Have you ever been forced to take a cold shower? Maybe you were out camping and hot water wasn't available? It's literally a breath-taking experience. Unfortunately the initial shock of cold water on a warm body can be quite off putting!
Many seeking optimal health, improved training recovery and the fat burning effects of cold exposure will often experiment with cold showers - only soon to discover the idea is far more appealing than the practical application!
But don't give up on the cold showers just yet. I have a special protocol plus a few other tricks that will allow you comfortably stand under cold running water and reap the amazing benefits from cold showers!
Why would anyone even consider having a cold shower? And what is cold thermogenesis?!
I'm going to delve into the benefits behind cold thermogenesis soon, but first what is cold thermogenesis or CT for short?
Wikipedia has the following definition:
"Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in mammals. Cold Thermogenesis is heat production stimulated by exposure to cold temperatures. Thermogenesis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"
As for the benefits of CT, well there are many:
CT is proven to increase adiponectin levels 1. Adiponectin is a hormone that stimulates fatty acid oxidation in muscle cells by activating AMP-activated protein kinase. Or in simple terms – cold increases adiponectin, adiponectin burns fat 2.
CT helps shunt blood glucose into muscle helping speed up recovery times 4. Clearance of excess blood glucose eliminates the possibility of blood sugar to be converted into fat by the liver. Meaning a 15minute cold shower can be the perfect fix for that tub of ice cream binge!
CT lowers blood sugar levels by burning glucose as heat 3
CT activates conversion of body fat (properly known as white adipose tissue or WAT) into brown adipose tissue (BAT) 5.
BAT is shown to be closer to muscle tissue in regards to metabolic function – meaning it is dense in energy producing mitochondria (hence its brownish color) and BAT utilizes body fat (typically from the belly and back) as its fuel source.
And here’s an added benefit of CT for endurance athletes – BAT fat can be rapidly broken down into a useable energy.
This is only scratching the surface of the benefits of Cold thermogenesis and it's benefits. For a comprehensive list of the science behind CT I recommend heading to http://coolfatburner.com/science/
Before we look at the various modalities to reap the benefits of CT (including my unique rubbing trick!) I need to point out the following:
*** WARNING - Always check with your doctor before beginning any form of cold exposure protocol. If you have any serious health condition do not use CT. If you become light-headed or dizzy stop your CT session immediately. You also need to build up your 'cold tolerance' before simply jumping into freezing cold water. I recommend doing face dunks into cold/ice water before progressing to full body exposure ***
If you are healthy and keen to try CT here's a few methods:
Me wearing the CoolFatBurner vest!
There are many tips and tricks to help you handle extreme cold. Wim Hof (The Ice Man) has a whole course on it! But let's assume you're going to use the cold tap on the shower.'
I stumbled upon this technique when I was new to CT. I understood the benefits but struggled going any longer than 30seconds in cold showers... until I started rubbing myself! And no I don't mean that kind of rubbing myself - I simply mean frantic rubbing of the skin that is exposed to the cold water with your hands.
When you do this, you will notice you hardly feel the cold water hitting your skin. It's works really really well! Try it next time you're in the shower.
As for the full protocol to take you from a cold shower wuss to a 20 minute cold shower pro, it goes like this:
- Use an Interval Timer app on your phone (I use 'SIT' on the iphone). Set it to beep every 30 seconds for 3-15 minutes (ie, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds rest). Alternatively have a shower timer or waterproof stopwatch in the shower.
- Get into the shower - have the water at a mild/warm temperature that you can comfortably handle.
- After 30 seconds, lower the water temperature ever so slightly.
- When you feel the cooler water hit your skin, rub that area frantically with your hands. Continue until you adapt to the new temperature.
- At the next 30 second mark, repeat steps 3 & 4. Continue doing this until you have reached the coldest setting on your shower mixer.
And that's it. That's how rubbing yourself in the shower can help you burn fat! If you don't believe it will work, try it. My girlfriend hates the cold, yet using this method she can get to the 'so cold it feels warm' stage without a problem.
I also have a video that explains this and a few other techniques on how to handle cold showers:
Though I personally use and recommend this protocol, here's a few other tips to help with cold showers:
Exercise Before Hand. Workout immediately before the cold shower. Get as hot and sweaty as possible. You'll look forward to the cold!
The 'Stop/Start Method'. Simply do 10-20seconds extreme cold, then 10-20seconds on warm. Repeat 10 times.
The 'Isolation Method'. Use the rubbing technique outlined above, and keep the water hitting only one part of the body (for example the upper chest). You'll find you adapt to the cold water in that one spot pretty fast.
Breath. This sounds easier than it is, but simply try some deep breathing exercises to help you through the shock. Again I recommend the Wim Hof course for this.
'Cool The Kidneys'. Eric from CoolFatBurner.com recommended this - face away from the shower nozzle, bend over slightly allowing the brunt of the water to land on the lower back over the kidneys.
So there you have it. My secret behind my regular 20minute cold shower sessions! If you're wondering how long and how often you should use cold shower CT sessions, well it depends. Start with 1-5minutes every few days and build up from there.
Oh and if you are doing extended cold showers, I highly recommend picking up a waterproof notebook. I come up with a lot of great ideas while doing my 20 minute cold shower sessions (including the title for this blog!) so it's handy to have some paper on hand.
If you have any other techniques or methods for handling cold water, I'd love to hear them!
And if you try the rubbing technique outlined above, please share your experiences, I'm curious to see if it works as well for you as it does for me!
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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