Do you want to increase your blood testosterone levels? Do you need a stronger immune system?
What about reducing stress and improving your mood? And lose a lot of fat on top of that?
What if you were told that all of this can be achieved easily and completely free of charge, without sacrificing anything? To do this, you just need to freeze yourself for a few minutes every day. And the body will automatically update – “change the software.”
So often they talk about the fashionable biohack – about the benefits of a cold shower. Supposedly, it not only helps maintain health but also fundamentally transforms the physical and astral body.
This all sounds great, but how is it really?
In short: all the benefits of a cold shower are too exaggerated. It improves the ability to withstand cold, hardens, excellently helps to wake up in the morning, for some it improves mood. But you should not expect more benefit from it.
So does it make sense to take it every day? First, let’s talk about popular myths related to the benefits of taking a cold shower.
Top 5 Myths about the benefits of a cold shower
According to many internet experts, regularly dousing with ice water raises the level of biology in general. Estimated benefits include:
- Accelerated burning of fat and calories.
- Increased testosterone production.
- Better muscle recovery after exercise.
- Increased immunity.
- Beneficial effect on skin and hair.
And as always, when big dividends are promised for a little effort, there is a lot of fiction here. Let’s consider the main ones.
Helps Lose Excess Fat
This theory is based on the recent discovery of brown adipose tissue (brown fat). Unlike regular “white” fat cells, whose function is to store energy for future use, brown fat cells maintain stable body temperature. Their function is the opposite of white fat cells: they burn calories to generate heat.
Studies have shown that when activated by low temperatures, 500 grams of brown fat can burn up to 500 calories per day to raise body temperature. This is why newborns and small mammals have a lot of brown fat in their bodies. They need more energy to maintain their body temperature. For the same reason, women have more brown fat in their bodies than men. It used to be believed that adults do not have it at all. But in recent experiments, it has been found that brown fat persists with age. This has sparked speculation that using an ice shower can turn on brown fat and dramatically speed up metabolism and, consequently, fat burning.
How correct is this theory?
Exposure to cold does indeed increase metabolic rates by stimulating brown fat. But this effect is unreliable and much less than many claim. In addition, research shows that exposure to cold, plus everything else, markedly increases appetite.
For example, in a study by the University of Maastricht, 11 people spent a whole day in a room with low air temperatures. On average, they burned an additional 76 calories. Now let’s calculate: 1 kilogram of fat contains about 7000 calories. Then the additional 76 calories a day, as a payment for being in an uncomfortable, low-temperature environment, can hardly be called an achievement.
In another study, subjects spent several hours in a cold water bath. This increased the metabolic rate by 80%. The participants burned an average of 250 calories. This is pretty impressive, but extremely impractical, because you can burn twice as many calories in the same time, using regular walking.
The takeaway is simple: colder temperatures actually speed up metabolism and fat burning. But just a cold shower isn’t enough.
For serious results, it is necessary to spend several hours a day in very cold temperatures. And the result will depend only on your genetics, because some people have significantly more brown fat in their bodies. Therefore, they are able to burn more calories after being in the cold.
Increases testosterone production
Many people claim that cold showers are effective hormone therapy. And as evidence, the fact is cited that germ cells function better at cool temperatures. That is why in humans the testicles are carried outside the body (located in the scrotum), where the temperature is cooler, and not, as in some animals, are located inside the pelvis (sloths, elephants and whales).
They also like to mention the fact that sperm function better in winter and spring (cooler months) than in summer and fall (warmer months). But many researchers believe this is due to annual circadian cycles rather than the benefit of lower temperatures. Despite this, some have concluded that since cold temperatures are good for the male reproductive system (testicles), there will likely be benefits from cold and testosterone production.
Sounds very compelling, but there is no evidence that taking a cold shower for a few minutes can lower testicular temperature enough to have any effect. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that exposure to even extreme temperatures can raise testosterone levels.
It is only known for certain that the testes prefer a cooler temperature than the rest of the body, and sperm move faster when it is cold. Therefore, regardless of what may seem at first glance, this is just a hypothesis and speculation based on insufficient information.
Accelerates muscle recovery
Nobody likes it when muscle pain after exercise lasts for several days. That is why different ways, such as post-workout nutrition, sports nutrition, and outdoor activities, attract a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the benefits of a cold shower in this situation are not great.
Experiments have found that ice baths actually reduce muscle soreness and accelerate recovery from hard workouts. But a 10-minute cool shower at 10 ° C is not useful in this sense. Many people get their ankles sprained and have issues recovering easily. But taking this helps a lot.
The point is: 30 seconds (or even a few minutes if you are not a sissy) pouring cool water on your body is nothing compared to ice baths in scientific experiments. Therefore, it will not give similar results. Moreover, the use of cold has a serious disadvantage: it can significantly reduce muscle growth.
