If you are a frequent listener of the Get-Fit Guy podcast, you know I am big on being unbiased and objective. If you are new, maybe here because of a New Year’s resolution, welcome to the home of objectivity.
Cold Showers vs Hot Showers
For a while now, it’s been a bit of a craze to plunge yourself into a frozen river like a maniac, to wake up in the morning to a cold shower, or to fill an old chest freezer with ice cubes for an alternative afternoon session with friends.
There have been a myriad of posts about it. So I am going to make an alternative post about the ugly duckling of water and environmental temperature – hot.
As crazy as it sounds, there are actually health benefits to hot water and hot environments. In fact, they may even beat cold water into submission! So, in the debate between a cold shower vs hot shower, I would cast my vote for heat. Let’s dive in to hear why!
The first time I heard about the benefits of heat was when I was living in Hong Kong, circa 2013. A cryotherapy place had opened up, and everyone was desperate to spend 90 bucks to stand in -250℉ for 3 minutes for “recovery and detox.” Sounds compelling.
But I happened to hear a TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) practitioner telling someone that “ice is for the dead.” By this, he meant that the health benefits for living organisms were to be found in the heat, rather than in extremes of cold.
Both camps couldn’t be correct, since hot and cold are mutually exclusive. I decided to do my own research and see what I thought was best for me and what was best for my own clients.
In episode 606, I briefly mentioned my “Basic Lifestyle Guidelines,” one of which is sleep. You can’t really expect to sleep badly and recover from training or the daily stresses of life, both physiological and psychological.
You can also listen to that episode by clicking in this player:
The benefits of hot showers and baths for improving sleep quality are great. One of the main reasons for this is that in studies, a drop in body temperature initiated better sleep. Increasing your body temperature with a hot shower means your body now has to cool itself down, so you are “hacking” this process and expediting and amplifying it.
In fact, some bed manufacturers are now working with technology that increases temperature upon first getting into bed and decreases it as the evening moves forwards, helping sleep quality and building circadian rhythm.
Hot showers also activate our parasympathetic nervous system and allow us to get out of that “fight or flight” response that stress, such as training, gives us.
During a hard training session, muscle fibers and cells are damaged and metabolites accumulate. These will be removed from the muscles over time. Because hot showers dilate the blood vessels, they are able to be moved from the muscles in a more timely fashion. Similarly, the increased blood flow will bring nutrients to the area and aid in expedited recovery. This could be called localized inflammation, but remember that an inflammatory response is how your body heals. It happens most often after an injury as a repair mechanism, so we shouldn’t demonize it. It’s necessary.
In 1995, it was first reported that fevers helped to alleviate symptoms in depressive patients. Since then, studies have been conducted into “Whole Body HYPERthermia,” and the results were that a hyperthermic state, induced via hot yoga, showed relief of depressive symptoms lasting up to six weeks.
Even further back, in 1982, a study showed a positive correlation between an inability to regulate body temperature during sleep with increased depressive incidence. The outcome of subsequent studies demonstrated that mimicking fever by increasing core body temperature with a sauna had a positive effect on depressive symptoms and outcomes.
There have also been several studies into the benefits of Finnish Dry Sauna and immune function, with data showing that in both trained and untrained populations, white blood cell counts increased after a sauna and subsequent body cool down, although the increase in white blood cell count was much greater in athletes than non-athletes.
The mild hyperthermia induced by sauna also has a protective effect on lung tissue and can be useful in respiratory conditions due to the dilation effects on the respiratory system as a whole.
As you can see, although cold water is all the rage, there are also many benefits to hot water and heat as therapeutic intervention. As discussed in previous episodes, it’s always admirable to try to be a higher-order thinker by ensuring we aren’t just memorizing information from our favorite influencer or YouTube channel and that we are being objective and looking at any benefits of an opposing scenario! Cold water has been done to death, and frankly, I’d rather run a nice hot bath and play with my rubber ducks than to swim in a frozen lake any day!
Now, before I sign off for the week, I thought it would be fun to answer another email from you fine listeners. Remember, you can email me your questions at email@example.com new email.
Hi! I am a 64-year-old woman who loves cardio! It was THE way to get fit & be healthy when I was in college & grad school. In fact, I have a masters in exercise physiology (1987), and it was aerobic exercise all the way! I didn’t really start hearing about strength training for the “average Joe” until about 10-15 years later. Now students in my nearby university studying exercise science focus mainly on the need for strength training with minimal study of cardio! (Interesting how things change, huh?)
My question concerns protein powder. I am trying to incorporate strength training into my weekly regimen but know I don’t get enough protein. I would buy some protein powder, but the options are exhausting! Do you have a podcast or blog (or even a recommendation) that covers protein powder, and how to choose one that’s best for you?
I really enjoy your podcast! Thank you for digging through the research as well as the junk to bring us real information!!
Hi, Kelsie. Well, first, thank you for listening, and I’m happy to hear you enjoy the podcast! To answer your question:
It’s admirable that you are getting into strength training and of course, creating a muscle protein synthesis event is critical, specifically a Leucine overload event at regular intervals throughout the day.
Your preferred protein powder essentially comes down to taste; what I mean by that is there are hundreds of protein powder manufacturers but only a handful of whey manufacturers. Most companies are using the exact same whey sources; they just add their own flavor and sweetener and bag it up!
The more expensive ones just have fewer fillers than the cheaper options. So, to make sure you get the best quality, I would avoid any protein blends and go for 100% whey isolate. There are a bunch of brands doing that, and like anything else in this life, more expensive options are generally higher quality. Also, you will find that the chocolate ones have slightly higher protein grams per prepared drink than any other flavor.
Thanks again for your question. If you have questions about protein, the benefits of hot showers, or anything else, reach out! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org new email.
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.