I first heard about people voluntairly exposing themselves to super cold temperatures in popular bio-hacker Tim Ferris’s book The 4-Hour Body. Bitterly cold showers? Ice baths? Seriously? People do this? Tim claimed in his book that cold exposure could help super-charge weight loss while dieting. I wasn’t going to just take his word for it and jump into my icy cold pool in the middle of winter in Michigan. Some investigation was in order.
During my research, I first found a TED talk by NASA scientist Ray Cronise, who was featured in The 4-Hour Body. He talks in this video about his personal journey of discovering the weight loss benefits of cold. Ray went from 1.5 pounds of fat loss per week to 4.5 pounds of fat loss per week after simply adding cold to his weight loss regiment. Though I don’t agree with all of the diet and exercise advise Ray gives in his talk, especially after researching this topic of cold and impact of diet, I do think his talk is worth watching if you’re interested in using cold to help with weight loss.
As is referenced in Ray’s talk, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps diet consists of approximately 12,000 calories per day. The only logical way he could burn this many calories is through swimming in very cold water. It should also be noted that many other elite athletes have begun to exercise at cold temperatures, not just for weight loss reasons… you’ll have to watch for future posts to find out why!
If you continue to research this topic you will inevitably learn about Dr. Jack Kruse and the epic bio-hacks he has preformed with cold exposure. Dr. Kruse lost 140 pounds in less than a year on a ketogenic (very low carb) paleo diet in conjunction with cold thermogenesis and no exercise. He has numerous blog posts on his site discussing the science behind what he calls “Cold Thermogenesis.” They are very interesting, very heady posts. Be prepared to put your thinking cap on if you take a peek at his blog!
In a nutshell, the science behind this is as follows.
- Cold works to essentially rewire part of the brain causing our bodies to burn the white adipose (fat) tissue and create brown adipose tissue. This is significant because just a small amount of brown adipose tissue has the potential to burn white adipose tissue at an incredible rate.
- Skin cooling also signals adopocyte (fat) apoptosis (cell death) without causing harm to muscle and skin tissue. This is the science behind the new cosmetic dermatology procedure, zeltiq. With zeltiq, metal plates are used to freeze fat cells to death!
Cold can ramp up weight loss and that’s a benefit many of us are looking for, but there is more to come. Oh yes, so much more!
- Fire up your immune system! The Benefits of Cold (Part 2)
- Fighting Obesity, Diabetes, Big Appetites, and Infertility: Benefits of Cold (Part 3)