Losing 5 Pounds in a Day

I actually gave you a hint in the title of my previous post, Cold, Wet, Hungry, and Running For Your Life. Also, this is not the first time, and since I wrote fairly extensively on it before, I'm going to cover what I did differently and what I did on ocassions when this didn't work.

In a nutshell, it's the cold water, again. However, the gym has in the last few months managed to keep the water at a steady 40 degrees rather than the 50 it used to be. Let me tell you: huge difference and it took quite a while to adapt to spending minutes at that temperature.

So, the fast began around 1:30 PM, after a pretty big breakfast and lunch.

Picture 3

To the left is self explanatory. To the right is leftover sauerkraut, which was Alexander Valley fresh sauerkraut (not caned), which is simply awesome, even uncooked. I had made this in the crock pot a couple of days earlier, with about 3 pounds of pork sparerib, an onion, and lots of caraway seeds. All the pork was gone, but not all the kraut and broth, so I used it with some uncured, gluten free polish sausage. A great way to treat a leftover, making it a new meal entirely.

Around 7 PM or so, as I'm getting hungry, I head down to the gym. So, I'm about 6 hours or so into the fast at this point. The first thing I did differently was to do some intense intervals on the stationary bike under a bit of resistance. I only did 4, 15 seconds each, but I did them all out and I felt it. Amazing what just one minute of exercise can do.

Then I did the sauna, steam, hot tub routine and then hit the 40 degree water. It's really, really cold, but I mitigate by first tucking my fingers into my armpits. Then, I'm in a sqat, and I do leg kicks about as hard as I can, one leg at a time. Frequently and intense enough, I can actually become somewhat warm, and that's what I do until the cold finally has its way. On this night, I was in somewhere between 10-12 minutes. I was surprised. Longest ever in that cold of water. At 50 degrees, I can stay in far longer and don't have to kick or protect the fingers.

Cold shower, which on full cold feels warm, so I just rinse. I feel super invigorated. After a time, I get that feeling that's like you've been in cold but active for an extended period (such as skiing), and while you're cold to the core, you're warm on the surface. I find that a very pleasant feeling and it persits until I hit the sack a few hours later.

And sometime the next morning when I got around to weighing? 4-5 pounds lighter.

The last time I did that, everything was pretty much the same, except for the intervals. That's an idea that came from this post, the idea being to get a good jump on HG production. At any rate, here's what I know doesn't work, as I've tried it many times: eating anytime soon after the cold water.

Most of my workouts are toward the end of a fast, I always hit the cold plunge (sometimes only for 1-2 minutes), but then I typically eat within a couple of hours. I never get a weight drop like that, so, I speculate that even if there's something to this (which I fully admit is speculative in itself), then it must have something to do with performing it at the beginning of a fast, not the end.

And even in this instance, and the reason I delayed this post is that I had my workout the next day at 1:30, at the 24-hr fasted mark. I then did another 6 minuted in the cold plunge, waited until 3:30 and weighed in: no change.

There's quite a lot of stuff out there about the benefits of cold water therapy (it's a huge list). Mark Sisson did a work-up on it a while back, and here's Stephan's treatment. Both posts contain links to actual scientific studies proving a clear health benefit to episodic bouts with extreme cold. I'm sold on it, myself, and would be even without these curious and welcome rapid weight loss escapades.

I've searched in vain to come up with anything related to using cold water to lose fat. Anyone else?

Also, anyone brave enough to duplicate the experiment? If you don't have access to a gym with a cold plunge, perhaps you could find a cold swimming pool, bathtub, or something. However, I'd say that if it's over 50 deg (10 C) that you're going to have a tough time and would have to greatly extend time in water. It's probably some sort of geometric or exponential function with warmer water.

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  1. David on April 26, 2009 at 14:07

    Have a look at the physics of temperature transfer. When immersed in water your body has to expend a LOT of calories to maintain body heat. I think you'll also find that the energy required correleates to the temperature gradient between the two bodies in a non-linear fashion, so the extra 10 degrees would have a significant impact. Consider that the life expectancy of a man overboard in sea water at 0 degrees celcius is extremely short.

    You might also look into the European style of using saunas which involves alternating between heat and cold. The best I ever enjoyed was during the winter in Austria. The hotel's outdoor sauna was the hottest of the 3 dry saunas. Then you walked through the snow to the outdoor pool. I did this 3-4 times a night for about a month. Wonderful.