The University of Queensland found that 10 minutes in an ice bath twice a week for three months reduced muscle growth by 300 grams. The result in the leg press decreased by 7 kilograms. This is due to the fact that ice water suppresses signaling molecules (receptors) that are responsible for muscle growth and blood circulation. All of this impairs the body’s ability to create new muscle proteins.
A 10-minute ice bath significantly reduces muscle pain after exercise, but at the same time impairs muscle growth and decreases strength. A cold shower does neither.
Benefits for the immune system
As with muscle recovery, the idea that a cold shower boosts the immune system is most likely wishful thinking.
Many studies have actually found that swimmers in ice water have more antioxidants in their blood. They are more resistant to infections and less likely to get sick. Another study found that being in cold water for one hour, three times a week for 6 weeks, increased the number of white blood cells in the blood. But no other signs of improved immunity were found.
The main takeaway is quite simple: only extreme low temperatures over a long period of time can benefit the immune system.
If you have a desire to expose yourself to subzero temperatures for 30-60 minutes several times a week, for several months, then you have a great chance to increase immunity. At the same time, this is not to be expected from a regular cold shower.
Benefits for skin and hair
Cold showers are believed to improve the health and appearance of skin by shrinking pores, thereby preventing them from clogging up with dirt and causing rashes and acne. What’s more, many believe that the cool water helps retain the natural oils in the skin and hair, which gives them a shiny, smooth and healthy look. And there has been a lot of research. They all agree that pore size is largely determined by age, genetics, ethnicity, and race. And practically nothing can be done about it. At the same time, the pores become slightly larger with age. Certain creams and vitamins can help maintain a more youthful appearance. Cold water is of little use for this purpose.
There is no evidence that taking a cool or even ice-cold shower every day can shrink pore size for any length of time, or benefit skin health. The fact that it constricts blood vessels does not mean that the same happens to the pores in the skin.
There is another hypothesis: ice water, unlike warm water, does not dissolve oils and grease on the surface of the skin. Therefore, a cold shower does not disturb the natural shell. And this brings benefits to the health of the skin. It is very difficult to either confirm or refute this hypothesis. But much more important is the selection of shampoo or soap that completely removes all surface fat layers.
There is no evidence or refutation that cold showers benefit the health or appearance of your skin and hair.
The benefits of a cold and contrast shower
The main reason you can start taking a cold shower every day is that it is annoying. This is an unpleasant process. And the better we learn to do unpleasant things for ourselves, the better our life will be. One of the main things that separate successful people from unsuccessful people is that successful people constantly do what they don’t feel like doing. I mean things that are difficult to focus on, not interesting, get bored very quickly, difficult, difficult, tiring, not exciting. And they do it day after day, month after month, year after year. The opposite is true for unsuccessful people. They only do what they like, what gives pleasure. They actively avoid everything that is unpleasant and, as a result, do not achieve anything in life. Simply because of unwillingness to leave the comfort zone. So taking a cold shower every day is exercise
On the plus side, most people think depression is caused by stress. When you have financial difficulties, have a lousy day, have a fight with a friend – you are upset and you are depressed. However, there is ample evidence that a lack of physical stimuli (stressors) directly causes depression. In short, the modern world lacks real physical stress, struggle. Ice water can help with this. Namely: the irritant effect activates the sympathetic nervous system, causes the release of endorphins and norepinephrine, which leads to a decrease in the overall level of stress and depression. Just like people learn what is kush but make their assumptions about it very easily. So, it’s important to learn and do something practically afterward.
Another interesting thing. Cool water is not effective for post-workout recovery. But almost everyone knows about the benefits of alternating cold and hot (contrast shower). Many are familiar with this effect from personal experience. Even James Bond is known for always starting with a hot shower and ending with an ice cold shower. Contrast showers benefit from muscle recovery by significantly increasing blood flow and flushing lactic acid build-ups from muscles. There are two factors:
- Hot water improves blood flow through the muscles.
- Coldwater reduces swelling and inflammation, which slows muscle recovery.
After a contrast shower, studies have found a significant decrease in the concentration of lactic acid in muscles – one of the main markers of muscle recovery after exercise.
Cold showers do not increase testosterone levels, strengthen immunity, smooth skin, shed excess fat, and have no benefit for muscle recovery after exercise.
A contrast shower (start hot, finish with ice) helps to get rid of lactic acid in the muscles and accelerates muscle recovery after intense exertion. One of the main reasons people often take cold showers is that they are annoying and unpleasant. But after it there is a release of “hormones of joy” (endorphins) and norepinephrine, which reduces the overall level of stress and depression.