Showering After a Workout: Does it Help Boost Recovery? (2023)

When you’ve worked up a sweat, your muscles ache, and your heart is racing, there are few things that seem more inviting than a quick rinse in the shower.

Hitting the shower after a workout is good for you for multiple reasons. Getting sweat off your body is essential to your hygiene, and massaging your muscles with soothing jets of water can help keep lactic acid from getting trapped in sore muscles.

But a post-workout shower alone isn’t a quick-fix for workout recovery. Your post-workout recovery routine should include a less-strenuous cool down period before you take a shower or bath.

Let’s cover the do’s and don’ts of showering after a workout.

Showering after a workout does help your muscles to recover, and boosts your body’s ability to bounce back and be ready for your next workout.

That’s because showering can get lactic acid, the natural chemical reaction that causes soreness, out of your muscles.

A small 2019 study of nine people showed that a cold shower helps decrease your heart rate and reduce cardiac stress quickly after working out in a high-temperature environment.

Many studies, including this study performed in 2017 suggest that cold water immersion is no more effective than active recovery (such as 10 minutes of cycling on a stationary bike after a tough workout) at reducing inflammation or cellular stress in muscles after resistance training.

A hot, steamy shower may feel good on your muscles after working out, but a cold shower may actually be the scientifically backed method of rinsing off your sweat.

A 2013 survey of the medical literature indicated that the effects of hot water immersion after a workout was unclear.

In contrast, the benefits of soaking in cold water after a training session seem to provide a clear recovery benefit, although it may lead to lower gains in muscle strength and mass.

Based on the rest of the available research mentioned in the 2013 survey, cold water showers and cold baths seem to have many other health benefits.

But hopping right into a cold shower after a hot workout might cause muscles to stiffen, or your heart rate to speed up.

For best results, start your shower at a lukewarm or moderately warm temperature after cooling down your body with stretches and slow exercise.

Toward the end of your shower, apply cold water to your body to finish your cool-down routine.

There are some additional proven benefits to showering soon after a workout.

Rids your skin of bacteria

Working out, especially in closed conditions like a gym or with others, can create a breeding ground for bacteria on your skin. When you shower with soap, your sweat is washed away, along with dead skin cells that can act as hosts for bacterial invaders.

Helps prevent clogged pores

When you work out, your pores open to release sweat from your sweat glands. These same pores can become clogged by skin cells or leftover sweat if you’re not able to clean your body soon after sweating heavily.

Clogged pores can lead to acne breakouts called “sweat pimples,” as well as blackheads and whiteheads.

Boosts your immune system

When you take a quick rinse in the shower with cool water, you can give your immune system a quick boost, if done regularly.

A study of over 300 people showed that taking a daily shower that starts warm and ends with 30 to 90 second-burst of cold water significantly reduced the amount of sick days they used at work.

Here’s how to have a cool-down shower after a workout.

  1. Finish up your high-intensity exercise, and switch to a gentler form of exercise for the cool-down portion of your workout. This should begin to decrease your heart rate. Cool-down should take from 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Once your heart rate has started to come down, start to stretch your muscles. This will help clear out lactic acid and prevent soreness from exercise.
  3. Start your shower at a lukewarm temperature so that you don’t shock your body with the change in temperature. As your body temperature begins to come down, you can adjust the water to make it colder.
  4. Use an antibacterial soap to clean sweat and bacteria off your body as your heart rate continues to decrease.
  5. For the last 90 seconds of your shower, bring the water temperature down so that it’s as cold as you can stand it. Make sure to hit your major muscle groups with a blast of cold water to refresh and reenergize your tired muscles.
  6. Dry off completely with a clean towel before stepping into your post-workout clothes.

There are some other ways to cool down after a workout that can be beneficial for your recovery.

Walking, jogging, or other less stressful exercises

Once you’ve gotten your heart rate up, it’s important that you cool your body down before you move on with showering and getting ready for the rest of your day.

Engaging in 5 to 10 minutes of cool-down exercise that’s less strenuous will help.

Ice bath after workout

Taking an ice bath after you workout can reduce muscle inflammation, flush out lactic acid, and help your muscles to start the healing process after strength training.

Research shows this isn’t better than a traditional cool-down, but it’s a complementary way for your muscles to recover.


You should refuel your body within 45 minutes of an intense workout. Eating protein-rich foods or drinking a vitamin-rich smoothie are some of the ideal ways to get your body back in balance.

If you don’t have time to shower right after your workout, there are some steps you can take to tide you over until you are able to.

