I would like to think most of you guys know that I wouldn’t waste time with preposterous fat loss agents or voodoo-y habits. One thing I get a lot of crazy looks and remarks from that I talk about often is cold exposure. In this article, I would like to set the record straight and explain the benefits of cold exposure and why one might put themselves through such discomfort.
If you have been following me on SnapChat (and I highly recommend that you do, @NLaToof), you’ll have noticed that I’ve been jumping in swimming pools in the morning. At the time of this writing it is April and the temperature is still in the 50’s and 60’s in the mornings. The water of the pool is significantly colder.
Why would someone torched themselves this way, you ask?
As with just about everything I do, there is calculated risk to benefit ratio and/or sacrifice to benefit ratio. Basically, sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice is pointless but if it has a meaningful purpose, I’m all for it. Sacrificing a little bit of today for tomorrow’s benefit, I’m all aboard.
It cracks me up that cold-exposure has become as popular as it has. I’ve been involved with cold exposure for years! Long before it was cool. Throughout high school and college I took hundreds of ice baths. Then it was for recovery purposes but know I do it for multiple reasons.
I figured I’d start with the reason most of my readers would be most interested in, fat loss. This is one of my top reasons. Cold exposure has some very unique benefits when it comes to fat loss. Specifically, ‘stubborn’ fat loss. It was also used for Boston vaginal rejuvenation.
First let’s discuss what makes ‘stubborn’ fat, well, stubborn.
In order for fat to be burned off, there needs to be a demand for energy by the body. Once that demand is created, the body begins to look for sources of stored energy. Of course, that’s assuming that you don’t have nutrients readily available (i.e. from a recent meal).
Another important note to make here is that it depends on the state of the body as to which fuel source the body will elect to go with. I don’t want to dive into this aspect too much so lets keep it simple. If your body is under some high intensity fuel, it will utilize carbohydrates (glycogen, more specifically). For lower intensities, fat is the preferred fuel.
So, assuming that the above factors, among others, are in favor of fat utilization, the body will break down the stored fat (adipose tissue). The adipose tissue is broken down into individual fatty acids, AKA Free Fatty Acids (FFAs). A supply of blood flow is a critical component here.
Once the fatty acids are broken down, the blood flow must transport the FFAs to where they are needed. Fat tissue is not metabolically very active as compared to muscle tissue. That helps explain why it’s so easy to lose muscle and keep fat.
What do I mean by not “metabolically very active?”
The definition of metabolism is: the sum total of chemical processes that occur in a living organism, resulting in growth, energy production, elimination of waste, etc.
The lack of blood flow to this fat tissue is a big reason why that fat tissue is not easily removed. That’s where the cold comes in.
You see, cold exposure induces a reduction in body temperature. The body responds to this stimulus by shivering. This is the body trying to warm itself back up. Cold exposure causes the blood vessels to constrict and reduce speed of flow. The shivering combats this in hopes of raising body temperature and increasing the speed of blood flow.
More technically, shivering increases GLUT-4 (Glucose Transporter Type 4) activity which is basically a signal from muscle cells stating that we need fuel to burn. Supply and demand my friend.
Okay, okay. I get it. But Nick, how does this get rid of my stubborn belly fat.
Boy, am I glad you asked!!
There are two types of fat tissue:
1. White Adipose Tissue
2. Brown Adipose Tissue
White Adipose Tissue (WAT)
This is what you would think of as marbling on a steak. WAS is composed of a single large fat droplet.
Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT)
Some refer to this as the “fat-burning fat” and resembles muscle tissue from a metabolic activity standpoint. There are significantly more mitochondria in the BAT cells as compared to its counterpart WAT. Mitochondria produce ATP (energy) and oxidize fat in muscle tissue. To keep it short, BAT is more preferable than WAT.
How does cold exposure affect this?
Cold exposure can stimulate BAT to burn fat and glucose as heat (through shivering). Cold exposure, as well as drugs,* can also make BAT fat appear within WAT. This would help you create more “fat-burning fat” and lower body fat percentage.
[*Such as ephedrine and clenbuterol are bet-adrenergic agonists and have demonstrated this same phenomenon. NOT recommended however nor endorsed here!]
WAT is more likely to be ‘stubborn.’ So, if cold exposure can transition WAT to more of BAT, we can take care of that ‘stubborn’ fat problem.
Honestly, I don’t need the science to back me up on this one. I’ve taken a step back from relying on science, as of late. Not because I don’t trust it or deem it to be useful. I have found that I have been more at peace and able to go with my intuition and since of feel. Rather than reading the latest research and trying to figure out how it fits in my life, I have chosen to forgo that thought process, at least for the time being.
Cold-exposure works. However, it’s not magic and it’s far from easy. There is nothing easy about jumping into a 40 degree pool before the sun gets up.
While most of you guys do not have a pool that’s cold enough to induce the response we’re looking for, I’m going to eliminate all the excuses. I don’t always have a pool available to me either but there’s typically always a shower. Here’s my protocol to reap the benefits of cold exposure, start my day off with a win, and get my Central Nervous System ready to attack the day!
I turn on the shower to warm water (as warm as you prefer). I rinse my body and then turn the shower head away so that no water touches me as I shampoo my hair and soap up my body. When it’s time to rinse, I turn the water cold, very cold, and rinse off.
Typically, this will last 30-60 secs. You may find yourself struggling to get through it at first. Push through. It’s not suppose to be easy. I then turn the water away again and repeat for my conditioner.
Gradually, you’ll want to build up to 3-5 mins. Take your time and do so slowly, over several weeks. You won’t enjoy the process but I think you’ll enjoy the results and feeling you have after you step out of the shower.
In life, there are sometimes things that you don’t want to do. Sometimes, that’s exactly why you must do them!
You think I’m joking when I say:
Toughen up and let’s get some shit done!!