Cold Showers and Weight Loss: The Connection

Can a cold shower really be as beneficial as an intense gym session? Some scientist suggest it could burn up to 500 calories.

We all know how intense a cardio session can be. Is there anything worse than seeing that all your hard work barely just burned off your light lunch? It can be very disheartening even to the most seasoned of gym goers. What if there was an easier way, a way in which you could burn double the cals with only half the work? Well, the answer seemingly has been under your nose the whole time. Some scientists are saying that a cold shower is all it takes, according to their research a cold shower can burn up to 500 calories! That’s usually the product of what feels like near death on a treadmill.

So before you weigh up whether it’s really worthwhile to subject yourself to a freezing cold shower (lets be serious no one likes them) during these cold winter and spring months , do some reading. Are these cold hard facts or warm wishful thinking? Here is the scientific theory behind it all.

The Theory

When you’re born you are covered in something called Adipose Tissue which we commonly know as body fat, but on top of this there is another layer known as brown fat aka bat or brown adipose tissue for the more scientifically inclined. Brown fats main function within the body is to generate heat hence why it’s so abundant in Michelin-men looking babies. Throughout adulthood these cells are mainly inactive, unless the body is subjected to cld environments in which they then burn to keep the body warm… see where this is going? Supposedly, if you burn enough brown fat through being cold you should logically burn adipose tissue eventually.

The Problem

Just before you strip down and run to the shower, there are a few problems. Upon research there were no real definitive answers, in fact, way more questions. Firstly,  when searching all over the internet there was not many solid articles or research on the theory and when I did they suggested that the scientific proof was shaky. 

 The average shower length probably lasts, about, what? 3 mins? And that is a nice warm shower that if it wasn’t for water bills we are sure would last a lot longer. Now a cold shower… half of that length. Tops. No one wants to be in a cold shower for that long and you have to take into consideration that a lot of these scientific tests have taken place outdoors for about 2 hours without the power of ice cold shower water piercing their warm skin. Therefore the results between these tests compared to a brief cold wash differs vastly.  Another test actually put subjects in a tube suit filled with cold liquid to get results and unless you have a tube suit laying about I’m sure we don’t have to get into the impracticality of that.

 Most tests also were not testing for calories burnt but rather energy expenditure caused by cold conditions and if they activated brown fat. There is a huge difference between an energy an expenditure of say 30 calories to straight up burning 500 calories like advocates of a cold shower would like you to believe. Yes, the heightened energy expenditure is there no doubt but it begs the question is it really worth it? Enduring a painfully cold shower every day for about 20-70 non-guaranteed burnt calories that could be done in the warm confines of a gym. You aren’t exactly going to get shredded off it.


 Ultimately, it all depends on the amount of Brown Adipose Tissue you have as someone with little adipose tissue may only burn a small amount whereas someone who has it in abundance will clearly have a higher burn rate. The good news is that studies have shown that nowadays young males have a high percentage of Brown Fat therefore if you are in that category the cold showers could work for you a little bit but even then it’s up to you whether to not you think it’s worth your time and discomfort. Realistically the way in which the theory has been advertised as a miracle solution to burn fat is not all truthful and results vary depending on person. If you are currently struggling with a weight issue or simply think your body could do with a slight shape up, it’s probably best to stick with the more traditional and sadly harder methods. Regular exercise, good diet and possibly use this cold shower method as a slight aide because after all, science has proved it to be true… but a miracle quick fix seems to be highly unlikely.

 Have you tried this? What did you think? Drop a comment below and let us know your opinion!

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