  • Dry off sweat using a clean, dry towel. This can help get rid of sweat that would otherwise lead to clogged pores.
  • Clean your skin using anti-bacterial wipes. Concentrate on areas where you get especially sweaty, and make sure to use wipes that are intended for use on your skin.
  • Use soothing, cleansing wipes meant for your face to dissolve sweat that has gathered on your chin, forehead, and neck. This will protect against acne and minimize face redness.
  • Change your clothes, including your undergarments. Switch out your workout wear for breathable, loose-fitting cotton until you can properly bathe.
  • Wash your hands using antibacterial soap. This will get rid of any bacteria you might have picked up from shared surfaces during your workout.

None of these alternatives should replace a post-workout shower, but they can help you feel refreshed and hygienic until you’re able to properly rinse off.

Showering after exercise should be an important part of your post-workout routine. It not only gets you clean and protects you from breakouts, but also helps your heart rate and core temperature naturally decrease.

Taking a lukewarm or cool shower works best. If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance and boost recovery, an ice bath might work better than a shower.


Showering After a Workout: Does it Help Boost Recovery? ›

Showering is an adjunct to the recovery process that can remove the lactic acid that can be a source of muscle soreness,” OrthoCarolina told us. “Start off the shower using warm water and gradually decrease the temperature to cold as you can tolerate.”

Does showering after a workout help? ›

Showering after a workout does help your muscles to recover, and boosts your body's ability to bounce back and be ready for your next workout. That's because showering can get lactic acid, the natural chemical reaction that causes soreness, out of your muscles.

Do hot showers help muscle recovery? ›

Hot Showers

Relief for Sore Muscles: Similar to the effect of a hot pack over sore muscles, a hot shower can help to relieve sore muscles, muscle tension and knots. The hot water also helps to increase blood circulation in the body that can considerably ease pain, stimulate healing and reduce inflammation.

How can I speed up my muscle recovery in the shower? ›

Take an ice bath

Ice baths, ice massage or contrast water therapy (alternating hot and cold showers) help to recover faster, reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury. By repeatedly constricting and dilating blood vessels it helps remove (or flush out) waste products in the tissues.

Does cold shower help muscle recovery? ›

Cold showers help reduce muscle soreness after intense workouts. Since cold water has regenerative properties, your muscles will relax and repair after a tough workout.

What happens if you don't shower after a workout? ›

All that sweat from your workout will cause bacteria and yeast to build up, so if you don't shower, you don't rinse those bugs off and may have an increased risk of irritation and infection, Deirdre Hooper, M.D., a dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, LA, previously told Shape.

Can I shower 30 minutes after workout? ›

Ideally, you should wait until you've stopped sweating profusely to hit the shower; otherwise, you run the risk of still being hot and sweaty after you've washed. This will vary from person to person, but in most cases, this will take between five and 30 minutes, depending on the intensity of the exercise.

What is the best recovery shower? ›

Cold Shower

This means that the blood vessels contract, creating a flush for lactic acid built up in tired muscle tissues. Constricted blood vessels also reduce inflammation that comes with heat, bringing about some inflammatory-related pain relief and decrease in swelling.

How can I recover from a workout faster? ›

  1. Sleep more. Sleep gives your muscles time to recover from exercise. ...
  2. Massage. Many athletes incorporate massage in their training to reduce muscle soreness. ...
  3. Compression garments. Wearing compression garments has become common among athletes over the past several decades. ...
  4. Contrast water therapy. ...
  5. Cryotherapy.

What shower is best for muscle recovery? ›

Benefits of Taking a Cold Or Hot Shower After a Workout

As for workout recovery, some experts believe showers may help relieve muscle tension because of their effects on blood flow.

Do cold showers speed up recovery? ›

A cold shower can improve your post-exercise recovery by helping to cool the body faster, especially after working out in a hot environment, Laskowski said.

What causes poor muscle recovery? ›

A number of factors can affect the speed with which your muscles recover including the intensity of exercise and your own physical fitness. Sleep, exposure to stress, diet, wellbeing and other lifestyle factors can all determine how long it takes to recover.

Is it better to take a hot or cold shower after working out? ›

Finally, a 2015 study found that cold, applied immediately after exercise, was more effective than heat at reducing DOMS. Interestingly, there's some evidence that cold water immersion may improve immune function.

How long after workout should I shower? ›

All in all, your cool-down should take about 15-25 minutes — so, that's the expert-recommended to time you should wait to shower after exercising!

How often should you shower? ›

Many doctors say a daily shower is fine for most people. (More than that could start to cause skin problems.) But for many people, two to three times a week is enough and may be even better to maintain good health.

