Healthy Lifestyle Article – The Effects of Cold on Weight Loss
The whole story started taking place in my life in a period when I was trying to lose fat and as a matter of fact I was searching around for helpful “tips”. One of the things I found was that I can vastly boost my metabolism and increase my weight loss rate through cold temperatures (cold showers, not heavy clothing et c.) What made me even happier was that the advantages were not limited to fat reduction but were extended to several other health sectors, maybe more important ones.
I remember always being a guy that was afraid of cold. I was shivering very easily and I was wearing more than enough clothes in order to avoid even the single exposure to cold. During the summers in Greece I used to face difficulties to enter the sea or get out of the sea when it was windy. In general, I have always been trying to stay away from the hated low temperatures in every possible way. Now I have reached a point like this:
The Story Behind Cold
The whole idea about the effects of cold has been formed in the 50’s and 60’s. After having been abandoned for decades it came to light nowadays through the former NASA scientist Ray Cronise. Cronise managed to lose 13 kg of fat (not of body weight) in 6 weeks through cold showers, cold walks and drinking cold water. What first motivated him to research the subject were the rumours that the famous swimmer Michael Phelps consumes 12000 calories per day. By putting down the numbers and calculating his caloric losses it just did not make sense that Phelps wasn’t gaining weight. Even if he was running a marathon per day he would lose about 2800 kcal which is about 350 gr of fat. So the general rule of calories in calories out was simply non-realistic. Which important piece was missing from the humanity’s wisdom?
The answer came from the second law of thermodynamics, Newton’s Law of Cooling which in simple words says that heat is moving from the warm thing to the cold thing. Think of the body as a thermostat. It is programmed to 36.6 degrees of Celsius. Every time the temperature of the environment is lower, the body has to produce heat in order to thermally balance it. And of course this heat comes from calories. In the case the heat exchange is happening in the water the effect is 24 times stronger than in the air due to water’s thermal load. Phelps spends 3-4 hours per day in water with a lower temperature than his body’s. After trying it to himself, Cronise believed the rumours. It was making sense!
Healthy Lifestyle Article
The Brown Adipose Tissue
However, Cronise’s measurements on himself weren’t explainable by thermodynamics alone. He needed to spend much more time cooling himself to get these results only by heat exchange. There had to be another player in the game. And this was the Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT).
The BAT is a different kind of fat than the one we know and is called White Adipose Tissue (WAT). The BAT comprises a small per cent of body fat compared to WAT and has the characteristic that it “burns” fat. I mean it helps dissipate excess calories as heat or otherwise the calories would end up in the WAT and increase your belly or the gluteus. The important part is that cold stimulates BAT to burn fat and glucose as heat. In simple words by exposing to cold temperatures the part of the body that BAT is, you boost calorie burning because you activate the BAT.
Until the last few years scientists believed that the BAT was abundant to infants but non-existent or negligible to adults. With the use of very modern technologies they have come now to the conclusion that the BAT exists in adults, too, especially in the neck and upper chest area. BAT and its implications is a topic that the last few years starts to come to publicity:
Important Health Benefits of Cold
It is clear then that decreasing the environmental temperature is much more effective in weight loss than exercising even though we used to believe the opposite, maybe because with exercising we are pressing ourselves, sweating et c. Apart from weight-loss, cold exposure has several other benefits:
It strengthens the immune system and the body fights cancer, cold, flu’s et c. more effectively.
It improves the blood circulation. The body in order to heat itself sends blood all around it. Also, exposing yourself to the cold means that your body does something called “vasoconstriction” referring to the constriction (tightening) of your arteries and veins. This tightening helps blood to flow at a higher pressure, as now there is less space for the blood to flow. This means that blood circulation will improve.
It improves the skin’s and hair’s look. While the cold water closes the pores, the hot opens them and makes the face and the whole body and hair more exposed to oil and dirt causing acne, for example.
It increases testosterone. This doesn’t have an effect only in libido but in strength and energy, as well.
It increases fertility. When the temperature of the men’s testes is increased their little swimmers are decreased in numbers. They are not meant to be on high temperatures and that’s why they are outside the body.
It electrically stimulates peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
It reduces muscle soreness after running a long distance.
It regulates temperature. If you feel that you have wet hands or feet the cold showers is the best thing for you. It teaches the body how to deal with low temperatures and regulates the amount of sweat.
It deepens breathing. You will notice after a few cold showers that you start inhaling very deeply. This happens in order the body to increase the oxygen intake to fight the overall shock and the aforementioned vasoconstriction that is taking place. At that time the lungs are opened similarly to a strenuous exercise.
It aids sleep and is suggested to be done one hour before.
How I started and the objectives
You can imagine that after coming across all this information I was fully motivated to start the cold showers. In order to start I followed the instructions of Tim Ferriss who is a NYtimes 3 times best seller author and I fitted them with my conditions. I put an electronic watch in the shower to count the time. What I normally do is turn it on and not look at it for much time. This way I try to avoid thinking of it and to focus on something else. Maybe meditate? The plan is every morning and maybe every evening to have a cold shower of 5-10 minutes.
The first day I started with hot water for 1-2 minutes and afterwards I changed it immediately to cold. If you find it difficult in the beginning you can gradually decrease the temperature. In the first minutes I focused the water on my lower neck and upper back. Where BAT is. Afterwards I focused the water everywhere. Overall it was a harsh experience however I didn’t care, I had set my objectives. And they were to stay up to 4 minutes in cold shower every morning for the first week. This way by sticking to my strategy I kept little by little increasing the time. After a month or so I reached the goal of the 10 minutes. Of course from the time I started the cold showers they became a lifestyle for me. This means almost every shower I have is with cold water. I am not feeling nice with the hot water any more. Although cold water was hard for me to stand it even for months later, I was acknowledging its great effects. For hours later you have this feeling of chill all around the body like you are bind with a slow cooling air condition. The awakening and refreshment of every morning’s cold shower is unsubstituted. Something important is that you should not be afraid of shivering and basically seek out for it as it is the body’s way of increasing heat and thus burning calories. If you are afraid that you might catch a cold have a look at this:
Other every-day tips for weight loss
Also, if you drink immediately upon awakening with an empty stomach 500ml of ice cold water is proved by some studies to increase the resting metabolic rate of up to 30% for the next few hours.
Furthermore, Tim suggests placing an icepack every day in the lower neck and upper trapezius for 30 minutes preferably in the evening when the insulin sensitivity is lowest. You can easily understand that we do this to activate the BAT. You can do it when reading or watching something. You place a towel; afterwards the icepack above and then you lean back.
Generally you can try to not have so much heat in the house or not wearing so many clothes when going outside or even open the windows. I have read about effective weight losers who were sleeping with their windows open.
If someone wants to increase even more his effectiveness can do what I am doing in the picture. 3 cold baths of 20 minutes per week may increase the weight loss for up to more than 1kg/week. I fill my bath with water, icepacks and ice tubes. I enter inside and for the first 15 minutes I am underwater up to the neck but with the hands outside the water. For the last 5 minutes I put hands also underwater. And be careful, it’s not a good idea to put your head below the water.
Enjoy this! It will definitely motivate you:
Healthy Lifestyle Article – The Effects of Cold on Weight Loss