Should you take a hot or cold shower after workout? This is the question I was facing a few years ago.
I learned about Wim Hof’s method and all the good things a cold shower can bring. At the same time, I learned cold showers might be a bad idea for muscle growth.
So I started asking myself if I should take a hot or cold shower after workout.
Why should you consider a hot shower after workout?
If you like science research, there is a study done on how cold affects muscle protein synthesis. The research was run on twelve young men from 19 to 23 years old.
They did a two-week trial. The guys were doing two exercises in each workout. They did leg presses and leg extensions. After a workout, they put their legs in the water. One was in cold water at 8 degrees Celsius and the other was in 30 degree Celsius water. They had to keep their legs in warm/cold water for 20 minutes.
Scientists took their blood and muscle tissue samples at the start of the trial and after two weeks.
They found muscle protein synthesis was lower in a leg that was in cold water.
This may make you dismiss taking a cold shower after a workout right away. But, I decided to go with cold showers anyway.
There are two things that bother me about this trial. First is how long they had to be in cold water. Guys who were subjects of this trial had their legs for 20 minutes in cold water. I believe you are not in a shower for 20 minutes, so you won’t be exposed to cold for so long.
The other thing is, they didn’t measure long term benefits of faster recovery from cold showers. Faster recovery means more workouts. Your muscles will be put under more stress. If your muscles are put under more stress and you recover faster, your muscles should grow faster.
There are benefits for both taking a hot or cold shower after a workout. At least read on and make a decision for yourself in the end.
Wim Hof method
Let’s first see what a Wim Hof method is. Also, it would be nice to know the benefits of taking a cold shower after a workout.
Wim Hof is a Dutch guy who invented a method that beats illness. Ideally, it will keep you healthy all the time. Who wouldn’t want to be always healthy?
How did he come to this idea and why we should believe this?
Wim Hof’s method history
Wim Hof had a wife and four kids. His wife took her life in 1995. He was left a single parent. Destroyed by his wife’s sudden death, he had to take care of his children.
This would bring anyone down. He slowly started getting better after exposing himself to cold. He used deep breathing and meditated. This helped him get better and better.
That was the start of Wim Hof’s method. This is how it was born.
Later on, he let scientists do a bunch of trials on him. They put him in the cold water and his body heated the water. They injected him with bacteria and he didn’t get sick. His training simply didn’t allow him to get sick.
Later on, after he taught his method to his students, scientists tested his students. They got the same results. It seemed like his method was working. It also seems like people can learn this. They can repeat his results and do the same in their own lives.
What is a Wim Hof method?
The method itself is fairly easy to explain. You just breathe deeply, take cold showers, and have a positive mindset.
Once you learn it, you use it over time. It’s best to do it every day.
So, Wim Hof’s method has three main parts:
- Deep breathing
- Cold exposure (cold showers)
Deep breathing makes your body get a higher amount of oxygen in a short time. This helps your body create more ATP.
Your body will also produce adrenalin in the process and make your blood more alkaline. This will lower your pain threshold and put you in a fight-or-flight mode. So, you will be more alert and stress resistant.
Cold shower after a workout
When you first take a cold shower, you will feel unpleasant. The feeling might be near your pain threshold. If you can endure this initial bad feeling, you will feel more focused and more energetic after a cold shower.
After you take a cold shower after a workout, your body will recover faster. Pro athletes do cold showers or cold water dips after the workout. This helps reduce soreness after the workout and releases lactic acid from your muscles. When you recover faster, you can do more workouts. This leads to faster muscle growth and strength gains.
Once you feel comfortable with cold showers, you might consider an ice bath. It will be another level of cold exposure. Even colder for sure, but with enhanced benefits too.
If you don’t do cold showers or ice baths with a positive mindset, it will feel bad. So, the third part of Wim Hof’s method will help you get over this.
When you expose yourself to anything that is uncomfortable, you will disregard it and return to your comfort zone. The problem is, that all positive results lie just outside your comfort zone. If you want to improve in any area of life, you have to step outside of your comfort zone.
If you approach Wim Hof’s method with positive expectations, you will have positive outcomes.
Wim Hof method benefits
This method may bring you loads of benefits like:
- Reduced stress level
- Greater cold tolerance
- Faster recovery
- Enhanced creativity
- Stronger immune system
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Heightened focus & determination
- Improved sports performance
- Increased willpower
Cold shower after workout – my experience
When I stumbled upon Wim Hof’s method I wanted to try it. First I tried breathing drills. It didn’t stick. The simple reason was – it took 20 minutes of my time. I had to make the time to do it.
I didn’t try cold showers at first. Only after learning more about cold showers from several sources and seeing pro athletes doing it after every workout did I finally try it.
It was cold and unpleasant at first. I was able to do it for a few months starting in the summer of 2019. In the winter when it got colder I couldn’t do it any longer. It was too cold for me and I was back to taking hot showers again. I started with cold showers again in the summer of 2020. I never stopped since then. It stuck until today.
I feel all the benefits and can say it works for me. After going all in on cold showers my health improved. Before I was sick two to four times per year. Each sickness lasted a week or longer. After taking cold showers I get sick from zero to twice per year. My illness now lasts up to a week.
I’m more resistant to cold for sure.
My body recovers faster after a workout and I get fewer cramps in my muscles. I don’t know if this is because of cold showers, but I’m definitely getting stronger year after year.
I feel more energy after taking a cold shower and I sleep better.
If you were wondering if you should do a hot or cold shower after a workout, you may now make a more informed decision.
If you are after muscle mass gains and this is your main priority, you may want to do hot showers. Because cold exposure will reduce muscle protein synthesis in the short term.
If you want more long-term health benefits cold showers might be better for you. They will also help you recover faster after the workout.