What happens after 30 days of cold showers? ›

After 30 days of cold showers, most individuals report feeling more alert, having more energy, having healthier skin and hair, improved mental health and resilience, improved circulation, and more.

How long can I go without showering? ›

In general, showering every other day or every few days is enough for most people. Keep in mind that showering twice a day or frequently taking hot or long showers can strip your skin of important oils. This can lead to dry, itchy skin.

How do you refresh after gym without showering? ›

That's why we have these tips to help you freshen up after a workout without taking a shower.
  1. Clean Clothes. ...
  2. Take Time to Cool Off. ...
  3. Hydrate (Before, During, and After Workout) ...
  4. Use a Towel & Gym Wipes. ...
  5. Dry Shampoo. ...
  6. Face Wipes/Wash. ...
  7. Deodorant. ...
  8. Body Spray (Perfume or Cologne)
Aug 25, 2017

Is it OK to shower while sweating? ›

So, when you are sweating, your body is still in the process of controlling the body temperature. At this point, it is not recommended to take a shower as it causes a sudden change in body temperature [3], which is not good for your overall health.

Should you always shower after sweating? ›

Sweat is mostly sterile." Indeed, we've reported that sweat isn't what makes you smell after you work out; it's the bacteria on your skin. In fact, Larson says that overwashing can be harmful for some people. "For older people or people with extremely dry skin, it's probably better for them not to shower," she says.

Why cold showers are good? ›

Cold water strains your body — it goes into “survival mode,” working hard to maintain its core temperature. This stimulates your body to increase blood flow circulation. “Increasing circulation redistributes blood and delivers freshly oxygenated blood to areas of the body that need to recover,” Dr. Hame says.

What is a recovery shower? ›

How to take a recovery-boosting contrast shower. Start with a hot shower (but not too hot; it should not burn) for 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly turn down the water temperature from hot to cold. Take a cold shower for 1 minute. Repeat the hot and cold cycle for 5 to 10 minutes for optimal recovery.

What is shower therapy? ›

One holistic method of treatment that's gaining popularity is hydrotherapy. Taking a cold shower for up to 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week, was shown to help relieve symptoms of depression in a clinical trial. For people with depression, cold showers can work as a kind of gentle electroshock therapy.

What are the 4 stages of muscle healing? ›

This concise review provides a sight about the various phases of muscle repair and regeneration, namely degeneration, inflammation, regeneration, remodeling and maturation.

Which muscles recover the fastest? ›

With that being said, different muscle groups tend to have different rates of recovery, with smaller muscles—biceps, triceps, calves—being able to recover more quickly than larger muscles—lats, quads, hamstrings, etc. In addition, different individuals are able to handle different amounts of training volume.

Should I workout if Im still sore? ›

If you're experiencing muscle soreness, you may need only two or three days of rest. Another option is to alternate your workouts to avoid overusing certain muscle groups. For example, if your upper body is sore, work out your lower body the next time you exercise instead.

Does showers help muscle growth? ›

“The answer is no.” “In fact, taking a cold shower at a time that isn't immediately following your workout can have a muscle growth inducing effect. The exact opposite response as was experienced with the submersion after working out.

What slows recovery? ›

After completing a workout, it may be tempting to congratulate yourself with a high-fat meal. Unfortunately, this can undo your workout gains and impair muscle recovery. Foods high in both saturated and unsaturated 'healthy' fat can slow down digestion. This limits your body from absorbing much-needed nutrients.

What is the best time to workout? ›

Between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., your body temperature is at its highest. This may mean you'll be exercising during the window of time your body is most ready, potentially making it the most effective time of day to work out.

Should I eat after workout? ›

Eat after you exercise

To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible. Consider a snack if your meal is more than two hours away. Good post-workout food choices include: Yogurt and fruit.

Should I wash my hair after working out? ›

Many beauty experts say that it's okay to skip your hair washing after a workout. Rinsing with water may be enough. In addition to saving time, skipping your post-workout hair washing every once in a while can actually be beneficial for your scalp health.

How long should I wait to lay down after workout? ›

Time It Right: One study found that people who performed moderate or intensive exercise three hours before bed fell asleep faster than those who did not. But, the body needs about 90 minutes to return to a resting state after exercise. Avoid working out immediately before heading to bed.

How long should you actually shower? ›

According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, MD, the recommended maximum shower time is about 5 to 10 minutes. This is enough time to cleanse and hydrate the skin without overdoing it.

What happens if you don t shower? ›

Poor hygiene or infrequent showers can cause a buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, and sweat on your skin. This can trigger acne, and possibly exacerbate conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. Showering too little can also trigger an imbalance of good and bad bacteria on your skin.