  2. Sue on April 26, 2009 at 18:11

    Mark had a blog about cold water therapy:

    There was a series called The Diets that time Forgot on Channel 4 (U.K. I think)and they used cold water baths (along with shock therapy, enemas etc)in one of the episodes.

  3. bigbeck89 on April 26, 2009 at 13:24

    I've started hearing a lot about brown fat that activates when you're cold…this idea seems to fit with cold water helping with fat loss.

  4. markD on April 26, 2009 at 14:08


    Art DeVany's EF ideas include some ideas about the benefits of temporary coldness. May I suggest that you share your rescent experimental on his website?

  5. Tom on April 26, 2009 at 15:41

    As mentioned above, I think it's the brown fat (brown due to very high mitochondria content.) Usually dormant (so much so that until recently, adults weren't believed to have any), it switches on in response to cold, burning huge amounts of fat (to generate enough heat to keep core temps high enough to keep us alive.)

  6. John Campbell on April 26, 2009 at 19:45

    Interesting Richard – time to try some cold water therapy – on top of living in Canada, I should be lean and mean in no time.

    Years ago I spent some time at a hot springs alternating between the hot and the cold baths – it was absolutely one of the most invigorating episodes in my life and addictive. I will definitely have to give this a go.

    Please give us more details on your workouts! This stuff is great. Now how did that 5 pounds translate into inches? I am much more concentrating on that right now rather than the pounds. I want to lose a good 2 to 3 inches on my waist and this info is going to help.

    In the meantime – keep up the good work!

  7. MI09 on April 26, 2009 at 12:58

    Thanks for sharing, i will try to duplicate the experiment and i will post my results in 2 weeks.

    The problem is that i have the sauna and the steam at the gym but i don't have a tub with cold water.

    I have 2 alternatives:

    – the first one is to make some sprints near my house and go into tub with cold water from home (skipping the part with sauna and steam)

    – the second one is to go to the gym, hit the sauna and steam after the workout and then make a very cold shower.

    I don't know if i will have the same results

    By the way, when you will update your photo progress?


  8. Richard Nikoley on April 26, 2009 at 13:01

    I don't think the sauna, steam and hot tub have anything to do with it. It just makes that first second into the cold water easier.

    I am currently gaining strength like pretty mad due to a complete changeup of my workouts. I'm guessing my next update will be pretty dramatic, but I want to lean out just a bit more first. I'm making a concerted push to make that happen.

  9. MI09 on April 26, 2009 at 13:19

    Then i'll go for the sprints and right after, the cold tub.

    Keep up the good work!

  10. David Brown on April 26, 2009 at 20:43

    I suspect the above remarks about brown fat activity are close to the mark. However, there is another source of heat; bacterial activity in the gut.

    Heat generated by bacterial feeding and reproductive activity diffuses into the body. Researchers totally ignore this effect when they calculate the total available energy from food. Quoting a 1981 FAO report entitled ENERGY ABSORPTION AND DIETARY FIBRE:

    "The total available energy of a food may be defined simply as its heat of combustion, minus the heat of combustion of the faecal and urinary residues to which it gives rise. Oxidisable urinary losses are derived from excreted protein. Faecal energy losses arise from several sources, including endogenous waste material such as mucus and exfoliated mucosal cells, bacterial cell mass from the intestinal flora, and finally undigested food residues themselves."

    So they take the feces, burn it to determine it's energy content, subtract that figure from known caloric intake, and then assume that the difference is the amount of calories absorbed into the bloodstream.

    I've known for several years that about half of fecal matter consists of dead bacteria. However, it didn't occur to me until recently that heat energy produced in the gut contributes to overall temperature regulation of the body without actually being absorbed into the blood stream. This raises the possibility (or perhaps likelihood) that an increase in fat and protein intake may not cause as much weight gain as would be expected due to a gut bacteria thermogenic effect.

  11. Sue on April 26, 2009 at 21:19


  12. Skyler Tanner on April 26, 2009 at 15:58

    Tim Ferris outlined how steam and sauna are used to drop massive amounts of weight:

    It might not be the only reason for 5lbs of weight loss, but it's at least part of it.

  13. Pam on April 27, 2009 at 05:59

    Interesting article. I'm not sure if I'll ever try it, but it seems an okay way to lose five pounds quickly. Good job and good luck!

