Ice therapy – 5 Steps this Week for improved fat loss

Shivering through showers, hairs on the back of my neck from ice water, and memories of exercising in -25 degree weather – it must be time to test ice therapy! In the book (4 Hour Body), Tim discusses how some people have achieved pretty amazing results by using temperature therapy – namely – ice cold – to achieve faster fat loss. Whether you’re thinking about hitting a cold shower, or trying to find a good ice pack online, you’ll get all the critical information you need right here – along with a few tips that could save you from chattering teeth!

The basics of ice therapy are pretty straightforward – the body needs to mobilize more energy to keep the body’s temperature up, and therefore burns more energy. Assuming everything else is kept constant, like food intake, exercise, and the type of food being eaten, this can help lose fat. There’s a couple of things at work here, and it’s important to know it’s not simply ‘burning more food to keep warm’.

Firstly, the body does use more energy to maintain body heat, so that is technically correct. But there’s much more going on, and it’s this detail that we should be most interested in.

There are two kinds of fat in the body – some is the regular, white fat that you might think of, however there’s a different kind of fat, that sits around muscles and has different functions to that stuff sitting around your belly or your hips.

One of the important functions this ‘brown fat’ has is to burn off fatty acids, and glucose, as heat. Effectively, it can burn off energy, in these two forms (glucose and fatty acids), to provide heat to the muscles and the body in general. This is of a lot of interest for anyone wanting to lose fat – because effectively what this means is that some cold exposure can go a long way, further than the simple equation of extra energy required to keep warm.

So what does this mean for fat loss?

Simply that fat loss comes quicker when cold is involved, and for a few reasons.

And what about that bonus?

Well, as it turns out, the presence of cold also tends to increase lean muscle mass development. The science still isn’t conclusive on this one, but there’s a link. So whilst there’s fat burning off fat, (brown adipose tissue burning off fatty acids, and glucose), you’re also more likely to gain lean muscle. Over time, these differences could really add up.

So how do you test this?

  1. To start, having a good idea of your general rate of fat loss is good. If you’re just getting started, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test cold therapy too, just that you won’t have a baseline to weight the results against.
  2. Approach this like all the other 4 Hour Body experiments – you are going to do something to gain data, so that you will know if it has an affect for you. Everyone’s different, and results may vary. Remember that this isn’t a permanent change in your routine, just some activity to get some feedback.
  3. Get set up for your cold therapy -
    - Buy some (fun optional) ice cube trays, and set up some ice cubes in the freezer (see some awesome examples down the page)
    - Consider buying an ice pack that is larger or better shaped than a regular sports freezer compress (see my recommendation below)
    - Find your favorite stop watch or app on your smartphone
  4. Follow the Cold Therapy Routine included below – Monday to Friday, and measure your results
  5. Check your results compared to other weeks, and decide whether you will continue for another week (or month)!

The routine

Monday – Friday

Morning

Wake up and drink Ice Water – around .5 liters or 17oz

Have a shower (see the cold showers note below) – make it around 5-10 minutes of cold.

Eat breakfast around 30 minutes after drinking the ice water

Evening

Pull an ice pack from the freezer and get comfy on the couch for around 30 minutes – place the ice pack on the back of the neck, or a little lower down.

Take another shower (see the cold showers note below) – 5-10 minutes of cold.

“Take a Cold Shower!”

They help fight off the common cold by improving immune function, they help lean muscle tissue develop, and they even stave off depression, even in those deep winter months.

So why wouldn’t you take a cold shower!? Well, it can be uncomfortable at first, that could be a good reason why you’ve never tried one.

Tips to make Cold Showers easy

Lately, I’ve developed a system where I start with a nice warm shower, and include my head and hair in the process. Once suitably warm and feeling good, I start backing the hot water tap out of the equation, so that the temperature of the water gradually gets cooler.

But there’s one key point to this that can make a world of difference.

For me at least, and I’m willing to be for you, if you avoid running the colder water through your hair, you don’t generally have the same level of discomfort or sensation of cold, when the hot water is taken out of the mix. You feel the cold water, and you are definitely aware that it’s not hot, but it doesn’t send the ‘death chills’ down my spine. Now, of course all things being equal, most likely the colder you feel the more the effects of the cold are working, so I suggest this as a nice intro to cold showers, not as a permanent remedy to that feeling. Once you’re acclimatise to the sensation of cold water on the skin, then it’s time to step up and let the cold water run free – through your hair and all. You’ll barely notice it though, because you’ll be a seasoned pro.

