A lot is being said lately about the benefits of cold-water therapy for fat loss, detox and recovery. “Cryotherapy,” or cold-water immersion, cold showers, cold gel packs and the cold water Detox Bath (based on Louis Kuhne’s friction sitz bath) are popular amongst athletes and health seekers, and can equally benefit practically everyone else.
A long list of benefits is attributed to regular cold-water exposure. They include:
• Reduces Inflammation
• Triggers detoxification
• Decreases excess white body fat
• Boosts immune system
• Enhances sleep quality
• Boosts sexual performance and improves fertility
• Increases pain tolerance threshold
• Enhances hormone production
• Reduces food cravings
• Decreases uric acid levels
• Increases glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant. (Dr J Mercola)
Of course, these benefits vary from one person to the next. This method does NOT provide all the benefits above to everyone equally.
For the purposes of this article, let’s focus exclusively on the fat loss, detox and recovery benefits attributed to the regular application of cold temperatures to the body, in the form of cold showers, dipping in a cold pool after the sauna, practicing Louis Kuhne’s Detox Bath or using cold gel packs.
So, how does cold exposure contribute to fat loss, detox and recovery?
1- Brown fat activation: BAT or brown adipose tissue is brown fat that’s abundant in the body in childhood and decreases in adulthood. It is primarily found around the collarbone, neck, shoulders and upper back. A unique type of fat, it generates heat by burning the regular white fat that deposits in the stomach, hips, and butt and legs areas. Brown fat burns energy instead of storing it. Studies have proven that you can actually activate the brown fat -to burn the white fat- by cooling your body down.
2- Detoxification: Toxins are known to nestle in the dense white fat cells. When, through exposure to cold, you activate the brown fat, it dissolves the white fat and consequently detoxifies the body.
3- Enhancing the Immune System: Cold therapy enhances immunity by increasing the number of immune system cells that fight disease and infection. Due to its ability to stimulate norepinephrine release, cold exposure can induce an increase in natural killer cell count and activity, which can greatly improve the immune system function.
4- Hardening: The exposure to a natural stimulus, like cold, is called “hardening.” It is known to increase the body’s tolerance to stress and disease. “The underlying premise of cold water therapy is that briefly and somewhat regularly exposing the body to certain kinds of natural stresses can enhance health”. (Mark’s Daily Apple)
5- Drinking cold water speeds up the metabolic rate, because the body has to work to warm the water up. However, other types of cold or ice therapy, like cold gel packs applied to the groin area, can also help support your body’s fat-burning and detoxification ability.
6- Exercise and injury recovery By lowering the tissues’ temperature and constricting blood vessels in the targeted area, cold numbs it and prevents swelling. That’s why ice packs are often used after injury, to help minimise bruising and swelling from fluid build-up, and for pain relief.
Cold baths and cold gel packs have proven more effective than resting in the relief of the typical muscle soreness occurring after exercise.
What’s the Easiest Way to Cool the Body Down and Achieve the Benefits of Cold Exposure?
You can either take a cold shower or drink cold water, or even sit -immersed to the waist- in a tub of cold water for 10 minutes, 3 times a week. The water should be cold but not freezing.
However, the easiest, least invasive and most comfortable way to cool the body down and achieve the benefits listed above remains the regular use of cold gel packs, which are particularly effective when applied to the groin area.