Should you shower morning or night? ›

“Humans tend to perspire at night,” Dr. Goldenberg said. “When you wake up in the morning, there's all this sweat and bacteria from the sheets that's just kind of sitting there on your skin.” So take a quick shower in the morning, he said, “to wash all of that gunk and sweat off that you've been sleeping in all night.”

Why do cold showers increase testosterone? ›

The scrotum hangs outside the body in order to keep the testicles at an optimal temperature to produce sperm and other hormones, around 95 to 98.6°F or 35 to 37°C. The idea is that cold showers lower the scrotal temperature, allowing the testicles to produce a maximum amount of sperm and testosterone.

Is it better to take a cold shower or ice bath? ›

Ice Baths Are Better than Cold Showers for Workout Recovery

A recent meta-analysis found that the most effective protocol is 11-15 degrees C (50-60 degrees F) for 11-15 minutes. Ice Baths will be more effective than a cold shower in this sense, partly due to your own confidence and conviction.

Is cold shower before bed good? ›

However, one study on cold exposure found that the body releases cortisol when exposed to the cold, while another found that increased levels of cortisol at night may lead to poor sleep. This could suggest that taking a cold shower before bed may be less beneficial for sleep.

Is it better to shower before or after a workout? ›

While showering after working up a sweat makes sense, there is evidence that showering before a workout can act as a pre-warm up routine with many benefits. Warm showers can help raise your body temperature and loosen up stiff muscles by increasing your blood flow.

Is it bad to let sweat dry on your body? ›

Sweating purges the skin of bacteria, dirt, oils, and impurities which helps to purify and rejuvenate your skin. However, sweating when your skin is dirty or letting the sweat dry on your skin can lead to harmful effects including premature aging, breakouts, and excessive dryness and irritation.

Is it OK to not wash hair after workout? ›

Many beauty experts say that it's okay to skip your hair washing after a workout. Rinsing with water may be enough. In addition to saving time, skipping your post-workout hair washing every once in a while can actually be beneficial for your scalp health.

How long after gym should I shower? ›

All in all, your cool-down should take about 15-25 minutes — so, that's the expert-recommended to time you should wait to shower after exercising!

Is a 20 minute shower too long? ›

If you like to linger in the shower for longer than 15 minutes, you might want to rethink your hygiene routine. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, MD, the recommended maximum shower time is about 5 to 10 minutes. This is enough time to cleanse and hydrate the skin without overdoing it.

Is wiping sweat off good? ›

Don't wipe unless you're drenched. Sweat releases heat by evaporative cooling. As each gram of sweat transitions from liquid to gas phase, it absorbs 2,427 joules of energy from the body and dissipates the heat into the environment.

Where does your sweat go when it dries? ›

The sweat leaves your skin through tiny holes called pores. When the sweat hits the air, the air makes it evaporate (this means it turns from a liquid to a vapor). As the sweat evaporates off your skin, you cool down.

Is it good to leave sweat on your skin? ›

Sweat Aftercare

After a workout, wash off all sweat on your body as soon as possible. Clogged sweat glands can cause skin conditions like prickly heat. Heat and sweat provide a fertile breeding ground for bacteria to fester. If left unwiped, bacteria can settle into your pores and start a breakout.

Do cold showers increase testosterone? ›

Cold showers and exposure to cold temperatures have been shown to increase testosterone levels, which can indirectly impact sperm count. Higher levels of testosterone can stimulate sperm production and increase the motility of sperm, which can improve overall sperm count.

Why not to take cold shower after workout? ›

Cold water immersion can actually inhibit muscle protein synthesis, so if muscle growth is a priority, one should save the cold stress for before the workout or at least four hours after a workout,” he says.

How many times should I wash my hair in a week if I workout? ›

You don't have to shampoo every day.

According to Redway, if you're doing heavy cardio daily, you should wash your hair two to three times a week. “Rinsing your scalp in between shampoos will help clean it. And if you have curly or textured hair, co-wash [with conditioner but not shampoo] in between.

Is it bad to just Rinse your hair with water? ›

Water is effective at washing away dirt, dust, and other water-soluble debris from the hair and scalp without stripping the hair of this sebum. However, Mamelak notes that if there are other oils in the hair (from a haircare or styling product, for example), a good portion of these will be left behind as well.

Should I wash my clothes after every workout? ›

If you didn't get too sweaty, you may be tempted to wear your workout gear again before washing. But experts say you should wash workout clothes after every use if you want to prevent odors. Washing them immediately is the best way to get rid of the bacteria that make them smelly.


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