5 Reasons to Skip Cold Shower After Workout

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: January 18, 2023

The cold shower is gaining popularity as a treatment for all sorts of ailments. With the turn of a shower knob, you can apparently treat everything from depression to hair loss.

But if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering, “is it good to take a cold shower after workouts?” And you want to know if freezing your butt off daily is worth adding to your routine.

In this article, I’ll present the cold hard facts on why a cold shower after your workout might not be a good thing!

cold shower after workout benefits

Claimed Benefits of Cold Shower After Workout

Before we get into the facts about cold showers, let’s cover the reported benefits.

One of the most common claims on the internet is that taking cold showers boosts your testosterone, which is always beneficial for gains. Another oft-cited advantage of cold showers is that they can help with muscle recovery and soreness after workouts.

Rounding out the list is the assertion that cold showers activate stubborn fat cells and help you lose more weight.

Cold Shower Claims:
  • Boost testosterone
  • Reduce muscle soreness
  • Improve workout recovery
  • Increase fat burning

However, it’s best to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism regarding your health. And don’t assume statements as facts unless backed up by solid science.

Lucky for you, I’ve taken the time to review dozens of cold shower studies to see what the science really says. And what I found may lead you to skip the cold shower after workouts.

cold shower after workout

5 Downsides Of A Cold Shower After Workout

I’ll admit when I first started researching this article, I expected to find a bunch of studies supporting the benefits of cold showers. Fortunately, I didn’t let my initial expectations create confirmation bias, where I only found the answers I wanted.

Instead, my opinion drastically changed after hours of reading through medical journals and scholarly publications. It turns out there are at least five reasons cold showers after workouts are not what they’ve been hyped up to be!

1. Lack of Studies Related Specifically to Cold Showers

First, I need to point out that the vast majority of studies in this area used cold water immersion (soaking in an ice bath), not a cold shower. Furthermore, it’s never been shown that those results are transferable to a cold shower.

Second, the temperature of the water and the duration of exposure vary from study to study. So it’s not easy to compare the results or draw solid conclusions.

Finally, there’s no way to run a blind test with cold showers. The participants clearly know they’re in the study group. That means the placebo effect could skew the results.

Takeaway: All these issues mean you should take the claims about cold showers with a grain of salt.

2. Does Not Improve Recovery After Workouts

We’ve all seen athletes soaking in a tub filled with ice after a grueling sporting event. And I’ve personally spent dozens of hours immersed in ice water to numb the pain of sports injuries.

There’s no doubt that icy temperatures reduce inflammation and pain. But is there evidence to suggest it can result in faster recovery from exercise?

Several studies were undertaken to find out. Unfortunately, the results are largely unclear1. Some data even suggests that cold water delays muscle recovery.

That’s because the temperature shock releases catabolic hormones (the ones that break things down). And the damage from these hormones may exacerbate muscle stress caused by the workout and increase the time required to recover.

Takeaway: Cold shock releases catabolic hormones which can delay recovery from workouts.

cold shower catabolic

3. No Evidence For Reduced Muscle Soreness

A cold shower might not be beneficial for recovery from the stress of working out. But what if you could recover faster by reducing muscle soreness?

Several websites I came across referenced a 2010 study analyzing 17 different trials2. To their credit, that study did show a statistically significant reduction in muscle soreness.

The problem is that all those trials used some form of cold water immersion (CWI). As mentioned, total body immersion has not been shown to be the same as a short rinse under a cold shower. So those claims are not justified.

Takeaway: Evidence that cold water immersion reduces muscle soreness does not prove that cold showers have the same effect.

4. It Might Actually Decrease Testosterone

Most claims about increasing testosterone sound too good to be true. Like the idea that you could hop in a cold shower and boost this all-important hormone.

So what does science say about testosterone boosting? The truth is, not much.

Interestingly, there is more information about fertility than testosterone itself. For example, some studies demonstrated experimentally that heat damages the male reproductive system3.

Which some bloggers and bro-scientists recklessly apply to testosterone production. They surmise that if heat is bad, then cold is good. But that’s poor logic without any data to back it up.

One study shows there’s no correlation between cold water and testosterone4. And another study resulted in a 10% decrease in testosterone from cold water exposure5!

Takeaway: There is no real evidence that a cold shower increases testosterone. It may even decrease it!

5. Not An Effective Way To Lose More Weight

Another buzzworthy claim about cold showers is that they help burn more fat. The reason is that studies have shown a correlation between cold exposure and brown fat activation. A special kind of fat that produces heat to keep you warm.

Some studies found that brown fat activation results in a slight increase in metabolic rate6,7. In theory, this could help you lose more weight.

However, there are shortcomings in these studies. For one, they exposed participants to cold temperatures in several ways. Including prolonged cold showers or baths, full-body cold suits, and sitting outside during winter in Sweden! Worse, they were instructed to do this for 1 to 2 hours per day.

Furthermore, the average increase in metabolic rate was just 75 calories per day. To put that in perspective, you burn about ten calories per minute with medium-intensity exercise.

So would you rather freeze your butt off for 2 hours or exercise for 7.5 minutes?

Takeaway: Cold exposure is not a practical way to lose weight.

Cold Shower After Workout Facts

Hot Or Cold Shower After Workout?

It’s clear that a cold shower after a workout is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it may be detrimental to your muscle-building efforts.

Does that mean hot is good? Not necessarily. Because frequent hot showers can dry out and irritate your skin.

So the safest bet is a comfortably warm shower. And you can spice things up with an occasional hot shower as long as your skin can handle it.

Are Cold Showers Always Bad?

The short answer is no because cold showers have some benefits. For example, they provide a jolt to the nervous system that can help you wake up.

In addition, cold showers increase mental fortitude. In other words, if you start your day doing something uncomfortable, the rest of your day seems easy.

And finally, cold showers are an excellent way to cool off after an intense workout in hot conditions.

However, if you’re going to take cold showers, I recommend doing it first thing in the morning – not after your workout.

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Conclusion

Many cold shower claims are nothing more than clickbait. So you should always keep a healthy level of skepticism and do your own fact-checking.

At the end of the day, whether you decide to take the plunge is up to you, but I’d steer clear. You’re better off exercising and eating right.

Speaking of eating right, check out some of my related articles below to learn how to use nutrition to improve your workouts.

How To Calculate Net Carbs

Counting net carbs can be confusing. Learn how to calculate net carbs with an easy formula. And try the net carb calculator.

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By |January 18, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
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