Cold Exposure- An Underutilized Way to Lose Weight February 12 2016, 0 Comments

Jake Huddelston, CSCS

So it’s that time of the year again – winter. It’s here and here to stay for a while, whether we like it or not (that’s anything 60 degrees and below in Texas by the way).

There are some differing opinions and mixed feelings about winter, however. Girls love it because they are allowed to wear a whole new style of dress layered with scarfs, leggings, UGG boots, knitted beanies, way too much flannel, but all the while gradually morphing into those snow-bunnies us guys love. They have dreams of snuggling up close to a fire and roasting marshmallows while listening to Christmas music play in the background, as they sip on a pumpkin spice latte from their favorite caffeine establishment.

Guys begin to salivate at the thought of shredding fresh powder, wearing blankets in the form of hoodies all day, reeling in that snow-bunny next to a fire that you made, way too much flannel, and indulging on grandma’s made-from-scratch pies all in the name of “bulking season.”

But let’s face it, girls are actually always cold. Always. They are constantly toting around extra sweaters and shawls at every restaurant, movie theatre, and continually throwing your A/C switch off in your car when you’re on the verge of sweating.

And guys, we are the ones who actually have to chop down that tree to make your fire, we’re normally footing the bill for the ski trip which rarely has fresh powder, I’m already sick of Christmas music by December 3rd, too much pie makes me feel guilty, and I swear, if I hear one more girl order a pumpkin spice latte in line at Starbucks I’m going to… I digress.

Bottom line, there are many pros and cons to the cold weather. No matter where you rest your head when it comes to the winter debate, I’m going to give you either another reason to love winter time, or maybe just not hate it quite as much.

Weight Loss

Weight loss, now here is something that majority of us want, but don’t know how to achieve and we’re willing to take pills to stave off hunger, run like rats on a treadmill, start crash diets and fads, all with great intentions, but very little results. We’re willing to go to extremes for weight loss and look for any edge we can get our hands on. Well why not try being cold for a bit?

What you first need to understand is the types of fat that we have on our bodies. The one that you know already and can see around your waist is White Adipose Tissue (white fat). The only function white fat serves is to store energy and is basically metabolically inactive, meaning that it plays no role in thermogenesis. It cannot burn its own energy, it only keeps you warm due its mass.

Then there is Brown Adipose Tissue (brown fat) which is a good kind of fat. You want more of this because it actually burns through energy, your white fat, by dispersing heat in attempt to keep your body temperature stable and keeping you from storing excess energy. Yes, that’s right, this fat is actually responsible for making you lose weight by eating up its evil step sister, white fat.

Lastly, there is Beige Adipose Tissue (beige fat) that has only recently been discovered. It acts much in the same way that brown fat does. It is also thermogenic effects and plays a role in stabilizing body temperature and fighting obesity, it only differs in locale from brown fat. See beige fat actually “resides in white fat, where they arise from external factors such as chronic cold exposure.” 1

So what’s the bottom line? Research is now showing that by exposing yourself to cold elements you can literally “brown the fat” on your body and turn your white fat into fat-burning, thermogenic, beige fat cells. Essentially, in the presence of cold, your beige fat cells burn your white fat in order to maintain your body temperature. Just as your body sweats in order to combat heat and cool yourself, it also burns energy in the form of fat in order to warm you and keep your core temperature at a comfortable level.

Make no mistake, in order to lose a significant amount of body fat and to keep it off, one must make some noteworthy changes in diet and lifestyle. Consider cold exposure as only a supplement to fat loss, not as replacement to eating healthy, whole foods, and starting a consistent, intense exercise routine.

However, this is just one “hack,” if you will, in order to lose a few extra pounds, slim down right before a competition or beach season, or you’re attempting to knock the last few stubborn percentage points off your body fat percentage and finally hit that illustrious 10%.

See, in our society, we have made it virtually impossible to actually be voluntarily, uncomfortably cold anymore. With heaters and fireplaces in our homes, hot water heaters, space heaters for our desks, thermal blankets, and even cars that start themselves remotely, so we don’t even have to wait in their cold shell while the heater begins its work! We just go from one warm place to another.

Some have said this has been a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in America. Basically, winter does not come around anymore. We do not have to hunt, eat, sleep, and live in these harsh or even mildly uncomfortable conditions anymore. We never even give our bodies the chance to burn the fat on ourselves in this fashion, because we are constantly warming ourselves.

For all the “Game of Thrones” fans out there, for all intents and purposes, our modern-day-mantra should be “winter is never coming.”

So now I have you interested in trying this whole cold exposure thing out, right? Where to start?

There are multiple step-by-step processes already made available to you, however, the most complete and effective method in my research is the Cold Thermogenesis Protocol created by Dr. Jack Kruse as a part of his Leptin Rx program. You can find his full protocol here.

The idea here is a gradual, slow adaptation to the cold and increasing the intensity of your training. Just like any sort of training, you must overload and stress your system in order to see specific adaptations to your training. What I love about the Dr. Kruse model in addition to its comprehensiveness is it's self-paced nature. It allows you to become cold adapted at your own speed while avoiding overloading your body and CNS too quickly. 

*If you have any sort of medical condition, please consult your physician before starting any sort of cold thermogenesis protocol. Such quick immersion to the cold leads to elevated blood pressure and therefore is contraindicated for anyone suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Josh and I have followed our own cold exposure protocols based off our own research and self experimentation and have a few tips and tricks to aid in the process of becoming a cold-adapted ice man! If you would like to unlock access to these tools and also learn how we have cold adapted ourselves this winter, plus even more benefits to cold exposure, subscribe to the Too Fit Toolbox and continue to receive health, fitness, nutrition, and superhuman information straight to your inbox.

 

References and Resources:

  1. Engineering Fat Cell Fate to Fight Obesity and Metabolic Diseases
  2. Short-term cold acclimation recruits brown adipose tissue in obese humans
  3. Segmentation and characterization of interscapular brown adipose tissue in rats by multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging
  4. Cardiovascular response to acute cold stress in non-obese and obese healthy adults
  5. Cold Thermogenesis Protocol – Dr. Jack Kruse