In life we’ve been always taught that success will eventually be sifted through the amount of hard work we put in. But hard work means different thing for different people.
Cold showers are hard work. Most people don’t want the ice cold water touch them in the morning, evening or at any time of the day.
And as much as I like warm and steamy showers, I really wanted to give cold showers a try, so I did some research and what I found is the following:
Cold showers may not work exactly the way magazines and fitness websites claim, but they will at least wake you up and there are some more benefits to it.
In some research experiments, it was found out that cold showers may actually slow down the process of building muscles. For example, they decrease the amount of luteinizing hormones, which aid in the production of testosterone, and muscle protein synthesis that is much needed after a strenuous workout.
Speaking of testosterone, the male sex hormone which promotes increasing muscle and bone mass, the effect of cold shower on its production is minor or it could actually reduce the rate of testosterone production.
Now here’s the trickiest part. Cold water reduces inflammation, which helps us experience a speedy recovery and feelings of being refreshed and less tired. But this also works against the benefits you’d get from delayed on-set muscle soreness (DOMS), where small damage would occur to the muscle fibers and then they would be rebuilt to be stronger and bigger, affecting both muscle hypotrophy (muscle’s size) and strength.
But that’s about as bad as it gets. In addition to helping in muscle recovery, cold showers have been shown to provide the body with countless of benefits, some of which are also related to mental wellbeing.
First, it can help in burning fat. Our body has two types of fats, white and brown. White fat is the one we are all familiar with, the one that stays on our belly, back and butt.
Brown fat, however, works to maintain the optimal body temperature and to burn white fat, and it could burn 15 times more when we are exposed to cold temperatures. Imagine that amount of fat off of your body!
Second, cold showers trigger the sympathetic nervous system, and that will wake you up no matter how tired and sleepy you feel. This jolt of alertness can be very helpful in the morning, before and after workouts, serving as your coffee, pre-workout and post-workout respectively. But remember, the lasting effect of cold showers is not necessarily long enough to keep you alert, so don’t count your supplements out yet!
Lastly, the immune system and the brain can benefit from cold showers, where the former gets a boost through the production of T-helper cells and the overall improvement in the function of lymphatic system. The latter benefits from the increase in beta-endorphins that can act as anti-depressants, therefore supporting mental wellbeing.
Cold showers have the power to elevate mood through release of endorphins.
And you may wonder, what did I end up doing after all of this?
So far, it has been great. I’ve been taking cold showers as many as 5 times a week, in the morning and after a workout session. I noticed a significant improvement in my mental state in both time periods and a much faster recovery. In terms of muscle’s size, there was no noticeable effect so far, but your body may react differently.
To conclude, some of the studies which this article is based on follow a procedure called cold water immersion, in which they have asked participants to sit in a temperature-controlled baths. Not only that, but there are too many factors that could affect muscle building to actually consider those research papers as a final answer.
Tim Ferriss noticed after writing his book, Tools of Titans, a lot of successful people he had interviewed take cold showers everyday. So give it a try. It will definitely wake you up. You’ll definitely find it so hard to breath at first, but a couple of minutes afterwards, everything would be over but the good of these icy water drops that had just hit your body.
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Written by Tariq Haiga