Shivering through showers, hairs on the back of my neck from ice water, and memories of exercising in -25 degree weather – it must be time to test ice therapy! In the book (4 Hour Body), Tim discusses how some people have achieved pretty amazing results by using temperature therapy – namely – ice cold – to achieve faster fat loss. Whether you’re thinking about hitting a cold shower, or trying to find a good ice pack online, you’ll get all the critical information you need right here – along with a few tips that could save you from chattering teeth!
The basics of ice therapy are pretty straightforward – the body needs to mobilize more energy to keep the body’s temperature up, and therefore burns more energy. Assuming everything else is kept constant, like food intake, exercise, and the type of food being eaten, this can help lose fat. There’s a couple of things at work here, and it’s important to know it’s not simply ‘burning more food to keep warm’.
Firstly, the body does use more energy to maintain body heat, so that is technically correct. But there’s much more going on, and it’s this detail that we should be most interested in.
There are two kinds of fat in the body – some is the regular, white fat that you might think of, however there’s a different kind of fat, that sits around muscles and has different functions to that stuff sitting around your belly or your hips.
One of the important functions this ‘brown fat’ has is to burn off fatty acids, and glucose, as heat. Effectively, it can burn off energy, in these two forms (glucose and fatty acids), to provide heat to the muscles and the body in general. This is of a lot of interest for anyone wanting to lose fat – because effectively what this means is that some cold exposure can go a long way, further than the simple equation of extra energy required to keep warm.
So what does this mean for fat loss?
Simply that fat loss comes quicker when cold is involved, and for a few reasons.
And what about that bonus?
Well, as it turns out, the presence of cold also tends to increase lean muscle mass development. The science still isn’t conclusive on this one, but there’s a link. So whilst there’s fat burning off fat, (brown adipose tissue burning off fatty acids, and glucose), you’re also more likely to gain lean muscle. Over time, these differences could really add up.
So how do you test this?
- To start, having a good idea of your general rate of fat loss is good. If you’re just getting started, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test cold therapy too, just that you won’t have a baseline to weight the results against.
- Approach this like all the other 4 Hour Body experiments – you are going to do something to gain data, so that you will know if it has an affect for you. Everyone’s different, and results may vary. Remember that this isn’t a permanent change in your routine, just some activity to get some feedback.
- Get set up for your cold therapy -
- Buy some (fun optional) ice cube trays, and set up some ice cubes in the freezer (see some awesome examples down the page)
- Consider buying an ice pack that is larger or better shaped than a regular sports freezer compress (see my recommendation below)
- Find your favorite stop watch or app on your smartphone
- Follow the Cold Therapy Routine included below – Monday to Friday, and measure your results
- Check your results compared to other weeks, and decide whether you will continue for another week (or month)!
Monday – Friday
Wake up and drink Ice Water – around .5 liters or 17oz
Have a shower (see the cold showers note below) – make it around 5-10 minutes of cold.
Eat breakfast around 30 minutes after drinking the ice water
Pull an ice pack from the freezer and get comfy on the couch for around 30 minutes – place the ice pack on the back of the neck, or a little lower down.
Take another shower (see the cold showers note below) – 5-10 minutes of cold.
“Take a Cold Shower!”
They help fight off the common cold by improving immune function, they help lean muscle tissue develop, and they even stave off depression, even in those deep winter months.
So why wouldn’t you take a cold shower!? Well, it can be uncomfortable at first, that could be a good reason why you’ve never tried one.
Tips to make Cold Showers easy
Lately, I’ve developed a system where I start with a nice warm shower, and include my head and hair in the process. Once suitably warm and feeling good, I start backing the hot water tap out of the equation, so that the temperature of the water gradually gets cooler.
But there’s one key point to this that can make a world of difference.
For me at least, and I’m willing to be for you, if you avoid running the colder water through your hair, you don’t generally have the same level of discomfort or sensation of cold, when the hot water is taken out of the mix. You feel the cold water, and you are definitely aware that it’s not hot, but it doesn’t send the ‘death chills’ down my spine. Now, of course all things being equal, most likely the colder you feel the more the effects of the cold are working, so I suggest this as a nice intro to cold showers, not as a permanent remedy to that feeling. Once you’re acclimatise to the sensation of cold water on the skin, then it’s time to step up and let the cold water run free – through your hair and all. You’ll barely notice it though, because you’ll be a seasoned pro.
More tips for ice success
You might consider exercising in colder environments, and not ‘rugging up’ like you might otherwise do. You will burn more calories exercise in the cold, and there’s every chance that if you are quite cold, your BAT (brown fat) is going to burn some off keeping things heated. I can attest to the results of cross country skiing in incredibly freezing environments (-30 degrees celsius/-22 degrees farenheit) to being an amazing cure-all to any kind of winter soup binging. No matter how creamy the soup, skiing in these conditions a few times a week will keep anybody lean.
Another pointer is to make it easy on yourself, and to make it fun! I like to use crazy little ice cube makers, to keep things interesting in my water. I’ve included a few of my favorites down below. I also love lemon juice in ice water as a refreshing change from plain water, which tends to be less appetizing first thing in the morning.
From left to right: Space Invaders Ice Cubes, Musical Notes Ice Cubes, and the ‘Hip Hop’ Ice Cube collection (no pun intended):
Check out loads more cool ice cube trays here.
Ice packs tend to come in all sorts of funny shapes and sizes, but none quite the right shape to sit around the base of your neck. I found these great packs online, that I’m recommending to friends now.
Check them out -they have a range of items, but the one I think is the best by far is the cooling neck wrap.
This is the cooling vest that I recommend people use to test.
Cold Hard Facts
I’ve always preferred winter training to summer, because I’ve seen the results it gets faster than it’s summer equivalents. You might think that this is due to the kind of activity, but I’m convinced now, with the science to back it up, that cold can really influence fat loss. For that reason, I’m sticking with ice water, and cold showers Monday to Friday, with the occasional cold pack for good measure. If I find myself in a cold environment, I’ll be only too happy to get outside in as little as possible, and work up a sweat!
I’m sure that with a week or two of testing, you’re likely to see some results too, and it can be as easy as drinking some cold water, and starting the day with a shower! What are you waiting for?
Do you use ice packs, or ice water? Have you got some great results using techniques described in the book? Let us know and share what you think below in the comments!
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