While people often use ice baths to combat muscle soreness and help with recovery, there is another potential benefit — weight loss. You may be wondering, “How do ice baths help with weight loss?” or “Do ice baths really work for weight loss?”
Cold temperatures can activate certain parts of your body for better performance. The result is more calories burned and potentially better regulation of your weight. Let's break down the studies that suggest ice baths can have a positive effect on weight loss.
What is Cold Thermogenesis?
According to Oxford Languages, thermogenesis means heat production, and it most often refers to heat production in humans or animals. ‘Cold thermogenesis’ sounds like an oxymoron, then, doesn’t it? In a way, it is.
Cold thermogenesis, or cold-induced thermogenesis, also known as CIT, is the process in which your body generates heat by increasing your metabolism when it's exposed to cold temperatures. In essence, your body ramps things up and runs its engines on high To keep your core body temperature stable when it's surrounded by cold.
The ability to do this is part of what differentiates us as a warm-blooded species from the jumping reptiles and snakes in your garden. Some think that this process, if engaged in repeatedly and safely, could help you lose weight.
How Cold Thermogenesis Helps With Weight Loss
Here are some main ways in which cold thermogenesis (CIT) works to promote weight loss:
Increases Energy Expenditure
When our body is exposed to cold, it has to work harder to maintain its internal temperature. This results in an increase in energy expenditure (a.k.a. energy used) as the body works to maintain its internal temperature.
When this energy is used to regulate your internal temperature, it burns calories in the process. Long-term cold water exposure also helps the body adapt to burn more calories long-term.
Increases Brown Fat
You may be thinking, “More fat? I thought this post was about weight loss!” Interestingly, brown fat actually helps with weight loss. Here’s how:
Brown fat is a type of adipose tissue (body fat) that is rich in mitochondria, which are responsible for burning calories and generating heat. Exposing our bodies to cold temperatures has been shown to increase the amount of brown fat in our bodies. So, the more brown fat we have, the more calories we burn.
Promotes Cell Longevity
One suggested (but not fully understood) benefit of CIT is cell longevity, the support of healthy aging from the cellular level.
One study found that exposing cells to cold temperatures led to an increase in lifespan by activating stress response pathways. These pathways help the cells to adapt to stressful conditions and protect them from damage.
Reduces Blood Sugar and Boosts Metabolism
One of the most impressive benefits of CIT is its ability to reduce blood sugar levels and boost metabolism. It does this by increasing the release of glucose from our liver and by increasing the sensitivity of our cells to insulin. A fast/high metabolism burns calories faster than a low metabolism.
Using an Ice Bath for Weight Loss: The Scientific Proof
Science has shown that when you immerse yourself in cold temperatures, a certain type of fat on your body is activated to help keep you warm. Humans have three types of fat: white, brown, and beige. Your body stores white fat just under your skin and around your organs. Generally speaking, this fat is there in case you need it for later. Many of us have a little bit extra. You need a bit of white fat, but not too much, to stay healthy.
Beige fat lies somewhere between white and brown fat, and it helps you burn fat. Brown fat is found mostly in babies, but as adults, you still keep a bit of it around. You can typically find brown fat in your neck and shoulder areas. It works by helping your body burn fatty acids.
Scientists are currently learning more about what brown fat does for us. This is because brown adipose fat (BAT) does all kinds of things. Most notably, it interacts with your gut hormones to tell your brain when you feel ‘full’.
Brown fat also becomes activated when you’re cold to give better thermoregulation. Research shows cold exposure makes this layer work harder and more efficiently. As long as you don’t compensate by eating more, by activating your brown fat, you can potentially lose weight or better control your weight.
Benefits of Ice Baths for Weight Loss
Ice baths present a great chance for you to speed up your fitness recovery while boosting your immune system and doing so much more. Many people swear by ice baths as a way to:
- Reduce stress
- Improve sleep quality
- Reduce their anxiety
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce chronic pain
- Improve circulation, and more.
Reduce the Harmful Effects of Obesity
The CDC states that in the US, over 40% of the population was considered to be obese in 2018. Unfortunately, obesity is known to be a contributing factor in heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer which form the leading causes of premature death in the country.
Because ice baths can potentially help you lose weight, research is being done to see how a regular cold plunge might help combat obesity. As described above, ice bath weight loss has been shown to stimulate your body to burn more energy. This is great news!
Some scientists have suggested that people trying to lose weight could benefit from taking a weight-loss drug along with practicing regular cold exposure. For example, cold plunge tubs are built to go as low as 39 degrees Fahrenheit. By safely soaking in your cold plunge regularly (and not increasing your caloric intake to compensate) you can potentially help tackle obesity.
How to Perform Ice Bath for Fat Loss
How long should you soak in cold water to lose weight? How long you sit in your ice bath depends on your tolerance for cold and your personal preferences. Scientific studies haven’t yet shown exactly what the optimal length of time to cold plunge is to activate weight loss.
This being said, those who swear by cold water immersion often stay in anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 or even 15 minutes. It’s not advised that you go beyond this, as this can be dangerous for your health. Start slowly and build up your tolerance over time.
Helpful Tips for Using Ice Baths for Weight Loss
Now that you understand how cold plunging can help with weight loss, you may be ready to take an ice bath at home. Be sure to keep these 3 tips in mind:
Firstly, make sure that you start slow. Don't immediately go to the coldest possible temperature — start where you're comfortable, then gradually lower the temperature each time. If you want, you can even start with cold showers to get your body used to what ice baths will feel like.
Secondly, make sure that you don't stay in the ice bath for too long. Start with 1-2 minutes and then work your way up as you get used to it. Between 2 to 5 minutes is enough time when practiced consistently, multiple times a week.
Lastly, make sure to listen to your body. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, or have any other health concerns, then get out of the ice bath immediately.
Do ice baths burn fat?
Cold exposure activates brown fat, improving thermoregulation without increasing its quantity. Despite not increasing brown fat, cold makes it work more efficiently, potentially aiding weight loss or control, provided you don't overeat in response.
How long should you stay in an ice bath for weight loss?
There's no recommended duration specifically for weight loss in an ice bath. Still, it’s important to prioritize safety and listen to your body. We recommend starting with shorter sessions, around two minutes, before gradually increasing up to 15 minutes as you adapt.
How many calories does an ice bath burn?
An ice bath can burn some calories through cold-induced thermogenesis as the body uses energy to generate heat to maintain core temperature — however, it is only a small amount.
Can ice baths replace a healthy diet and regular exercise for losing weight?
Even with all of their benefits, ice baths alone cannot replace a healthy diet and regular exercise when trying to lose weight. We suggest incorporating cold water therapy as one part of your current wellness and health routine.
Elevate Your Ice Bath with an At-Home Cold Plunge Tub
Immersing yourself in cold water regularly can help boost the efficiency and power of your brown fat. This key point can potentially help you lose weight. As long as you don’t eat extra food to compensate when exiting cold water, you stand to burn extra calories following cold water immersion.
If you are looking to invest in your health and weight loss journey, consider a revolutionary Cold Plunge tub so you can reap all the benefits of ice baths right at home. It’s incredibly user-friendly so all you’ll have to focus on is how awesome you’re going to feel when you start your ice bath routine.
To slip in the ice water and feel the difference, check out our cold plunge tub options! We also offer financing, which you can learn more about here.
Medical disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before beginning a cold plunging routine or any weight loss routine.