More tips for ice success

You might consider exercising in colder environments, and not ‘rugging up’ like you might otherwise do. You will burn more calories exercise in the cold, and there’s every chance that if you are quite cold, your BAT (brown fat) is going to burn some off keeping things heated. I can attest to the results of cross country skiing in incredibly freezing environments (-30 degrees celsius/-22 degrees farenheit) to being an amazing cure-all to any kind of winter soup binging. No matter how creamy the soup, skiing in these conditions a few times a week will keep anybody lean.

Another pointer is to make it easy on yourself, and to make it fun! I like to use crazy little ice cube makers, to keep things interesting in my water. I’ve included a few of my favorites down below. I also love lemon juice in ice water as a refreshing change from plain water, which tends to be less appetizing first thing in the morning.

From left to right: Space Invaders Ice Cubes, Musical Notes Ice Cubes, and the ‘Hip Hop’ Ice Cube collection (no pun intended):

41hENIHJK3L. SL500 AA300  Ice therapy   5 Steps this Week for improved fat loss31 7JsQbcxL. SL500 AA300  Ice therapy   5 Steps this Week for improved fat loss41xcMUAqDLL. AA300  Ice therapy   5 Steps this Week for improved fat loss

Check out loads more cool ice cube trays here.

Ice Packs

Ice packs tend to come in all sorts of funny shapes and sizes, but none quite the right shape to sit around the base of your neck. I found these great packs online, that I’m recommending to friends now.

Check them out -they have a range of items, but the one I think is the best by far is the cooling neck wrap.

cooling neck wrap 200x112 Ice therapy   5 Steps this Week for improved fat loss

This is the cooling vest that I recommend people use to test.

Cold Hard Facts

I’ve always preferred winter training to summer, because I’ve seen the results it gets faster than it’s summer equivalents. You might think that this is due to the kind of activity, but I’m convinced now, with the science to back it up, that cold can really influence fat loss. For that reason, I’m sticking with ice water, and cold showers Monday to Friday, with the occasional cold pack for good measure. If I find myself in a cold environment, I’ll be only too happy to get outside in as little as possible, and work up a sweat!

I’m sure that with a week or two of testing, you’re likely to see some results too, and it can be as easy as drinking some cold water, and starting the day with a shower! What are you waiting for?

Do you use ice packs, or ice water? Have you got some great results using techniques described in the book? Let us know and share what you think below in the comments!

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24 Responses to Ice therapy – 5 Steps this Week for improved fat loss

  • Pingback: Weather’s changing, feeling “meh” – time to change it up « Slow Carb Goat

  • Linda says:

    I take a warm shower (have a tub/shower), then ease into a cold bath for a 30-45 min soak. My Kindle and phone are in a ziplock baggie, so I soak and read. It works GREAT and I can make the water as cold as I need by adding ice cubes if necessary. It doesn’t take long before you are in really cold water and have no shivers at all.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Linda nice work! And good method of getting used to it as well. I’m sure the distractions help along the way too – nothing worse than sitting there bored and thinking ‘I’m cold’.
      All the best,
      Luke

    • Joel says:

      Luke, have you used the neck wrap above yourself and had measurable results?

      • Luke says:

        Hi Joel,
        My focus has been on muscle gains, so ice therapy hasn’t been a method I have tested personally. My recommendations are based on the book, coaching clients’ and other people’s practical experiences. The neck wraps are incredibly effective at targeting very cold temperatures into the area where BAT (brown adipose tissue) is most prevalent, and this is thought to stimulate BAT burning WAT (white adipose tissue) as energy to maintain bodyheat.
        I do enjoy a freezing cold shower every morning though, to stimulate the immune system and wake up!

        All the best,
        Luke

        • Joel says:

          I’ve used ice packs in the past and have had measurable results. In fact, I’ve seen it to be as effective as PAGG.

          Right now I’m trying to lose a few stubborn pounds, but I’m working a ton right now so sitting on the couch with an ice pack on my neck for 30 minutes a night doesn’t really fit into my lifestyle right now. So that ice pack you have pictured looks like it may allow me to work and get the benefits at the same time. I shot a note to the company to get specs on the pack and decided to get one. I should know pretty quick how effective it is.

