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Do Cold Showers Help You Lose Weight? (Backed by Research)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 9, 2022

Being in the cold water was once a dare, but these days, people mimic that feeling by taking cold showers — and they do it to burn calories.

Word of this went around my clients, and many enquired if it could help them lose weight. Since I was skeptical and, more importantly, did not want them to do something dangerous, I spent a couple of weeks researching the matter.

My findings will answer whether a cold shower can help you lose weight or not.

Quick Summary

  • Taking a cold shower may help you with weight loss by activating healthy brown fat that helps eliminate unhealthy adipose fat (white fat).
  • Icy showers have various benefits, like temporary mental alertness, and can help build long-term mental toughness.
  • Contrary to popular belief, icy showers are not proven to boost your immunity or give you better skin and nails, nor are they a quick weight loss solution.

Can Cold Showers Help Burn Fat?

A buff male taking a shower

Yes, cold showers can burn fat. However, it doesn't burn as much fat as you think.

The concept of icy showers burning fat comes from the idea that exposure to cold temperatures helps you lose weight and activate brown fat to increase body temperature.

While it’s true your body burns more calories in cold exposure in an attempt to generate heat and keep your body warm, you don’t burn a significant amount [1].

When you get into icy water, your body temperature dips slightly.

As a response, your body burns calories to generate heat and get to a stable body temperature.

There's a theory that a cold shower can burn brown fat (also called brown adipose tissue).

The idea is that “white” fat cells store calories for future use, whereas brown fat cells burn to generate body heat. So, unlike normal fat tissue, brown fat is metabolically active.

Studies have shown that when activated by cold temperatures, two ounces of brown fat can burn 500 calories a day to keep your body warm [2].

While it's true that cold temperature triggers brown fat production to increase your metabolism, the effects are not as intense as you think [3].

Cold exposure can have a counter-effect by increasing your appetite, making it easy to regain all your burned calories [4].

“Cold water therapy or cold water immersion can increase someone’s metabolic rate — the rate at which they burn calories — so in theory, if you’re exercising in cold water or exposed to it, you will burn more calories.”

- Dr. Caroline A. Andrew, Weight Management Specialist

Related: How Does The Body Burn Fat?

How Do Icy Showers Increase Weight Loss?

Icy showers may lose weight fast by increasing your body’s metabolism.

A study in 2000 found that cold immersion at 14 ºC increased metabolism by 350% [5]. And if your metabolism is high, whether you’re exercising or at rest, your body burns more calories [6].

But as we saw in a previously referred study, the number of calories burned is very low.

Are There Any Risks?

A person with a towel on his neck holding his head and clenching his teeth

Yes, there are a few risks in taking icy showers, like potential cardiovascular issues.

If you’re careful about when and how you take your cold showers, you can run into the following problems.

Hypothermia

While icy showers can leave you refreshed and rejuvenated, they can also be deadly. Lengthy ice showers can be especially dangerous because they can put you at risk for hypothermia.

Even a few minutes of exposure to icy water could make your body temperature dip.

Symptoms include slowing down of reflexes, fatigue, and muscle weakness [7].

If your body temperature drops, it could also negatively affect your heart function.

Not for People With Heart Conditions

Because a sudden gush of icy water can shock your body, it's especially dangerous for people with heart disease.

This is because the shock could trigger a heart attack or heart-rhythm irregularities [8].

Benefits From Taking Them

There are some benefits to taking icy showers [9].

Below are a few:

  • The sudden shock of an icy shower can increase blood flow, help you wake up, and be more alert
  • Some clients reported that starting off their day with an icy shower helped them build mental strength
  • Taking daily icy showers may support your immunity
  • It can trigger brown fat growth, which burns calories

What’s a Safer Fat-Burning Alternative?

A buff person lifting a dumbbell

Some safer yet natural fat-burning alternatives to icy showers are working out, going on a calorie deficit, and taking natural fat burner supplements.

Provided you’re working out and eating a healthy diet, taking natural fat-burning supplements would be a much safer alternative to icy showers.

Compared to the minimal effects a cold shower can have, fat burner pills do so much more.

They burn stored fat, prevent extra fat accumulation, and boost your energy levels so you can burn more calories while working out.

FAQs

Will Taking a Cold Shower Every Day Affect My Health?

Yes, taking a cold shower every day may affect your health. Extreme cold showers may be harmful if you’re not careful about factors like outside temperature, length of your showers, and any personal medical conditions.

Can Taking Longer and Colder Showers Burn More Fat?

Yes, taking longer and colder showers may burn more fat. However, it will only burn a very minimal amount of fat.

Is an Ice Bath More Effective Than a Cold Shower?

Yes, short ice baths may be more effective than cold showers. Studies found that 50–60 ºF (11–15 ºC) ice baths for 11–15 minutes are the most effective.

Do the Benefits of Cold Showers Outweigh the Risks?

Cold showers may sound like an exciting and rugged way to lose fat, but it seems that there are at least just as many risks as potential benefits.

Along with diet and exercise, there are better ways to shed fat, like taking natural fat burners, for example: 

We’ve tried and tested these products, and they seem to be a safe way to increase your energy levels, burn stored fat, slow down fat production, and control your appetite.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18335051/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21521287
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21490370
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20798665
  5. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s004210050065.pdf
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/does-metabolism-matter-in-weight-loss
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html
  8. https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/EP086283
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/pdf/pone.0161749.pdf

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