Being sore after a workout is bittersweet. On one hand, we’re carrying around a constant reminder of the hard work we’re putting into our bodies (go us!). On the other hand, it hurts. According to this recent Instagram reader poll, an Epsom salt bath is our readers’ favorite method for post-workout recovery!
These soothing soaks are super inexpensive (even if you do it regularly) and incredibly effective — especially when paired with other recovery methods like gentle stretching, magnesium supplementation and foam rolling. Here’s everything you should know…
What the heck is an Epsom salt bath?
Epsom salt isn’t the same stuff you’d season sweet potato fries with. Epsom salt was originally discovered in 1614 at Epsom in England. Its official scientific identity is magnesium sulfate, an essential mineral that can help replenish the body — especially after an extra sweaty workout that can leave your body depleted of magnesium and electrolytes.
In water, Epsom salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate, and your body is able to absorb those essential minerals through your skin. An Epsom salt bath can help relax muscles and loosen stiff joints, giving your body the break it needs to heal itself. Epsom salt also draws lactic acid from those tight muscles to reduce some of the stiffness. Magnesium has been shown to block NDMA receptors, which are the things that ping your brain to tell you that you’re in pain.
How Do You Use It?
Preparing an Epsom salt bath couldn’t be more simple. On the most basic level, all you need to do is fill a tub with water and pour some Epsom salt in — 2 cups for a standard sized tub — and soak for 15 minutes to an hour. We like to think a bath is always better with a few mindful enhancements…
The perfect post-workout bath: We recommend dry brushing before getting into the tub. Make sure the water is warm, but not too hot. Add a few drops of your favorite soothing essential oil or a handful of fresh herbs, and maybe light a candle or some incense to help yourself ease into the moment. If you’re the antsy type, use this time in the bath to multitask with relaxation methods. Play an album that make you happy, read a book or simply sip on a tonic and breathe deeply while you soak.
Start with a weekly soak, since soaks can dry out the skin. Increase to twice a week if needed, and pay attention to any changes in your skin. If you have naturally dry skin, use less salt than the recommended amount if you need to soak more than once a week. Follow each soak with body oil or lotion to replenish skin’s hydration levels.
It’s best to soak a few hours after you work out. A cold shower or icy dip immediately following a strenuous gym sesh is better than a warm soak as it helps reduce inflammation and improve muscle recovery. Take your bath before bed for maximum relaxation. Shower immediately after the bath to rinse the Epsom salts from your skin, which can dry your skin.
Do Epsom Salt Baths Work?
Yes! While there are always skeptics in the science community, we can confidently confirm from many personal trials and trustworthy anecdotes that Epsom salt baths work well for reducing muscle soreness. Again, they were our readers’ favorite suggestion for post-workout recovery too!
They’re most effective when paired with other practices to help reduce soreness and inflammation. There are natural and holistic ways to mitigate soreness, from staying hydrated to stretching and allowing yourself rest days. It’s important to tackle your soreness with multiple modalities.
Why doesn’t everyone do this? It comes down to a matter of time. On weeks we can barely get a sweat in because we’re so busy, carving out an evening to soak and chill can sound like a pipe dream. Recovery is an essential part of fitness, and something we need to make time for. Even if you only have ten minutes, draw a bath and know you’re doing it in the name of self-care.
Which Product Should I Try?
You can pick u a big ol’ bag of Epsom salts in most drug stores or major grocery chains. They’re also super easy to scout out online. We’ve rounded up a few of our recent favorites below:
Soakii 19lb bulk epsom salt | This pouch of Epsom salt is for the purist. These 100% pure and Epsom salts are all about the business of feeling better. Soaking in a tub full relaxes your body. According to the brand it “recharges your soul” as well. There are benefits to buying a big bag. You can make taking an Epsom salt bath an ongoing ritual. You can also use them to make DIY body scrubs. Simply mix a handful of salt with a tablespoon of olive oil or shower gel. Rub, rinse and revel in your baby soft skin. CHECK OUT
San Francisco Salt Co. Muscle Soak Bath Salts | This salty soak contains pure Epsom salt with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils added for extra soothing power. These oils encourage blood circulation to help heal exhausted muscles and soften pain from soreness. It comes in 2, 10 and 20 pound bags to support any degree of an Epsom salt bath habit. CHECK OUT
Goop Body Phys. Ed. Recovery Bath Soak | In this soothing bath salt blend, magnesium sulfate is supercharged with turmeric, ginger, rosemary, lavender and wintergreen oils. It also contains jojoba seed oil and tocopherol. These ingredients amplify hydration after soaking in salt (which has a tendency to dry skin). Overall, it creates a deeply relaxing and truly luxurious soaking experience. CHECK OUT