You just finished your intense HIIT workout, and with all the sweat on your body, it’s time to hit the showers! As you get ready to turn the shower knob to boil, you remember someone in the gym saying cold showers are better for you. But of course, you’re not going to take his word right away. So, you go online and search about it. Well, we’re glad you found this article. Let’s go straight into the topic.
So are there any benefits of taking cold showers?
Let’s first take a look at the biggest claim; cold showers increase testosterone. And with a quick observation of related studies, it’s quite conclusive that the effects of cold showers on testosterone are negligible at best. In fact, some suggest that cold water immersion might actually decrease serum testosterone. Along the same lines of possible negative effects from cold showers in comparison to using active recovery, such as low-intensity cardio cycling, cold water can hinder muscle building factors such as T-building luteinizing hormones, muscle satellite cells, and muscle protein synthesis via inhibiting the mTOR pathway.
Cold water also reduces inflammation, which might actually work against muscle hypertrophy since inflammation can serve as a growth signal. And as the studies show, the subjects did indeed see smaller gains in muscle and strength with post-workout cold water immersion. But even though it’s not the best for maximizing gains, there are still some possible benefits to taking cold showers.
Cold water has been shown to increase T-helper cells and lymphocytes, which can improve your immune system. There’s also some indication that it can increase antioxidants, but the effect tends to dissipate over time.
With research showing increases of beta-endorphins and electrical impulses to the brain, cold showers might also have an anti-depressive effect. In terms of fitness, there is a chance that taking cold showers can help burn more fat. In this case, it will do so by activating brown fat when you’re cold to keep you warm. Also, when coming into contact with cold water, you’ll notice that initially and respond in shock. This response is explained by cold activating your sympathetic nervous system, or also known as ‘fight or flight system,’ which will drive up alertness.
This can hypothetically be a great benefit for those that shower in the morning and need a little jolt of wakefulness. Finally, as mentioned earlier, cold showers can reduce inflammation. Although not the best thing for muscle growth, the reduction of inflammation, which leads to the reduction of metabolites, can slightly aid in reducing muscle soreness.
The trade-off for less growth in order to be less sore is something to consider. It is important to mention that almost all of these studies used cold water immersions, such as sitting in a cold, temperature-controlled bath. Which is not the same as taking a cold shower, where the water runs down the entire body and the exact temperature is unknown. Whether these different cooling methods will generate similar results is up for debate.
So, what’s the verdict on cold showers?
For the most part, it’s not exactly necessary and can hurt your gains if done after a workout. If you do choose to take one, take it in the morning before training to reap benefits of alertness with a sprinkle of better immune function and burning fat.
For those that are seeing good results from their workouts while taking hot showers, then there’s no need to change anything. In the end, just make to sure you don’t forget to take a shower regardless if it’s hot or cold.
What type of shower do you prefer hot or cold? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.