You are out of a heated workout session, and all you want to do is rush to take a shower. One of the great debates between heart and mind after a heated workout session is between hot and cold showers.
Especially in summers, when your body is all worked out and soaked in sweat, all you want to do is to indulge yourself in a deep, cold shower.
But should you take a hot or cold shower after workouts? Even though taking a hot and steamy shower may relax your muscles after working out, science suggests that a cold shower is a better way of rinsing off your sweat. A 2017 paper concluded that a cold shower might make you feel less sore after workouts.
This article will explain the debate between hot and cold showers after a workout. We will see how showering with hot or cold water can affect your body and whether there are any associated benefits or risks.
If you are a runner, you might wonder how long you should before hopping in the shower. I encourage you to read this article to find out how long you should wait for a better recovery.
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Showering After Workout
Showering after a workout session is almost essential. Not only does it make you get rid of all that sweat and heat, but it almost instantly helps your muscles boost recovery, enabling your body to get back to normal.
Showering also flushes lactic acid out of your body. Lactic acid is the chemical released during an intense workout and causes muscle soreness.
It also helps to normalize your body after an intense workout session like heart rate,
So now that we know showering can release tension, heal soreness, and normalize the heart rate, let’s look at the type of water the body needs (Source: The Journal of Physiology)
Is It Good to Have a Hot shower After a Workout?
According to science, it is better to take a cold shower after workouts because cold water showers and cold baths offer many other health benefits. We all know a warm bath is nothing but a luxury. It soothes the body, relaxes muscles, and removes all tiredness. It instantly puts you in a very relaxing mood. Here is how it affects your body.
But, just like the warm air expands, warm water also has the same effect on the body. Heat expands the matter in the same way hot water dilates the veins and pores and increases the blood flow. It relaxes your muscles. The increased blood flow releases tension and reduces tightness.
However, hopping right into a cold shower after a hot workout is not recommended as it might cause muscle stiffness or speed up your heart rate.
For optimal results, it is recommended to begin your shower at a lukewarm or moderately warm temperature after you perform low-intensity workouts like yoga or stretching (Source: healthline.com)
Before you finish showering, gradually low the temperature by applying cold water to your body
Let’s look at some of the benefits of taking a hot shower:
Benefits Of Taking a Hot Shower
1- Cleanse the Skin
Hot water dilates the pores and removes the dirt trapped in the skin. It opens up the pores in the skin and removes dirt, bacteria, and other pollutants, helping you clean the body properly.
As for hairs, the cuticles open up and split the dirt and oil. This is why sauna baths are very effective. So it washes off the clogged pores and reduces the risk of infection.
2- Soothes the Body
Hot water has been considered a natural remedy to soothe your body. Especially in winter, a hot bath immediately relaxes the mood and soothes the body.
3- Improves Muscles and Joint Health
A hot bath relaxes the muscles, improves blood circulation, and sends more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles.
A hot shower also removes the stiffness and muscle soreness after an intense workout. Studies suggest hot sauna treatments in individuals with chronic heart failure improve exercise tolerance.
4- Relieve Respiratory Symptoms
A hot shower relieves respiratory symptoms. It’s old-age therapy to loosen up phlegm, clears the nose, and open your airways.
5- Improves Sleep Quality
A warm bath relaxes the mind and body and makes you sleep better. It’s probably not a good thing to do when you want to stay active and alert in the middle of the day.
Disadvantages of Hot Shower
Besides all these benefits, there are also some disadvantages of hot showers.
- Dries Out the Skin: Hot water dries out your skin. Especially if you have eczema or any other condition of dry skin.
- Makes Skin Itchy: Though a hot shower may relax your body and mind, this rapid blood circulation after a heated bath makes your skin itchier.
- Improve Circulation Can Worsen Your Pain: If you have sore muscles, taking a hot shower is like applying a hot pad to your muscle. Hot water dilates your blood vessels and can increase soreness or muscle aches.
Taking Cold Shower After Workout
Now let’s see how a cold shower affects the body. Cold water works just the opposite. Instead of expanding the veins, cold water causes vasoconstriction—the blood vessels contract. A decrease in blood flow reduces inflammation and swelling of muscles.