          • Luke says:

            Hey Joel,
            Thanks for sharing your experiences! It sounds like these packs will work well for you! I usually use a (freezing) cold shower in the morning.
            I’d be interested to hear what you think of the packs!
            Luke

  • Ed says:

    inexpensive and flexible ice pack – A few years ago, I was diagnosed with two herniated disks. The absolute best treatment during flare-ups is cold treatment to relieve swelling of the spinal cord. I had a physical therapist give me this tip . . . Buy one of the old style “hot water bottles”, typically red, from your favorite drug store and fill it with water and rubbing alcohol in a mixture of 2 parts water to 1 part alcohol. Put it in the freezer. It will “freeze” with the mixture only getting slushy, not hard. It will adapt to the contour of your body regardless of where you put it (and never directly on the skin). After use, just put it back in the freezer.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Ed,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences. Great tip, and I think this is something I will be doing!!

      Cheers,
      Luke

  • Fatty Arbuckle says:

    My routine is to place one cold pack on my chest and one on my back and hold them in place with one of those stretchy waist belts (the one’s that are supposed to burn belly fat). I also put a smaller ice pack in a velcro shoulder wrap and place it on the back of my neck. This wacky set up allows me to walk around if need be.

    Sometimes I’ll just keep them on for much longer than the 30 minutes – I figure why not? I few times I’ve actually worn them to bed.

    Not sure how much of a factor it is in my weight loss, but ice packs are an easy, painless, cheap bonus technique. As for those showers…I’ve done it twice and, well, I’ll just stick to the packs for now.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Fatty,
      Nice technique!! I’m sure there’s a few readers who will give this a shot. The showers are tough, and we’re I’m from we simply don’t live a life of 10 minute or 15 minute showers, as water conservation is a major part of the culture. So, the ice packs are not only convenient, but great for anyone who doesn’t like the idea of lots of drinking water going down the drain!
      Cheers,
      Luke

  • Dino says:

    My friend just started to experiment with ice pack, will see what his results will be. His grandma actualy made him a pocket on a T-shirt so he can put a cold gel pack in it.
    It wasn’t actualy his idea, we saw “LOOSING WEIGHT WITH ICE T-SHIRT” on EBay :

  • Dino says:

    My mother is also using that T-shirt for two weeks now. She is also taking cold showers and drinks cold water in the morning.
    She lost 24 centimeters(arms,legs,hips,…combined) in two weeks ! She didn’t loose any weight, only centimeters.

    • Luke says:

      Wow Dino that’s a great result for your mother!! The cold therapy really does have a significant effect.
      Thanks for sharing the results.
      Luke

  • Neil says:

    Hi Luke,
    I have been using a combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods plus water and a regular walk after each meal to help with my weight loss. last night, purely by accident I left the air conditioner on in my bedroom. I just sleep with a sheet as it is summer here in oz and when I weighed myself in the morning I had lost the expected .8 kgs from my regumen plus another 1.2 kgs. total 2 kgs. I am going to try your recommendation. I know too quick weight loss is not good but now I know why I lost the weight after reading this article.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Neil,

      That’s really interesting! That seems like a very large amount overnight, so perhaps there was something else involved too, but ice therapy, and being cold in general definitely helps burn up more bodyfat. Specifically in those areas where there’s brown fat. Interestingly, there seems to be a similar effect between being hot and build muscle a little faster.

      All the best! Hope you’re having a great summer.

      Luke

  • Hi Luke says:

    Im trying ice pack therapy on my stomach, i just started. I will use the tip about mixing water with alcohol, Ive taken the other tip posted about the shirt with the ice pack holder, im using a top with a build in bra, and wearing the bra or top part over my abdomen, i was using a nautilus, which works pretty good.

    We will see how this works!!

    Thanks

    • Luke says:

      Hey thanks for your comment.
      The best spot to target the cold is around the upper back, between the shoulder blades and up to the neck. There’s a big brown fat deposit there which will ramp up your metabolism for burning fat for heat.

      All the best with it!
      Luke

  • Pingback: Brrr! Can cold showers really help you lose weight? Time to separate fact from fiction | Rock Your Body

  • Barbara says:

    HEY LUKE, I’VE HAD FIVE ACL RECONSTRUCTIONS TO MY KNEES AND PUT A LOT OF WEIGHT ON DURING THE REHAB TIME. I NOTICED THAT I HAD SIGNIFICANT WIEGHT LOSS FROM NOVEEMBER 2012 TO MARCH 2013, BUT THEN THE WEIGHT PILED BACK ON, SO FUSTRATING!!! THE ICE THEARPY MAKES SENCE NOW. I WILL GIVE IT A TRY AND POST MY RESULTS IN TWO WEEKS, THANKS :) ) BARBARA

    • Luke Starbuck says:

      Hi Barbara, it looks like your caps lock key is stuck!
      I’m glad the ice therapy makes sense – what was the change that created the weight gain this year?
      Luke

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