What Happens After 30 Days of Cold Showers (Science Explained)

What would happen if you took cold showers for 30 days? Today we’ll dive into the science, and I’ll reveal the results I got from doing the 30 day cold shower therapy protocol I’ll share later on. Even if you’re thinking you’ll never take cold showers, trust me, after learning of the benefits of cold showers in this video, you might just reconsider. But what are the specific benefits you can expect? How to take a cold shower? How cold does the water need to be? Can it help with fat loss or building muscle?

You’ll start experiencing the benefits of cold showers right from day 1. Exposing your body to cold seems to release 3 key hormones; norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine. Together these stimulate your “fight or flight” response. These hormones stay elevated for an extended period afterwards. Anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on how cold the water was and how long you were in it. The benefit of this is improved mood, energy, and focus. But to experience these benefits, there are a few things you need to know.

First, the temperature of the water for your cold showers needs to be cold enough. Research suggests at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. To tell if it’s cold enough without a thermometer, it should trigger what’s known as the “initial inspiratory gasp”. But you also need to stay in the cold for long enough. The subjects in the study I mentioned earlier sat in cold water for an hour. I did find several studies showing benefits with shorter durations of even just 20 seconds of cold exposure. But in most cases, they used an ice bath instead of a shower. This doesn’t mean a 30 second cold shower won’t do anything though. Even if your hormonal increase isn’t significant by research standards, you will likely still feel a benefit and an increased mood. But over time, your body adapts to the cold and the hormonal response seems to die down. Once you notice this, here’s how to take a cold shower to continue feeling a benefit: try making the water colder or staying in it for longer.

Next, let’s talk about fat loss. A 2021 study found that cold water immersion increased well trained athletes’ estimated daily calorie burn from 2,000 calories per day all the way up to 3,000 calories! However, there are two catches. First, subjects were immersed in the cold for over 3 hours. The average shower length is 8 minutes, and the amount of time you’d spend showering in the cold would be only a fraction of that. Second, the researchers assumed the subjects would continue burning calories at the same rate as when they were in the cold. Even if you crunch the data while being super optimistic, it likely wouldn’t end up anywhere close to enough to make a meaningful effect for fat loss.

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Now what about muscle recovery and growth? Well, Ice baths have been shown to reduce muscle soreness, fatigue, and inflammation after a training session. This is great for athletes who need to recover quickly between events. But if you’re looking to build muscle and strength, this may actually be a problem since it reduces inflammation, which is part of your muscles’ recovery process to grow bigger and stronger. Three studies have now shown that post-training cold water immersion significantly decreases muscle growth. So, if you want to maximize growth and strength, either do it before the workout, at least 4- 6 hours after your workout, or on a separate day altogether. Now, the studies I mentioned all used ice baths where subjects stayed immersed for anywhere between 10-20 minutes. So they were pretty intense protocols. Based on that, I would speculate that a quick cold shower after a workout wouldn’t have any negative effects on muscle growth. But on that note, it also probably wouldn’t do anything meaningful for your recovery.

There’s one more benefit you should know about. Forcing yourself to mentally withstand a stressor like the cold activates an area of your brain that suppresses impulsivity. This can help you remain calm and not overreact whenever stressors come up in your life. But this also helps build tremendous resilience and grit that can positively transfer into other areas of your life. I’d recommend start with cold showers, work your way up to 30 seconds to a minute, and then overtime try to stay in it for longer or if possible make the water even colder. And to further intensify the benefits, consider investing in a cold tub for some of those recovery benefits.


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