It’s winter and you shiver as you trudge through the sloppy parking lot of slush and salt. Jumping into your car, the seat heater goes on and heat is blasted out of the vents to warm you up.
When you arrive home, the house is a toasty 72F and you strip down to take a hot shower. Finally, you jump into bed under a mound of covers.
Meanwhile, your distant ancestors spent much of the day OUTSIDE in the cold and without many clothes.
They were cold adapted and could spend long hours outdoors.
They would jump into a lake or stream to wash off. Yes, without clothes and while the air temperature was near zero.
What we’ve found in modern life is that using cold has HUGE benefits. When we turned on central heating and put heaters in our cars, we lost a key aspect of human health.
Now, we all pay $75 to spend 2 minutes in a cryo chamber or pay $150 for cold sculpting.
Forget cryotherapy chambers that you pay big bucks for! Cold therapy is FREE.
Our ancestor's bodies were adapted to make use of cold. So are ours.
The problem is we never get cold anymore. Our world is so nerfed that our bodies never experience much beyond room temperature.
We all know that the concept of epigenetics runs our healthspan and that our environment determines what genes we express. Epigenetics and thus your environment and is a huge deal for health.
Basically, if we have a genetic predisposition for breast cancer, we don’t ever have to get breast cancer if we tune our environment in such a way that those genes are never expressed.
The same goes with diabetes, obesity, and more.
Well, when our environment doesn’t vary much and therefore we lose the benefit of genes that are turned on in response to cold, guess what?
Cold Exposure is Important
When we expose ourselves to cold, our bodies go through a process of cold adaptation. Some people claim that the cold adaptation process is built into us from the time long ago when the dinosaurs went extinct. Supposedly a meteor hit the Earth and created an ice age. When that happened, cold adapted mammals survived in unique ways.
We can take advantage of the unique benefits of cold that are coded into our DNA.
The meteor that hit the earth caused decades, no, centuries of cold temperatures as ash covered the earth and filled the atmosphere blocking out the sun (kind of like Harvard wants to do today…what?).
As much of the world became covered in ice humans adapted to and lived with cold nearly everywhere. This was known as the ice ages. Believe it or not the ice ages only ended recently. All the talk of global warming ignores the mega trends the earth is and always has gone through.
Our bodies adopted mechanisms to deal with cold that kept us healthy. In fact, this had become a necessary part of being human, at least for those living in an environment that got cold at least for some part of the year. Up until VERY recently we still got cold in the winter. But today, we almost never get cold. Feeling like you are cold at work when it’s 69 degrees in the room doesn’t count.
We never used to have central heating and because heat was expensive, most people did not heat their homes at night. We spent more time outside.
Today we never get to use our cold adapted mechanisms anymore. We’re missing a huge part of our biology.
Cold Exposure done safely can
- Improve sleep
- Burn body fat
- Activate brown fat
- Allow you to eat more and weigh less
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve athletic performance
- Extend your lifespan
- Reduce stress in all situations
- Make you more tolerant to heat
- Improve brain function
Shivering has been shown to deplete muscle glycogen similar to an intense workout, thus increasing human growth hormone (HGH) which builds lean muscle and burns fat. It’s possible you can lose weight without even working out if you get cold.
Safe Cold Exposure Process
Don't go out and jump in a frozen lake your first time working with the cold!
But don’t think it’s impossible to jump in a frozen lake either. I've done it and lived. Yes, there’s a group of us that voluntarily cut holes in the ice and soak in the cold water all winter in Minnesota. Mostly, these are Russians and there’s a lot we can learn from them.
I've seen many people jump in their first time, freak out, and immediately jump out and run. Their bodies are in fight or flight mode, and they will likely never try it again.
Do it right, and it'll be fairly easy and far more likely to stick, allowing you to reap the benefits.
- Read Jack Kruse's CT [Cold Thermogenesis] Start guide
- Start with face plunges into ice water. Hold your breath and plunge your face into a sink or bowl filled with cold water. Repeat a few times and work up to keeping your face in as long as possible.
- Wear fewer clothes when you leave the house. Bring warm clothes with you but start out with just a t-shirt in the winter and no hat. Cover up only when you just can't stand the cold anymore
- Open your windows when you drive in the winter.
- Try a cold shower for 2 minutes at the end of your warm shower
- Next, take a cold bath that you’ve added ice to. 55F is the right water temperature. You don’t need to go colder. Put on a hat, some mittens, and possibly even some scuba neoprene boots while in the tub to keep your extremities warm. You don't need to be super uncomfortable. Just get your skin temp down to 50-55F. Spend 5 minutes. Work your way up to 30 minutes max.
- Now you're ready to get cold! Find a group and introduce yourself. Watch them cut a hole in the ice and prepare yourself. When it’s your turn, take a breath, relax. It’s going to be cold, so don’t be shocked when it’s cold. Your body WILL have a stress response. You will want to scream and jump out. This is mental toughness. Smile and relax. You are not going to die. Spend about 1 minute and be done. It takes time to adapt to spending more time in the water. You can eventually work up to 5-10 minutes. This is true cold!
- Honestly, you do not have to ever do that. It’s unnecessary. You can just keep using a cold tub or even begin walking outside in the cold with few clothes. You never have to move past this stage to get the benefits of cold adaptation.
Once you have cold adapted you will be able to walk to your car in the parking lot comfortably in a t-shirt while your friends are shivering in their parkas.
The small amount of discomfort you experience as you cold adapt leads to far more comfort in the cold from then on.
In February, we’re running a retreat in Minnesota where we’ll teach you how to cold adapt properly. We combine expert instruction, cold, sauna, amazing meals together in the magical north woods.
We’d love for you to join us. Most people who come have zero cold experience and we’ve even had participants from Argentina and Australia!