This post may be a little out of the ordinary as it introduces a weight loss method not commonly used or known by your everyday fitness enthusiast.
I wrote this post and others like it because I’m – all about introducing readers to up and coming topics in the fitness industry, encouraging people to try new things that can help their fitness lifestyle, and dedicated to making this blog entertaining to read.
So, I hope you enjoy this introduction to cold showers and can take away something from it.
The process of subjecting your body to cold water is not a new breakthrough method for improving health. It has been used throughout history by societies like the spartans and samurai.
Spartans believed that bathing in hot water was for the weak and only used cold water. Any discomfort endured during this process was a bonus and helped train their bodies for war.
The Japanese Shinto Samurai would stand under an icy waterfall, known as Misogi, in a ritual to cleanse their spirit.
Even today, cold water hydrotherapy is used among athletes to promote quicker muscle recovery from bouts of intense exercise.
The benefits of exposing your body to cold temperatures have reached the fat loss and fitness industry through methods like cold showers.
But before we dive any further into this, I have to make one thing clear.
I’m not claiming that this will work for everyone. In fact, not everyone should try this (Those people are mentioned later on) and if you hate being cold, this definitely isn’t for you. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other ways to successfully achieve fitness success and live the fit life that you want.
Also, I am not an expert on hydrotherapy. All of the advice, tips, and results I share are from my own personal experimentation with cold showers and the experiences of my personal clients.
With that being said, let’s get right into the good stuff.
Cold Showers Can Help You Lose Weight and Boost Metabolism
In a 2008 study, “Human Skeletal Muscle Mitochondiral Uncoupling is Associated With Cold Induced Adaptive Thermogenesis“, researchers claimed that it is possible to lose weight with cold showers.
The study states that brown fat tissue can increase fat burning when the body is exposed to cold temperatures. Exposure can also potentially have more effects on increasing metabolism than diet and exercise.
Cold temperatures activate the fat burning fat tissue, brown fat, that your body burns for energy to stay warm. Brown fat (brown adipose tissue) burns fat and glucose, the excess calories which would become white fat (the fat most people think of, like the stuff you cut off of steak) that may end up around your waist, for heat.
Higher amounts of brown fat can lead to more energy being burned and more weight loss.
With a combination of increased blood pressure from the constriction of your veins/arteries (explained later), body temperature (thermogenic effect), and brown fat levels – your body’s metabolism is increased. A higher metabolism can help burn calories and fat more effectively along with increasing muscle growth.
Cold therapy for weight loss was recently popularized in The 4 hour body (awesome book) by Tim Ferris and highlighted in a case study that showed the weight loss effects of intermittent exposure to cold.
The case study observed one individual’s attempts at weight loss…
Following a basic exercise and diet plan, Ray – a high ranking material scientist at NASA who specialized in biophysics and analytical chemistry (crazy right?), was able to effectively utilize cold exposure as a catalyst to fat loss.
Without cold exposure – Ray lost 17.8 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. (1.48 pounds per week)
After gaining the weight back and getting back on the same fitness/nutrition protocol…
With cold exposure – Ray lost 28.6 pounds in 6 weeks. (4.77 pounds per week)
61% more fat loss in half the time.
“I found Ray’s results both incredible and believable.” – Tim Ferris
You can see more insight on cold therapy for fat loss in the Tim Ferris interview at AskMen.com or in his book “The 4 Hour Body” .
So, cold showers have been shown to increase the bodies ability to burn fat, by increasing brown fat levels and burning more energy but…
There are more benefits from cold showers, your training lifestyle can gain from.
Lifestyle Benefits of Cold Showers
Kick Start your Morning
If you’re a night owl like me, mornings can be a struggle.
I’ve noticed that a cold shower can be invigorating and highly effective in revving up your system. When the cold water first hits you, it can be a little shocking. I’ve definitely questioned my sanity a handful of times but the increased heart rate and rapid breathing is 100% effective at getting me awake.
Alternating between hot and cold water has been said to have a detoxifying effect on the body. As cold water constricts the veins, driving blood flow to vital organs, so
Helps With Depression
Cold water in depression is perhaps one of the most interesting benefits of cold showers.
Research at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine indicated that cold water can have a stimulating effect on the brain’s “blue spot”, which is our bodies primary source of noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is a chemical that may have an ability to alleviate depression.
