In recent years, a lot of scientific articles have discussed the positive impact of cold showers on immunity, mood, lower inflammation, pain relief, improve circulation, lower stress levels, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. But is there any evidence that cold showers help with weight loss?
In this article we discuss in detail the myths and science behind the impact of cold showers on weight loss and fat burn.
Different Studies' Results on Impact of Cold Showers on Weight Loss:
A 1992 study on 7 obese individuals published in the journal International Journal of Obesity observed the impact of head-out immersion in cool water (17 to 22 degrees C) five times per week for eight weeks to determine if cold exposure and caloric deficit in body heat stores would lead to body weight loss. It was concluded that cold exposure does not increase caloric expenditure significantly in obese individuals, exercising regularly in cool water may be beneficial as it may motivate obese people to exercise at higher intensity for thermal comfort.
A 2013 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism studied the impact of BAT activation in cold-induced thermogenesis (CIT). This study demonstrates that a small reduction in temperature, well within the range of climate controlled buildings, is sufficient to increase BAT activity. However this study did not observe the long term impact of BAT activation and its implications for weight loss.
A 2014 study also known as ‘Iceman study’, published in Plos One concluded that frequent exposure to extreme cold does not seem to affect brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity nor cold-induced thermogenesis (CIT) in monozygotic twins due to a different occupation and a sedentary lifestyle.
A recent study published in 2020 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reported that a 10-day cold acclimation protocol (repeated intermittent cold exposures) increases BAT activity in parallel with an increase in nonshivering thermogenesis (NST). This study concluded that a variable indoor environment with frequent cold exposures might be a viable and economic way to increase energy expenditure and to counteract obesity endemic.
A Scandinavian 2021 study published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine discussed the impact of brief dips in cold water with hot sauna sessions, and its impact on core body temperature. This study concludes that both heat and cold acclimation in winter swimmers enhances thermogenesis, and proposes winter swimming as a potential strategy for increasing energy expenditure.
Based on the existing evidence from the literature cold showers activate the brown adipose tissue and promote thermogenesis. Whether cold showers induce weight loss is debatable. The duration of the cold showers and the temperature used varied across the studies. Intermittent cold dips followed by hot sauna sessions and 10 day cold acclimatization methods enhanced BAT induced thermogenesis, which may promote weight loss. However, a small reduction in temperature may not induce any benefits pertaining to weight loss even though it has an impact on BAT activation.