Today is my 241st consecutive day of having a cold shower at least once a day (I know I’m a legend). First day was on the 21st August 2018 after learning the benefits of cold theraphy at a Blood Analysis Seminar course held by functional health wiz and 5th Element Wellness owner David O’Brien. He was going over the topic of cold showers and I asked him he went from starting with a hot shower then turning it cold or starting with straight cold.
He looked at me, laughed and said “straight cold”.
I thought to myself “what a beast, I have to try this”.
So have I noticed any significant changes and benefits since?
Yes and no.
Enough of a change for me too keep going with it?
Here’s what we know so far about the pro’s and con’s of cold therapy; the latest in research and what I’ve experienced personally with cold showers when it comes to body composition, fat loss, reducing stress and striving for optimal health.
The Proof: Wim Hof’s Techniques Improve Stress Resilience & Reduce Illness
Wim Hof, the godfather of modern cold therapy practices (deep breathing, ice baths and cold showers) had his techniques studied by Dutch researchers in 2014. What the researchers did was inject people who followed Wim Hof’s methods for at least 10-days, Wim Hof included, with an inflammatory agent. Compared to a control group who didn’t perform the techniques, Wim Hof and his students were shown to experience lower levels of inflammation and were less affected by the fever and nausea that usually accompanied the injection.
Through deep breathing exercises and cold theraphy Wim Hof and his students were able to better modulate their immune system. Instead of being reactive to what was happening inside of their body, they were able to have some control over it.
Another study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England found that individuals who took regular cold showers were shown to have more virus fighting white blood cells compared to those that had regular hot showers. Reserachers believed that because of the increase in metabolic rate from their own body having to warm itself up; activated their own immune system which releases more white blood cells in response.
Cold Therapy Activates Brown Fat To Promote Fat Loss
Research has shown that exposure to cold temperatures can stimulate our cells to form more brown fat compared to white fat at higher temperatures. To put things in perspective babies have more brown fat compared to adults as it helps them to regulate their own body temperatures. Adults have less brown fat and more white fat (the dangerous kind if excessive) because they’re now at an age where they can use their muscles to shiver themselves up during cold exposure.
By having more brown fat you can help your body burn off extra calories.
In my own personal experience with myself and clients is having a cold shower or cold exposure going to be the major contributing factor to sucessfull weight loss and fat loss? No. The majority of your results will come from specific nutrition and quality training on a cosnsistent basis. By having a cold shower in the morning it’s going to make you more likely to go into the gym and train rather than want to go back to bed.
When Cold Therapy Can Be A Negative (Heat Therapy)
If you go all pro cold showers and cold therapy and neglect the benefits of heat therapy you’re leaving a lot of further results and bio-hacking on the table. Benefits of heat therapy include detoxofication (Far-Infrared Sauna’s), relaxation, pain relief, weight loss and improved blood circulation.
A lack of heat and sunlight especially in the autumn and winter months can lead to SAD (seasonal affective disorder) where symptoms can range from low energy, irregular sleep and eating patterns, loss of pleasure and depression. This is because you’re exposed to less direct sunlight so you produce less amounts of melotonin which helps to regulate sleep and less amounts of serotonin which regulates your mood and apetite. Heat therapy in the winter months if you’re not travelling can help you at least mimic the feelings of summer.
You want both cold and hot.
Cold & Hot Contrast Method for Better Recovery & Blood Flow?
At elite sporting instititions such as the AIS (Australian Institute of Sports) and professional sporting teams you’ll often see both cold/ice baths and hot/warm baths. The theory is by swapping between the two; 1-2 minutes in an ice bath followed by 2-3 minutes in a hot bath you’re both reducing pain, swelling and removing waste products through the ice bath and increasing blood flow and oxygen supply through in the hot bath.
Best selling author of the book 4-Hour Body Tim Ferris also uses this method alternating between cold and hot baths which he calls floushing.
My Experience with 241 Consecutive Days of Cold Showers:
The reason why I initially wanted to do it was to test it, at the blood analysis course one thing I knew for sure is that I couldn’t afford to be sick. I have a team of trainers, clients who we’re looking after and we always have to be on point. Taking a day off because I’m sick isn’t really something I want to do; plus I like what I do, so when I learnt that regular cold exposure therapy could naturally boost my immune system it was very easy for me to give it a go.
Have I been sick since? Not due to any virus or cold, maybe from over indulging over Christmas and New Years but we both know that’s a different kind of sick. I also experimented with having a hot shower in the morning after consecutive days having a cold shower. I can honestly say that no matter how comforting being in a hot shower is I’ll never have a hot morning shower ever again. All I wanted to do after a hot shower in the morning was go back to my comfortable bed.
Cold showers first thing are way more invigorating and energy boosting.
To enhance stress management systemise cold showers in the morning and have hot showers in the evening to promote relaxation to get ready for bed.
I can’t say I’ve noticed much in relation to body composition because we’ve got myself and clients in great shape without ice baths and cold showers but where I have noticed a massive difference is in my own stress resilience; If you can take a cold shower in the morning life after that is going to be pretty easy.
How To Get Started With Cold Exposure:
Getting started is the hard part, I never thought I could do it in the beginning but it was one of those “Just Do It” kind of moments. I started off with 30 second to 1 minute straight cold showers, no starting with warm or hot. It’s harder to turn the nozzle to cold when you’re in the comfort of hot. If cold showers is too big of a step start with washing your face every morning with cold water, same thing here; don’t turn the nozzle to warm or hot.
Each day go a little bit longer or take a bigger plunge.
Test it, see if your energy, overall health and fitness improves.
Let us know if you give it go.
It get’s easier.