“We have become alienated from nature. But the cold is capable of bringing us back to what we once had lost.” – Wim Hof
Are you a human? I certainly hope so.
As a human your body was designed to survive and thrive in the natural world just like the old hunter gatherer tribe people.
These people were exposed to heat and the cold of the natural environment. To get clean they would have to find a cold river or lake and use the water to wash or swim.
NOW all the environmental aspects of our lives have changed. Our bodies are not used to the technologies and new environmental comforts.
Scientists argue that a lack of this hunter gatherer environmental exposure shows up in our biology as disease.
Hence, a strong justification for Ice Bathing and getting cold.
Article Quick Glimpse
The cold is a beast it can bring your tremendous benefits but will also bite you if you do not respect it.
If you value the benefits of the cold and you have a goal to spend some time calm in icy water, it is important to learn how your mental strength plays a large role. Especially on your first time.
No matter who you are, submerging yourself in cold icy water is hard.
You will fight resistance getting in for a cold soak. Human instinct shocks you to get out and it's your challenge to defeat it.
As you adapt to the cold the less impact the cold has as you build up resilience to it.
The more frequent you get cold the more your body becomes “cold adapted”.
The more cold adapted you are, the more benefits you receive from the cold and the greater your resilience.Even then though, there is still and will always be a level of difficulty.
Strong tips to understand before submerging yourself in cold water:
Recognise that sensation is just sensation not good nor bad
Remain equanimous (calm and composed) as soon as the thought crosses your mind to get out, you will start to build up reasons and instinct to
Therefore, it is important to not label the cold anything, purely sensation
A cold plunge gives you a beautiful opportunity to put yourself in a controlled stressed environment to see where your mind goes
Listen to your body, when it’s time to get out, get out. Nothing should be forced.
Try not to get out at a certain time, if you are jumping out when the clock hits a specific second or minute you are training yourself to force and push your way through. Get to a rough time you desire, take a couple breaths and when you feel calm then get out. That will train your body and mind to be more willing to accept the sensations next time.
Do not stay in more than 20 minutes, 20 minutes is where mild hyperthermia starts
Cold is Gold
Below is a list of truths about getting cold.
According consistent practice offers many potential benefits, including:
Boosting your immune system
Improving your mental well-being
Increasing willpower and resilience
Increasing your energy
Increasing blood flow
Managing some fibromyalgia symptoms
Relieving some symptoms of depression
Increases sex hormone 🍆
When we get cold our bodies seek ways to keep warm, therefore, our bodies dip into our fat supply for fuel.
Some researchers believe that cold or heat exposure is the most energy burning process there is. It makes sense as when we exercise…...we get hot and our body has to use energy to cool us down.
Brown Fat To Burn Fat
Studies have shown that cold temperatures activate brown fat metabolism.
What is brown fat and what is this metabolism?
There two types of fat:
White fat known as white adipose tissue and,
Brown fat known as brown adipose tissue
White fat is the fat you accumulate from eating too much basically. It stores up in large soft droplets. It accumulates around the body usually around the stomach area or legs and also around your organs used as insulation. Obviously, too much white fat is unhealthy and leads to obesity.
Brown fat is much more dense. It is rich with iron cells and stores itself predominantly in your upper back area. When brown fat is activated it burns off by using energy and burning calories WITHOUT shivering. Brown fat is activated through getting cold, therefore, submerging your upper back in cold water gives you the most brown fat benefits.
Hence, brown fat is highly regarded for treating metabolic syndromes and obesity. Activation of brown fat basically initiates thermogenesis (your body burning calories to get its core temperature to normal). The longer the cold the more the brown fat is activated.
Brown fat is good. You want brown fat and you want to use it to burn off white fat.
Women start shivering at a higher experimental temperature than men.
Women feel colder and less comfortable than men during the same cooling protocol.
What is shivering? Shivering is physical twitching the body uses to get warm.
Shivering fat burning effects:
Shivering and getting cold releases a hormone that literally tells the body to burn fat
15 minutes of cold exposure can have the same calorie burning effect as working out for 1 hour…… how good! Just be sure to keep hydrated.
What does it do?
It is a process that burns plenty of calories.
Shivering also stimulates the activation of brown fat.
Once brown fat is stimulated non-shivering thermogenesis occurs.
This is when the brown fat uses energy and burns of white fat to generate heat.
Shivering stimulates a hormone called irisin which also induces fat burning.
15 minutes of shivering in the cold has the same effect as exercising for an hour.
Shivering activates the immune system slightly.
If you missed it non-shivering occurs for a couple hours after shivering occurs.
Non-shivering is the process where brown fat is stimulated and it is burning white fat and calories to keep the body warm.
This happens for a couple hours post cold exposure.
Quotes from studies:
“The primary motor center for shivering in the posterior hypothalamus is then activated and transmits signals to the skeletal muscles to initiate shivering throughout the body (Hall, 2015).”
“At the maximum intensity of shivering, metabolic heat production can rise to five times of the resting levels” (Eyolfson et al., 2001).
Cold Shock Proteins and the Vagus Nerve
The cold exposure releases cold shock proteins, especially when the head goes under water.
All there is to basically know is that these proteins heal damaged neurons.
It's a good way to keep your brain sharp and protect you from aging.
Parasympathetic nervous system = your bodies rest, digest and recovery system
Heart rate variability = your body's overall health for physical and mental readiness
Vagus nerve = is a nerve that runs from the brain to the gut and controls the body's parasympathetic (rest and recover) state.
One study showed that cold stimulation at the neck and lower head activates the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in higher heart rate variability and lower heart rate due to stimulation of the vagus nerve.
