Just finished a workout? Can’t wait to freshen up? But wait! Is a cold or hot shower more beneficial after a workout? Let’s find out!
- There is no significant benefit of using a cold or hot shower after exercise.
- Frequent cold showers after exercise may diminish strength gains.
Seen athletes soaking themselves in an ice bath after their workouts? Why do they do that?
Cold showers are great after a workout under the hot sun! Not only does it feel amazing to soak yourself in cold water after being under the sun for an extended duration, it also helps to prevent hyperthermia (or overheating) of your body! Moreover, many professional athletes do this as exercise-induced hyperthermia can potentially cause irreversible and fatal heat related illnesses such as muscle cramps and heat stroke. However, you do not need to use extremely cold temperatures as studies have shown that water temperatures between 14 – 20℃ can effectively cool down the body temperature without causing hypothermia.
However, frequent post exercise cooling can be detrimental to exercise performance. Studies have shown that regular use of cold water immersion can diminish long term gains in terms of strength and muscle mass after strength training.
Therefore, the use of cold showers should only be done when needed, not exceeding 30 minutes, to prevent the attenuation of performance.
What about warm showers? There are athletes that hit the sauna after their workouts as well right?
The rationale behind taking a warm shower or going to the sauna after a workout is because heat promotes blood circulation around the body. After a workout, muscles are fatigued and require more nutrients to recover. However, studies have shown no significant benefits of post exercise heating in athletes.
Heating is commonly used for athletes that are acclimatising to a change in environment, especially one that is warmer than where they usually train. Pre-exercise, during exercise and post exercise heating are common practices for athletes acclimatising to a warmer climate.
What does this mean for me?
In Singapore, with sunny weather and higher temperatures, cold showers may be tempting after an intense workout under the sun! However, do remember to allow your body to cool down for 15 to 20 minutes before hitting the shower. Moreover, ensure that you begin your shower with lukewarm water before gradually reducing the temperature so that your body will not be shocked from the sudden change in temperature!