Hot vs. Cold Bath: Which Is Better For Post-Workout Recovery?

How relaxing it is for the body to enter a hot bath following a rigorous winter workout! And there is nothing better than finishing a scorching summer run by diving into a chilly pool. Bath is usually used by athletes to relieve muscle soreness after high or prolonged exercise, speed up recovery, and improve athletic performance. But still, what is better for muscle recovery? We will try to answer this question in this article.

What kind of bath to take?

Each method has its own place in the arsenal of recovery tools, and using them correctly will allow you to get the most out of each type of bath. So let’s look at when to use each of them, as well as whether something needs to be added to the water to increase the effectiveness of the procedure.

Hot bath

Hot baths improve body motion by warming tendons, muscles as well as joints by increasing blood flow. The best water temperature for this is between 35 and 40°C, however always rely on your own level of comfort.

Thanks to hot water, you will relax tense muscles and make your sleep more sound, which together will contribute to your recovery.

You might be surprised, but in sports, the best time to take a hot bath is right before your workout to increase circulation to your muscles and joints. This is especially effective when you already have some kind of injury. It will also be great to add Epsom salts, aroma oil or flower petals to the water. Essential oils in flower petals contain oils and beneficial substances, and when dissolved in warm water, they will have a beneficial effect on the general condition of the body. Order a peony bouquet for flower delivery, get petals from a bouquet of flowers and put in the bathroom. The main thing is that the flower bouquet is as fresh as possible.

But jumping into hot water immediately after a hard workout is not entirely healthy.

The body’s reaction to physical stress, inflammation, is always brought on by a lengthy run or challenging workout. When inflammation develops, the immune system is activated, which causes tissues to become permeable and blood vessels to enlarge. The immune system can now tackle the stress. Although the effect is meant to mend damaged cells, it can also cause discomfort, swelling, and redness. Instead of heating the region to constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling, cool the afflicted area to reduce discomfort and swelling. Hot water can only make the condition worse.

Cold bath

According to some studies, immersion in water below 15°C reduces delayed muscle pain, also known as crepitus. The comparison was made with passive rest. Temperatures below 10°C are recommended for inflammation or sprains, as cooler temperatures focus blood flow to the inflamed area, reducing swelling and tissue destruction.

How long to stay in such a cold bath? Most often there are recommendations up to 15 minutes. But if you’re afraid to plunge into cold water, there is no need to submerge your whole body. Immersion of the inflamed foot or lower leg in cold water is also effective in reducing pain. In the event of an acute injury – a fall or dislocation – cold compression should be chosen over a bath. This could be an ice pack, for example.

Another research, however, indicated that cold baths don’t add to long-term improvements in muscle development and strength and instead hinder recovery from intense weight training in the gym.

Wrap up

If the temperature regimes are employed properly, hot and cold hydrotherapy is useful. You will get the most from cold water treatment when it comes to post-workout recovery. If you don’t have a clear cause to deviate from the “hot water before, cold water after” guideline, as if it’s really hot or humid outside, do so.