Ice baths burn fat - Fact or myth?

Ice baths burn fat - Fact or myth?

Cold water immersion has been around for centuries but more recently, its boosted popularity is causing people to ask more questions than ever. 

Can ice baths help with weight loss?

Do ice baths burn body fat?

Will cold water immersion help me lose weight?

The answer is yes, cold water immersion can help with weight loss. But let’s look at the science… 

What is Theromoengsis?

Thermogenesis is the body’s temperature regulation. It’s the process of our body keeping us alive. The brain and body regulate our temperature through hormones and neurotransmitters. Everyone has an internal thermostat that sits just behind the nose. 

This thermostat receives signals from receptors from our skin and inside our body. The signals tell the thermostat to release hormones and chemicals to help us adapt. Deep cold exposure (DCE) trains our thermoregulation to become more efficient, and ready for next time.

In the cold, the body has limited choices to warm up:

1. Mechanically, where we shiver to burn glucose in the muscles

2. Metabolically, by stoking the furnace and burning brown fat (energy-dense fat)

Both 1 and 2 can occur at the same time. This is when blood vessels constrict to drive greater blood flow to the core, away from the limbs. The more we adapt to the cold, the more it changes our metabolism to burn brown fat, the more we can change our biology over time.

Burning brown fat is the body’s most efficient way to get warm. Think of it as fuel, ready to fire up the furnace fast. What’s often missed and essential to remember is that there are ongoing adaptations happening inside the body following DCE, where the body is preparing to burn more brown fat stores for next time!

The Studies

In a 2002 study, participants burned over 376% more fat when they were exposed to cold temperatures over a period of time. NASA scientist Ray Cronise lost 300% more weight per week once he started adding cold exposure to his weight loss routine.

In a 2014 study, researchers found that exercise-induced irisin secretion could have evolved from shivering-related muscle contraction. The results also suggest that since activation of these pathways results in greater energy expenditure, the pathways may serve as potential therapeutic targets for obesity and related conditions.

Whilst cold thermogenesis has been shown to activate brown fat immediately and boost the metabolism for several hours (even after the exposure has ended!), cold exposure isn’t a magic answer to weight loss. 

A healthy diet and increased exercise are the first ports of call here. However, layering in cold exposure as a third pillar to ensure the metabolism is working to burn fat throughout the day is unquestionably a good idea, if you’re up for it.

Interested in learning more? Get your hands on our free, no-strings guide to using cold water immersion to improve your mental and physical health.