Tim Ferris' new book has an interesting chapter called Ice Age about using the cold for weight-loss and it comes at just the right time (at least here in these northern parts) for some experimenting.
His basic premise is that the body burns up energy in more ways than just exercise and one of those ways is through loss of heat. They were trying to figure out how Michael Phelps could eat so much and still burn it even though his exercise output--which is a lot--still didn't amount to what he was eating. One thing they found was that when a body is in contact with cold water we transfer heat from our body to the water. Then our body burns more calories to keep its body temp up. He claims that research has shown people can burn 4 times the amount of fat after two hours of cold exposure. He says cold stimulates certain fat cells to burn fat in the body. Interesting ideas.
I know a bunch of people here take part in Polar Bear Swims and things--probably more for fun than anything--but is anyone thinking of applying some of the cold=weight loss ideas this winter?
Aquatic mammals in an ice-cold environment store lots of fat. Think of seals, walruses, whales, and even polar bears. I don't know about cause and effect, but the correlation is not the one you want.
cold water exposure is super, super healthy. Once you get over the shock it starts to feel great and gets a little addictve.
if you don't have easy access to an ocean, river or lake try this (I am NOT a doctor, so if you have any worrisome medical conditions consult your physician before): -get a large bucket from home depot or wherever (several gallons).
-either instead of, or following, a super hot shower fill up the bucket with the coldest water you can get (some people leave the bucket outside overnight to get it really cold)
-dump it over your head, while trying to stay as relaxed as possible/conscious of tension in your body
-do it a second time
why is this superior to just a cold shower? the immense volume of water, in the super short time frame, provokes a different, more thorough bodily response (at least in my own experimentation).
some notes on this: -breathing is important. try to relax your breathing and avoid that GASP response. On the first one try to maintain a long, relaxed inhale. on the second try a long relaxed exhale. order isn't important, but just do both an inhale and exhale that starts just before or as you contact the water. maintain it throughout the pour as best you can.
-try doing this OUTSIDE in all sorts of weather, awesome!
-i've read that it triggers the mammalian diving reflex, which basically means that sudden cold contact drives blood to the interior of the body/prime organs. among other things this causes your core temperature to spike and acts as a mini internal-fever and can be GREAT for preventing illness.
-definitely helps circulation and immune response in general (several studies on this I believe)
-afterwards you will probably feel a really delicious glow/warm feeling in your belly/core (imagine drinking nice warm tea) and general sense of well-being relaxation.
-great for sore muscles, general fatigue and excess tension. I used to suffer a lot from anxiety. Once I did this at the onset of a panic attack. I can't explain what happened but the cold water just released all the pent up tension in me and I started laughing hysterically, pretty incredible in retrospect actually.
As for weight loss, seems to me that for most people it would be overall not effective enough to make a major difference. Easier to eat just a few bites less of food or cut out a tad of carb than to suffer long bouts of freezing cold! Plus being cold and uncomfortable is a stress on the body, which I think should be considered as potentially less healthy if done to excess. I am personally not convinced it is healthy to shock your body with very cold water. I'd have to see some scientific evidence before I changed my mind. Pain and discomfort are our body's ways of trying to stear us away from unhealthy activities.
I don't know about the benefits for weight loss but I participated in my first polar bear swim this year and it was truly invigorating. Also, made a funny video about it which we've just posted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT0_NHtEAFQ
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