Stimulation of this nerve can increase the effects or body's ability to get into a parasympathetic state and that can be measured in heart rate variability and resting heart rate.
Heart rate variability is associated with regulating the nervous system, with the sympathetic (arousal and stress) and parasympathetic (rest, recover and digest) states.
Heart Rate variability is an accurate measure of the body's current position of these systems functions.
Heart rate variability is the fluctuation of the length of heartbeat intervals indicated and in response to physiological and environmental stimuli can show the heart's ability to respond.
Research has also suggested that the brain and the heart are connected from the brain to the heart and from the heart back to the brain.
IMPORTANT: The more cold exposure to the body combined to the neck and the head and the longer the cold exposure relative to one's tolerance……. the more the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system will activate.
In other words get your whole body to be exposed to cold for a time that is challenging but not dangerous once or twice a week for optimal results.
Sex Hormone 🍆
Does cold water immersion increase sex drive or increased hormone response?
There are too many conflicting articles and studies on this. Some say that as the testes shrivel up and get closer to you body testosterone is released. There is no evidence of this though.
Some studies say that testosterone decreases….but they tested hormone levels immediately after getting in the cold. When you resistance train in the gym your testosterone decreases, it is 15 minutes to up to an hour that it increases.
What I know for sure and what I have experienced and those who regularly do ice baths with me have experienced is: an increased libido the next day. There are no studies on this that I have found.
But for some of us it is a regular thing. Obviously, other health factors come into play. I am making the assumption that if you are “good to go” the ice bath enhances this effect.
If sex drive is elevated testosterone should also elevate (lutenising hormone (sex hormone) spike leads to and increased production of testosterone).
This is my opinion, there is no statistical studies data yet but I look forward to seeing it.
Mood and Feel Good - Norepinephrine
Norepinephrine reduces inflammation and produces the “God I feel good right now” feeling.
Norepinephrine releases alertness and energy.
Earlier we focused mostly on the effects of norepinephrine in the context of its role as a neurotransmitter, but studies show it can be increased by as much as 5 fold from extreme cold stress! That's a lot of norepinephrine!
One of the roles norepinephrine may also play is in reducing inflammation. Norepinephrine inhibits the inflammatory pathway by decreasing tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha)....what the hella is that? It is a very potent molecule that increases inflammation.
Norepinephrine increases blood pressure and also provides energy to the body due to its cause to breakdown fat and increase blood sugar levels.
In the brain, norepinephrine aids in the sleep-wake cycle, helping you to wake up, and increase attention and focus on performing a task ,and boosting memory storage.
This is the big one. This is where the cold brings in the big bucks.
Increases Confidence & Self Esteem
Regulates Emotions (good at humbling the ego)
Develops a Strong Growth Mindset
Improves Mental Resilience
Increases Confidence & Self Esteem
Increases confidence by showing you that your strength, grit and resilience can be trained and improved.
Helps you to fight against hesitation and every time you get in, that is a win under your belt helping you to believe in yourself.
Boosts your self esteem by helping you to understand that you are capable of doing something that seems impossibly uncomfortable and difficult.
Cold soaks help you develop the mind tools to tackle other life challenges without hesitation.
We learn to trust ourselves that we can do hard things.
Regulates Emotions (good at humbling the ego)
Even people who are “professionals” at getting in the cold still find it difficult.
Getting into the cold never gets any easier.
Our biology knows that the cold is an extremely powerful force and that we are to fear it. Therefore, fear, hesitating, anxiety, worrying about not getting in is our body's response to avoid it!
Hence, overcoming this is like weight training for your brain. Instead of our muscles getting stronger our control over our emotions and our emotional responses get better.
Develops a Strong Growth Mindset
Getting cold puts us out of our comfort zone. Biologically our bodies and minds prefer comfort. Comfort when abused can lead to laziness and contempt when shouldn't be.
For growth to occur you need to overcome small challenges that usually ensure you to step outside of your comfort zone.
Therefore, getting cold is the perfect example of trying to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This provides you with a mindset adapted to growth and progress.
Improves Mental Resilience
Notice your fear or reactions at the thought of getting cold and prior to getting cold.
Notice the excuses you make up in your mind and the hesitations to get in.
Notice the physical response of hesitation, breathing, heart rate and other sensations, already feeling cold.
Think of how other areas in your life you may be resisting, or holding back from.
Now think of how getting cold is an absolute opportunity to overcome resistance and hesitation.
Encourage yourself, saturate your mind with reinforcement and calm
Change your posture to be confident and ready.
Breathe and plunge with no hesitation.
You have just overcome resilience. Like muscle training against weight resistance, resilience gets stronger training under mindset resistance.
A cold soak is a perfect example for resilience training.
Cortisol is the high energy stress hormone.
This hormone is perfect for high stimulation situations in life like; public speaking, going to the gym, being frustrated stuck in traffic, being on a roller coaster or being overwhelmed with too much on your schedule.
Too much cortisol can cause a variety of health defects and autoimmune developments in the human body. If too much exposure to high cortisol situations over a long period of time can lead to illness. The unfortunate thing is that most of us in a westernised culture are extremely susceptible to this.
Good thing we have ice baths! A PubMed study showed that after a few weeks of cold exposure cortisol significantly decreased. Probably about time to get started then!
You can turn the shower to cold morning, night and enjoy 1 long cold soak per week for some optimal results.
Note* The diagram above shows the process of how the diaphragm works and pumps warm blood around the body.
Your diaphragm is connected to important veins and arteries that supply blood through your arteries and drains through veins.