier to relax and get a good night's sleep, which is also important for muscle recovery.

If you find yourself wanting the best of both worlds, however, then you should try contrast water therapy.

Contrast water therapy

Contrast water therapy is where you alternate between hot and cold water while showering. This can provide the same benefits as a cold or hot shower, along with some additional ones.

According to Healthline, contrast hydrotherapy can help lessen muscle fatigue and decrease pain, swelling, and lactic acid buildup following intense exercise.

Traditional contrast hydrotherapy is done by alternately immersing your body in baths or tubs filled with cold and hot water. You can do a similar version in the shower by alternating between cold and hot water for 1-3 minute intervals.

FAQs About Cold or Hot Shower After Workout

Still trying to decide between a cold or hot shower after your workout? Here are some common questions and answers:

Is it good to take a cold shower after a workout?

Overall, taking a cold shower after your workout can offer some great benefits. It can help to reduce inflammation and pain as well as improve circulation and energy levels. Cold showers can also help to wake you up and improve your focus for the day ahead.

Is it good to take a hot shower after a workout?

Taking a hot shower after your workout can also offer some great benefits. The heat of the water can help to relax your muscles and reduce tension, as well as increase blood flow and circulation. Hot showers can also provide relief from respiratory symptoms and help to produce endorphins which act as a natural painkiller.

Does it help taking a cold shower before working out?

Yes, taking a cold shower before your workout can help to focus your energy and get you in the right mindset for physical activity. Cold showers can also help to reduce inflammation prior to exercising, which can make it easier on your body during your workout.

Is it okay to take a bath immediately after a heavy workout?

Yes, taking a bath after a heavy workout can be beneficial. The heat of the water can help to relax your muscles, reduce pain and tension, as well as increase circulation and endorphin production. Cold baths are also an option and can help to reduce inflammation and cool your body down after your workout.

Does a cold shower prevent muscle gains?

No, cold showers do not prevent muscle gains. Cold showers can help to reduce inflammation and pain as well as improve circulation and energy levels. All of these benefits can actually help support muscle growth in the long run.

Does a cold shower after exercise count as cold water immersion?

No, a cold shower after exercise doesn't count as cold water immersion. Cold water immersion is the process of fully immersing your body in cold water for a set amount of time.

It's often done with ice baths or very cold water. Cold showers, while beneficial, can't quite replicate the intensity of cold water immersion.

Conclusion to Cold or Hot Shower After Workout

Overall, there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding between a cold or hot shower after your workouts. It really just depends on what you're looking to get out of it.

Cold showers are generally better for mornings while hot showers are better for evenings. And if you want the best of both worlds, then contrast water therapy is a great choice.

No matter which type of shower you take after your workout, make sure to stay hydrated and get a good night's sleep for optimal muscle recovery.
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