  14. Richard Nikoley on April 26, 2009 at 18:32

    I believe I linked Mark's post in my post.

    Richard Nikoley

  15. fizzgigabyte on April 27, 2009 at 11:45

    Love to read another person loves saurkraut!

  16. John Campbell on April 27, 2009 at 13:29

    Isn't it amazing and gratifying to try on old clothes and find out how big and sloppy they are! It is also sobering – I was that big?

    I need to work out more so my shoulders no longer fit my old clothes – too similar in that department!

    I was shopping with my 16 year old son who is just about 1/2 an inch taller than me and we take the same sizes for clothes now – loving this animal thing!

    And I cranked the shower to full on cold this morning to finish off and I have felt great all day – it is really energizing – again great work here! Time to order a tee shirt!

  17. Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2009 at 12:39

    Interesting, David. Thanks for the info.

  18. Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2009 at 12:49

    I don't notice pants being any looser. What is funny is getting out the black suit I got married in eight years ago in order to attend a wedding yesterday, and finding it ridiculously, comically to big for me in the waist, gut, butt area, yet too small in the shoulders.

    My workouts are completely different, most days only 3-4 exercises, all compound, all enough weight to only get 4-5 reps in per set. I'm actually thinking of cutting back to 20 minutes most days, just to up the intensity and volume.

  19. Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2009 at 13:00


    Actually, I should have been more precise. I in no way restricted water or tried to dehydrate, and in fact always take an ice-water into the sauna and steam room with me.

    I go in the sauna to relax, and stay in only until I begin to feel bad, which is only about 8 minutes. Then I go into the steam room for only 2 minutes, just to get the pores sweating nicely. Hot tub is likewise only a minute or two.

    I don't discount that some of that weight was water, but probably through diuretic effect of fasting. I didn't get a chance to see how much of it stayed with me, but the last time, I kept 3 of the 4.5 pounds.

  20. Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2009 at 13:12

    Yep, I've had various experiences at ski reports walking through snow barefoot to get to saunas and hot tubs, and after time in the tub being able to stay wet in the cool air quite a significant time.

  21. Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2009 at 13:19

    Thanks, Chris. I knew I had seen bits and pieces of all that somewhere in various places. Should have searched a bit more.

  22. Richard Nikoley on April 28, 2009 at 13:50
  23. amie on April 28, 2009 at 13:19

    Question: what did your first meal off your fast consist of? I did the low-carb prior to my fast, have worked out hard-core twice, will do one more, then break my fast (how soon should I wait between?) but I assume my next meal should be high in protein. Low-carb again, or just sensible? Thanks…down 2.5 already… (PS I added you in my bloglist of links, hope that's ok)

  24. Richard Nikoley on April 28, 2009 at 07:39

    Wow, Chris. Haven't taken in the whole thing, yet. Lot's there.

  25. Pam Maltzman on April 28, 2009 at 16:45

    BTW, at your recommendation, I've switched over to the Trader Joe's Jumbo Eggs. As you stated, they're a very good value. The yolks are more uniform in size than the Large size eggs, though I have not found any double yolks yet.

  26. Pam Maltzman on April 28, 2009 at 16:47

    For anyone who wants to save some $$, if you like Vitamin Shoppe's merchandise, twice a year, in April and September (full month each time), they have a sale where, if you pay full price for the first item of anything in their house brand, the second one is half off! Including their coconut oil, which is pretty decent and already a good buy. You can also mix and match, I think.

  27. Richard Nikoley on April 28, 2009 at 18:41

    Yea, I only get the doubles very rarely. Still, some of those eggs are might big even with a single yolk.

  28. alfredoe on February 3, 2010 at 13:13

    I am afraid of the cold but I am going to try it

  29. Hazzy on May 7, 2010 at 08:35

    So how often can long fasts (~30 hour) be done each week?

  30. lolo on June 20, 2010 at 00:47

    i used to fast 24hrs. 2/ 3 times per week, it was liberating at first but then it kinda felt unnatural and forced, i mean, drinking water, planing my meals, my fasts, breaking the fasts, etc it was annoying to say the least now i just eat one meal per day ( meat) and thats it, its just so damn easy and WOW much more effective,no maintenance, gained considerable amount of muscle, and my weigth is the lowest in ages ( 32 yeasrs old and 64kg / i was 75kg at 18…)

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