Warm showers may still be so pleasant, but they offer little benefit to the human body. The health effects of a cold shower in the morning, however, are enormous!
“Take a deep breath and go!” The first kick under an ice-cold morning shower will probably never be the most enjoyable. But now cold water is one of the most important elements of my morning routine. The meeting of the cold, hard jet of water on the warm, soft skin, which is still warm from the blanket, sets in motion mechanisms that will give me an energetic start to the day and at the same time stimulate my lipid metabolism.
These energy and health benefits of coldness on the body are attributed to the concept of cold thermogenesis and are not only of great interest to athletes and bodybuilders.
What exactly happens in the body when we place ourselves under cold water?
The Body Uses Oxygen To Gain Energy
Everyone knows the reflex, which occurs when the beloved sibling swings the garden hose unintentionally in our direction and hits the cold water on the sensitive back surface during the protective turning away. Quite automatically, we press the chest forward and take a deep breath, often followed by other quick breaths.
This cold shock reflex is virtually uncontrollable and helps fill our bodies with oxygen so we can generate energy to compensate for the temperature drop. In cold showers, we can use this effect to fill our entire body with oxygen and thus feel really awake and energetic.
Cold Leads To The Dispersal Of Mighty Hormones
With this cold shock reflex, our body tries to regulate itself and restore balance (homeostasis). He also burns more calories.
Dr. Jack Kruse, an expert in the field, estimates that consuming cold water alone increases calorie consumption by 30-40% several times a day. This does not only happen through accelerated breathing, but above all through the release of three hormones: adiponectin, irisin and gonadotropin.
1. ADIPONEKTIN PROMOTES FAT BURNING
The benefits of adiponectin seems almost too good to be true. It essentially burns fat. In experimental animals, adiponectin increases the metabolism without increasing hunger. It can increase mitochondrial density and increase efficiency in human skeletal muscle. This can explain the subsequent training effect of ice baths.
In fact, many advocates of cold thermogenesis report an increase in strength and muscle.
However, the best feature of adiponectin has nothing to do with appearance. Adiponectin is being studied as a possible cure for cardiovascular disease. Subjects responded to the injection with increased insulin sensitivity, relaxed blood vessels and cardiovascular inflammation decreased immediately.
Amazingly, in a heart attack, large amounts of adiponectin are released. The body then desperately tries to heal the damage as quickly as possible. Another function of adiponectin, which is of particular interest in cancer treatment, is the elimination of old and diseased cells through a deliberate, programmed cell death called apoptosis.
According to a study published last summer, women may increase their adiponectin levels by 9% within 10 weeks if they include more tomatoes in their diet. Not very impressive, especially if one adopts an adiponectin increase of 62% due to cold thermogenesis.
As a member of the nightshade family, tomatoes are also considered “suspicious” by the Bulletproof diet, with a fairly high level of anti-nutrients that not everyone can tolerate. If you have the choice, you should leave the temperature controller on cold. The adiponectin elevation by cold thermogenesis could also be the reason why even experienced weightlifters show strength gains.
2. IRISIN INCREASES MUSCLE GROWTH
Of great interest is also the messenger irisin, which is released from the muscle tissue. Irisin is also released during strenuous exercise, but 4-5 times slower than cold thermogenesis. Irisin causes lower levels of myostasis. Myostatin is a protein that inhibits muscle growth and protects the body from uncontrollable muscle growth.
Less myostatin therefore means bigger muscles, which is especially interesting for bodybuilders. Irisin is also involved in the process of turning white fat brown. This means that extremely intense cold thermogenesis causes white fat to function as brown fat; more about that right now. Irisin also has a stretching effect on the telomeres and thus a small anti-aging effect, which is coupled to the cold thermogenesis.
3. GONADOTROPIN PROMOTES THE PRODUCTION OF TESTOSTERONE
A recently discovered effect of cold thermogenesis is its effect on testosterone production. When our ambient temperature drops drastically, the part of the hypothalamus is activated, which among other things is responsible for the secretion of gonadotropin, one of the initiators of later testosterone production.
Cold Leads To The Formation Of Brown Fat
Our body forms two types of fat, brown and white. The annoying fat is the white, which is responsible for our hip gold and belly fat. Brown fat sits between the muscles and the big difference is that brown fat is provided with mitochondria that can become metabolically active. Brown fat can therefore burn calories, including white fat.
When our body is exposed to extreme cold, two things happen in the fat metabolism. The existing, metabolically active, brown fat begins to burn calories to warm the body. At the same time, as described above, the release of irisin over time causes white matter to turn brown to provide the body with additional resources for energy production.
This process is perhaps the strongest argument for thermogenesis as a fat burning instrument. How exactly the conversion and the activation of brown fat works, we will describe in a timely manner in a further article.
Cold Showers Make You More Healthy And Resilient
Using the described hormones, cold thermogenesis enables us to burn a lot of calories, improve glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity, increase resting metabolism, and reduce systemic inflammation.
Cold treatments could even help in the destruction of dangerous cancer cells.
The method also helps to boost the immune system, eliminate sleep disorders, recover from workouts and boost muscle growth. In addition, thermogenesis presumably prolongs life expectancy and leads to the formation of fat-burning brown fat (the fat we want).
How Cold Should The Temperature Be?
When showering, it is almost impossible to turn the water too cold. Often even the coldest level is not really uncomfortably cold. You can not really go wrong with ice baths either. As long as the water is at least 4 degrees Celsius, your skin will have no cold burns. In cold rooms or so-called cryo-chambers, you have to be careful that your skin is dry.
The other day I heard the horror story of a tennis player who climbed into a cooling chamber with a sweat-soaked sock and froze his foot. So if you are considering an extreme method, then please exercise caution and inform yourself accordingly.
How Long Should You Expose Yourself To The Cold?
The first effects of hyperventilation take place right at the beginning. For example, get under the cold shower and you immediately start to flood your body with oxygen. The release of hormones, however, takes a little longer. An ice bath should last at least 10 minutes with progressive immersion of the body.
For example, just start with your legs under the water and gradually move the body under the ice-cold water, until the end only the head and hands look out of the water. For the last minute you can also put your hands under the water. A round in the cooling chamber usually takes 3 minutes. I personally take this number for my cold showers. Here I have the feeling that I get the most benefit for the least amount of effort.
How Can You Begin?
Very easily. When you step into the shower tomorrow, set the temperature control to cold and leave it there. Breathe deeply and let the cold water hit you for at least 30 seconds. Count slowly down and concentrate on the breathing. Feel how each part of your body feels oxygen and comes to life.
One of the most effective methods I’ve come to know is the so-called power breathing of Wim Hof. This will prepare your body ideally for the cold. How this method works, you will learn in another article.
Tell us about your first experiences in the comments below! Was it hard to step under the cold shower?