Can Cold Showers Help You to Lose Weight?
Can a Cold Shower Help You Lose Weight?
Most of us have dreamed of a way to lose weight aside from a grueling diet and exercise regime. But, many of us wonder, what else could work? Taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Trading out ice-cream for frozen yogurt?
Turns out, there may be a way to lose weight that has nothing to do with what you eat or how many more steps you clock on your pedometer. Though it may be hard to believe, there's scientific evidence to support the idea that taking cold showers could actually help you shed those excess pounds.
Brown Fat and White Fat
To understand how something as simple as a cold shower can help you lose weight, we first have to look at the different types of fat in our bodies. There's white fat, which is what we typically think of when we think of the fat on our bodies, and brown fat. White fat is what stores the extra calories around our bodies, turning into unsightly muffin tops and flappy arms. But the other type of fat in our bodies is brown fat, which serves a different function. Brown fat actually creates heat in our bodies, regulating our internal temperatures.
While white fat collects excess energy in our bodies, brown fat actually serves to expend that energy. And what's more, there's evidence to suggest that cold environments can stimulate brown fat, burning calories and raising your metabolism anywhere from 8% to 80% (according to Wired.com).
What do the Studies Say?
So how much weight you can lose by stimulating brown fat is still up for debate. In a study conducted by Dr. Ronald Kahn and Dr. Aaron Cypress of the Joslin Diabetes Center, it was shown that when regular-sized adults were put into a 59-degree room for 2 hours (in summer attire), "seem to chew up energy at a rate of 100 to 250 calories per day."
Of course, that doesn't attest to what can happen with an obese, overweight, or underweight person. It's worth noting that these doctors also found pockets of this brown fat around the neck and collarbone in younger, leaner adults, that they could not find in older, less fit adults. Still, it's exciting evidence that daily exposure to the cold could possibly burn several hundred calories in the average adult!
The Cold Exposure Therapy Craze
With the recent discovery of cold temperatures stimulating our metabolisms, many gurus and experts have cropped up to take people to the extremes of cold exposure therapy, such as thermogenesis and cryotherapy.
According to advocates of these fads, cold exposure can do more than just help you lose weight: it can put you in a better mood, give you more energy, and help you recuperate after an injury. Big name athletes like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant swear by it. It's important to note that these are more extreme versions of cold therapy, that do not have sufficient science to back them up.
But some exposure to the cold (not Arctic temperatures) may very well be good for us, and as science seems to suggest, help us lose some weight.
The 4-Hour Work Week
The cold exposure craze got a boost when self-help author Tim Ferriss wrote about it in his bestselling book, The 4-Hour Body. In the book, he talks about how drinking lots of ice water and even applying ice packs between your shoulder blades can help you shed those extra pounds.
The case study he uses in the book is his friend and former NASA scientist Roy Cronise, who you can see in the photo above. Roy Cronise was losing weight through diet and exercise when he hit a plateau and couldn't seem to lose that last bit of weight. Using cold exposure techniques, he was able to drop 30 lbs in just six weeks. You can learn more about Roy and his work in the video below.
Roy Cronise at TEDMED
So How Can You Lose Weight?
Remember, the extreme cases mentioned above shouldn't be taken as examples for you to follow perfectly. Cold exposure therapy is still being tested and discovered, and should under no circumstances be conducted without an expert on hand.
It is possible to be knocked unconscious through these extreme shifts in temperature, and you could drown. This could lead to severe injury or death! Additionally, exposure to freezing temperatures can cause cardiovascular irregularities and arrest. Unless you are guided by a professional (and realistically, there are very few of them in the world), you should stick to the following:
- Cold showers
- Drinking lots of ice water
- Placing an icepack behind your shoulder blades
So how can you begin to implement the cold shower strategy in your life? Simple! At the end of each shower, turn the cold water on for the last thirty seconds. Slowly raise the length of time you spend in the cold, until your ready to go from warm showers to 100% cold showers.
Even if you don't lose weight, you could lower your heating bill!