Should You Take a Cold Shower After Workout?
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. And make greater gains in the gym while you’re at it.
There’s no shortage of colorful infographics and enticing listicles. Each one enthusiastically hyping 15 life-changing benefits of cold showers. You know the ones – hiding information between cleverly disguised ads.
The next thing you know you’re 5 pages deep watching a video of a snake swallowing a goat… “What day is it? How did I get here?”
But if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for real answers. You want to know if freezing your ass off on a daily basis is worth adding to your workout routine.
Well, in this article I’m going to cut through the clickbait crap. I’ll examine the cold hard facts of cold showers. And help you figure out if you should take the plunge, so to speak.
*no goats were harmed in the making of this post
Claimed Benefits of Cold Showers
There are dozens of supposed benefits of cold showers. Since you’re here to learn about fitness, let’s look at the ones related to working out:
- Faster recovery from exercise
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Increase testosterone
I’m going to dive into each of these theoretical cold shower benefits below. But before I do, let me talk a little bit about the science of cold water therapy.
Cold Shower Studies
First, I need to clarify that cold water therapy includes full body immersion. In fact, most studies in this area used cold water immersion and not a shower at all.
Furthermore, it’s never been shown that those results are transferable to a 30-60 second spritz. Or even longer cold showers (for you bathtime badasses out there).
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.
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.
All these issues mean you should take the claims about cold showers with a grain of salt. With this in mind, let’s look at each with a more critical eye.
1. Cold Shower for Recovery from Exercise
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 unclear. And 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). The damage from these hormones may exacerbate muscle stress caused by the workout and delay recovery.
Takeaway: Cold shock releases catabolic hormones which can delay recovery from workouts.
2. Cold Shower to Reduce 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?
That’s exactly what some fitness gurus claim. However, they don’t provide the reasons why. And often cite a 2010 study analyzing 17 different trials. 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 total body immersion. As mentioned, water 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.
3. Cold Shower to Increase Testosterone
This is the one that gets guys excited… Every self-respecting bro on BodySpace is talking about ways to boost your test.
I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if you could sprinkle your manhood with cold water and magically produce more mojo? Well yeah, that would be awesome. But if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
So what does science say about testosterone boosting? The truth is, not much. Actually, there’s more information about how to increase or decrease fertility. Which is recklessly applied to testosterone production by aforementioned bro scientists.
Actual scientists demonstrated experimentally that heat damages the male reproductive system. That makes sense. It’s why our test-factories are on the outside of our bodies to keep them from overheating.
But many bros – and a certain “manly” website – surmise that if heat is bad, then cold is good. That’s poor logic and a pretty bold assumption without any data to back it up.
Takeaway: There is no real evidence that a cold shower increases testosterone. It may even decrease it!
So Are Cold Showers Good for You?
Many cold shower claims are nothing more than clickbait to lure you into an ad-infested booby trap. Or perhaps bros flexing their brain muscles too hard. So you should always keep a healthy level of skepticism, especially with information online. Including mine! Do your own fact-checking.
That being said, there are some real benefits from cold showers that may be worth exploring. They help wake you up and increase mental fortitude. So whether you decide to take the plunge is up to you.
If you want more info, I recommend the article below. It’s a rational review of cold showers from a fitness professional who’s actually used them.
In summary, when it comes to recovery from workouts or “natural male enhancement”, I’d steer clear. You’re better off lifting hard and eating right.
Speaking of eating right, I want to help you learn how to use nutrition to improve your workouts and recovery. So I’m giving away my Nutrition Guide for free.
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