You Can Feel Cold After a Workout—Here's Why That Can Happen

How to know if your body's just doing its job, or if something is off.

Is it normal to feel cold after a workout? Apparently, yes, according to Nathaniel Jenkins, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa. During a workout, your body is likely to get sweaty and hot. To help it get back to its normal, cooler core temperature, it has to do something with that extra heat.

What Happens in Your Body?

"Your body does a couple of pretty cool things that actually deal with that heat and dissipate the heat," Dr. Jenkins said. During a workout, your body increases blood flow to the skin and begins to sweat—by doing both of those things, it releases some of the heat that it's built up during the workout out into the environment so you don't overheat, Dr. Jenkins said.

The purpose of sweat is to cool your body down, according to Nemours Children's Health. When your body temperature is hotter than normal, your brain sends a signal to produce sweat. Your body then cools down when the sweat evaporates from your skin.

After you're done with a workout, your body temperature will go back to normal and you will no longer need to sweat. But if your temperature is still high after a workout, your body will keep sweating until you've cooled off. That's where feeling cold after a workout can come into play.

"You might have a time delay between when you've stopped producing heat, but yet you are still dissipating heat because you still have sweat on [your] skin," Dr. Jenkins said.

Is This Bad?

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. "[It's] good in order to get your body temperature down to baseline," Dr. Jenkins said, adding that it's possible that this happens more often after a really sweaty workout, like hot yoga.

"People that have greater body surface areas would probably be more prone to this," Dr. Jenkins added. Tall people, for example, might be more likely to need a light jacket after an intense workout. According to Dr. Jenkins, because they have more skin and overall surface area, their body will sense more sweat and continue working to bring down the body temperature after they've completed their workout.

What if You Feel Cold During a Workout?

While feeling cold after a workout is pretty normal, if you feel cold during a workout, it's a sign that something's off, Dr. Jenkins said. In that case, your body is communicating one of two things: you're dehydrated, or your blood sugar is a little low. "If you're feeling cold during exercise, it's one of those two things that's happening," Dr. Jenkins said.

According to Nemours Children's Health, people with low blood sugar may be sweaty and have cold, clammy skin. If you suspect you have low blood sugar, you may have some of these symptoms as well:

  • Headache
  • Feeling drowsy or weak
  • Feeling moody or cranky
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling hungry
  • Feeling shaky
  • Pale, gray skin

The good news is that if you are one of those individuals who sometimes feels chilly at the gym, there's a simple fix. First, make sure you're drinking enough water before you work out. If you tend to stay pretty hydrated, then your blood sugar levels may be the issue. If that's the case, you'll want to make sure you start eating a little something before your workouts, Dr. Jenkins said, like a piece of whole grain toast with some peanut butter or a banana with some almonds, for a bit of protein.

A Quick Review

The bottom line: If you're cold during a workout, you might want to think about what your body needs that you haven't been getting enough of; maybe it's more water or a snack before. And if you're cold after a workout you're probably just experiencing the way your body adjusts its temperature after breaking a sweat. Either way, you shouldn't be super concerned if you've been feeling cold during or after your workout.

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