When your body is exposed to cold temperatures it constricts veins and arteries in a process called vasoconstriction. The tightening decreases the space and increases the pressure for blood flow. Your body rapidly forces blood to vital organs to keep warm.
The opposite effect, when your body is exposed to heat, is called vasodilation and pushes blood flow to the surface of the skin.
Although there are a lack of studies that support the claims of increased circulation, some researchers claim that by alternating hot and cold exposure, you can benefit from this activation of the circulatory system. Improved blood flow and circulation can aid in quicker recovery time along with overall cardiovascular health. It can also help prevent problems such as hypertension, appearance of varicose veins, and hardening of arteries.
Stronger Immune System
In a study done in Prague, researchers immersed athletic men in cold water (3x week for 6 weeks), and found that there was notable activation in the immune system.
The most notable was an increase in 2 white blood cells, monocytes and lymphocytes.
– Some specific Lymphocytes play an important role in eliminating bacteria, viruses, and toxins.
– Monocytes are indirectly responsible for engulfing and consuming pathogens and foreign materials.
Exposing the body to cold can increase metabolism and rev up the immune system for more production of white blood cells as a response to the body warming itself.
Healthier Skin and Hair
Hot water can dry out skin and hair.
Cold water on the other hand, can help hair and skin look healthier by ti
ghtening cuticles and pores, preventing them from being clogged.
Now It’s Your Turn
With research backing the benefits of cold showers, you may be eager to start utilizing them on your own.
But before you jump into a freezing shower, there are some things that you should know and consider.
Listen to your body and be progressive.
It may be tempting to dive head first into this cold shower method but the key to long term success is rooted in a progressive approach.
In any situation, it will be important to listen to your body. If you experience your heart rate beating uncomfortably fast, notice any numbness, or pain in your body – it will be a clear indicator for you to take slower progressive approach and start with warmer temperatures.
Let your body progressively build a tolerance and experiment with different lengths of time/temperatures.
Stick with it long enough to see if it works for you.
Like any other lifestyle strategy, in order for it to be effective you have to give it a chance.
Most of the cold hydrotherapy studies were done over a course of 1-3 weeks with notable results recorded after the first week. This is also the length of time I recommend you experiment with this protocol.
Also, don’t jump out too soon. Stay in the cold shower long enough to benefit from the physiological and mental effects it can have.
Cold showers are not for everyone.
Warning: Cold showers are not for everyone and in many cases can be harmful to certain individuals.
This may not be an effective method of fat loss if you
– Have or have had a history of Heart Disease
– Have High Blood Pressure
– Are pregnant
– Have an illness, the flu, or sickness
Consult a doctor if you have any concerns.
The Cold Shower Protocol
Directions: Take 2 cold showers a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, for 2-3 weeks.
Start progressively with the temperature and time, slowly working your way up to 10-15 minutes. An effective approach can be to work in short 30 second bursts of cold water or to slowly increase your water temperature as outline below.
Lastly, this is an opportunity to improve your fit training lifestyle, not a life long commitment so don’t over stress on results. Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t for everyone.
If it works for you great, you’ve found a new lifestyle strategy to utilize.
If it doesn’t work, no worries. You can move on knowing that you gave it an honest effort and now you have a great conversation starter – “The 3 weeks I froze my ass off!”.
How To Do The Cold Shower
1. Start your shower off with a warm temperature.
2. Complete your shampooing and washing with the warm temperature.
3. Now, gradually turn the water to a colder temperature. This colder temperature should be comfortable . Allow your body to adjust.
4. Increase the cold temperature, about halfway from the max, and maintain for 2-3 minutes. Allow the water to pass over your neck and upper chest as these are the areas that have been found to have the highest brown fat levels. You may experience some shivering which is a sign of thermogenesis and the body warming itself. Let your body adjust to the cold.
5. Turn the handle to the maximum cold temperature and maintain for up to 10-15 minutes or as long as you can handle. Again, listen to your body and take a progressive approach to allow your body to build up a tolerance to the cold over the 2-3 weeks. Make sure you end your shower with cold water.
If you liked this post, make sure you sign up for the FREE Reign Fitness Newsletter. Take 2 seconds to click one of the GET ACCESS NOW buttons either on the side of the page or at the bottom. If you haven’t already connected with us on Facebook, check out the REIGN FITNESS FACEBOOK PAGE HERE.
Also, if you have tried cold showers in training, The Reign Fitness Community would love to hear about it in the comments below. Share any tips you might have, results you gained, or memorable experiences.