Another advantage of using cold water is that during a workout session, your body gets heated. Taking a bath with hot water can overheat the body. Cold water stops the body from overheating and makes the body’s temperature normal.
Wait for 30 minutes after an intense workout. Allow your body temperature and heart rate to naturally return to normal.altinify.com
Here are the benefits of taking a cold shower
Benefits Of Taking a Cold Shower
1- Improves Circulation
One might think that cold water constricts the blood flow, but it constricts the blood flow from the body’s surface and sends it to deeper tissues. This blood circulation maintains the optimal body temperature.
2- Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
A cold water shower triggers the circulatory system and prevents cardiac issues for those with hypertension or cardiovascular issues.
3- Normalize the Body Temperature
As we said, cold water constricts the pores and blood vessels and sends the blood to the middle of the body and to deeper tissues. It certainly regulates the body temperature and brings it back to normal.
4- Reduce Soreness
Cold water lowers the damaged tissue’s temperature and blood constriction and reduces swelling and inflammation.
It even numbs the muscles and gives immediate relief from pain. As cold water reduces inflammation, it also removes itchy skin. i
5- Reduce Weight
The cold water helps you lose some weight as well. Cold water immersion boosts metabolism. It forces the body to work hard to maintain the body temperature and keep you warm. So cold water showers make the body burn more calories.
6- Improves Skin and Hair
If you are after better skin and hair, then cold showers certainly help. It does not expand the pores or cuticles and release excess oil. It also constricts the pores and gives a tightening effect to the skin.
Also, cold water does not dry your skin, unlike hot water. It does not disturb the sebum, which lubricates the skin barrier.
7- Flushes Out the Lactic Acid
As a cold shower increases blood circulation, it flushes out the lactic acid from the body.
8- Remove the Itchy Feeling
If you are feeling itchy, a cold shower can reduce the itchiness. A cold sensation during the cold shower will replace the feeling of itch, providing momentary relief.
9- Alerts the Mind and Makes you Active
Unlike hot water that relaxes muscles and makes you sleepy, cold showers alert the mind and make you more active for everyday chores.
Some Possible Cons of a Cold Shower
- A cold shower is not a good idea if you are already feeling cold or are sick.
- A cold shower decreases muscle growth after resistance training
So you might think this is enough, but there is more to the story. Both hot and cold shower benefits can be combined in a contrast shower.
A contrast shower use alternates between cold and hot showers.
- First, you can stand in a cold shower for a minute or two. Cool water will put your body at ease and decrease the blood flow in key places where you have stiffness or soreness.
- After that, you turn off the cold water and set the tap on the blast of hot water. Use as much hot water as your body can tolerate and is comfortable with. Hot water will immediately expand the blood vessels and make you get rid of inflamed cells.
Cold water constricts the vessels that make blood flow to the middle of the body. Once hot water expands the vessels, the blood returns to the muscles.
This repeated switching of hot and cold water causes constriction and dilation of blood vessels. It lessens muscle fatigue and decreases pain and swelling. It also removes lactic acid that builds up in the body after an intense workout.
Especially if you have back or knee pain after exercise, this contrasting water therapy is recommended.
You can keep alternating hot and cold water for up to three to five cycles. This use of contrast water is known as contrast hydrotherapy and has several benefits.
A contrast bath might help treat muscle injuries, concluded a study issued in the journal of athletic training.
Benefits Of Contrast Therapy
- Improves blood circulation
- Treats edema and stiff joints
- Improves appetite
- Improves focus and attention
- Reduces inflammation
- Great for athletes
However, contrasting therapy is unsuitable for everyone, especially hypertension patients. Make sure you consult your doctor before taking contrasting therapy.
Showering after a workout session is essential to eliminate dirt and sweat from your skin. It refreshes you immediately. Both hot and cold water showers have some benefits. Though trainers recommend cold water showers.
Contrasting therapy is another great option with multiple benefits. It relieves muscle soreness and improves blood circulation.
Make sure you discuss this with your trainer and see what he recommends if you have some health conditions.