Can cold showers boost your gains?
Cold baths have been used by humans dating back millennia. Ancient Mediterranean’s included cold pools as a critical part of their bath systems. In fact, they were valued more highly than hot baths, because it was easy to heat water, but difficult to chill it in the days before icemaking and refrigeration.
To this day, practitioners of Shinto meditate under icy waterfalls in a practice known Misogi, and pioneers like the Danish Wim Hof are testing the limits of the human body through its interaction with the cold stimulus. Of course, ice baths are also standard recovery practice for many elite athletes.
Here are three ways taking a cold bath, or even cold shower, can aid your bodybuilding endeavors.
1. It can boost your metabolism
First of all, as everyone knows – cold boosts metabolism. The body burns fat for heat in a process known as thermogenesis. If you submerge the body in cold, it will dramatically increase fat burning to maintain homeostasis.
A 2014 study by the Naturopathy Clinical, SDM College of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, Ujire, India, concluded that submersion in 14°C can increase metabolic rate by 350%.
The cold water is also found to stimulate brown adipse tissue (BAT) aka brown fat, which might sound like a bad thing, but brown fat actually plays a critical role in converting other fat to heat. You can read more about brown fat here.
2. It can boost your testosterone
Many studies have found correlation between taking cold baths and high testosterone levels. The question is, can we explain and prove causation?
There is quite a bit of logic behind this. Other studies have concluded that the testes work optimally at colder temperatures. Also, even ancient Greeks noticed the difference in form between Mediterranean and Scandinavian peoples. Cold temperature was considered to be a fundamental cause of the larger and hairier bodies.
Cold baths reduce cortizol, which negatively effects testosterone, and help engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which aids in deep sleep.
3. Cold showers are a phenomenal way to start the day
It may seem counterintuitive that something that helps you sleep can also be great in the morning, but think about it like a workout. It stimulates the release of anti-depressant endorphines, stimulates blood flow, spikes the heart rate/metabolism, and activates the nervous system, connecting mind to body. Also, the mental discipline required to douse oneself in freezing water is much sharper in the morning. Try 5 minute cold showers and see how they affect you.