I’m first going to generally recap some of my thoughts surrounding the goings on over my previous post covering this topic, now standing at 895 comments. The post covered the controversy over Dr. Jack Kruse and his ideas concerning a “Leptin Reset” and “Cold Thermogenesis.”
What I think was accomplished more than anything is what I described in a comment back at the 715 comment mark:
There are now 715 comments, all in one place. Not a single word edited or moderated, and perhaps best of all, contains lots from Jack’s most knowledgeable and well-spoken critics, as well as knowledgeable and well-spoken supporters. And the whole thing is laced with testimonials both successful and unsuccessful.
And there’s comic relief with lots of vulgarity. All in one place, here for anyone with an interest or curiosity in Jack to see. Unbiased, unmoderated, raw, and all the best voices.
That’s what got done.
Yes, there is lots of other info in other places, like Jack’s site, PaleoHacks, Mark Sisson’s forums. But I think this will prove to be more accessible and complete in terms of neutrality. But now, I kinda want to move away from that thread and begin a new one focussing in specifically on the area of cold adaptation and its benefits.
Before I get to that, what are my general impressions? Stream of consciousness time:
- Jack is certainly a personality, a character, and there are others out there as well. Some oppose Jack, others don’t know, and still others embrace what he’s trying to do.
- I think Jack’s narrative over all of this is a bit overwrought or hyperbolic, and I hope he tones it down going forward. Judging by his podcast with Abel James—recorded after my post, when comments were at 400—Jack has toned down the narrative, a bit, so maybe he had an opportunity to integrate some of the “feedback” prior to his interview. Time will tell.
- About the podcast: I get a lot of mentions in it, throughout. I have to say that when he told me what his Factor X is (during the phone call he describes) I was interested and intrigued. I wouldn’t use the term “blown away” as he does. I also understand how these things work. No biggie.
- One thing the comment thread demonstrated to me is there are lots of folks less concerned with why any of Jack’s protocols might work than whether they simply work or not. That’s basically where I’m at myself. I think that’s the best place to be when things appear reasonable (the Leptin Reset and Cold Thermogenesis…NOT injecting staph bacteria) and one doesn’t know for sure, one way or the other. Knowing is good, but unnecessary for self experimentation within the bounds of reasonableness.
Now onto the cold adaptation itself. One thing I came to realize, reading the accounts of some who’ve been having a good time of it, is that I miss it. It’s been a year or so since I left my old gym and while I have access to a swimming pool, I suspect they keep that around 80. Not quite 40. So, here’s my solution. I’m getting one of these livestock watering troughs for $150. It’s 75L x 31W x 25H. Should be perfect for getting pretty much up to the neck in the backyard. I already have a box freezer in the garage, which should hold 3-4 5-gallon buckets I can fill with water and freeze. Then I experiment.
The reason I’m looking forward to it is to seek out the optimal temperature vs. exposure within the flexibility of having the thing right here at home, outside. Is 15 minutes at 40 deg better than 30 minutes at 80 deg, or is 22 minutes at 60 degrees ideal? Once, twice, three or five times per week? Before a workout or after? Ultimately these are all things for which we might be able to suggest starting guidelines but each individual is going to have to refine it for themselves.
And what are the standards for progress? Fat loss? Better sleep? Better tolerance to cold? Better immunity and health? Or all, or some combination?
Well, a few days ago a visitor showed up in comments who’s himself a longtime expert in the use of cold for various things like fat loss and training recovery. He had a TEDMED 2010 talk a while back about it. Nine minutes. Take a look.
Here’s Ray’s blog. For those wondering about his non-ideological experimenting with a plant-based diet, here’s his comment on that. Here’s a bit about Iceman Wim Hoff, mentioned in the video, and an article in Science Daily that speaks somewhat to the more controversial aspects of Jack Kruse‘s experiments, i.e., resistance to bacterial infection.
Wim Hof is well known for his remarkable activities in extremely low temperatures. Hof claims that he can influence his autonomic nervous system and thereby suppress his immune response through concentration and meditation.
To investigate this, Hof was administered endotoxin while practising his concentration and meditation technique. During this experiment, various measurements were performed, including brain activity, autonomic nervous system activity and inflammatory mediators in the blood.
Pickkers said: “After endotoxin administration, the increase of the stress hormone cortisol in Hof was much more pronounced compared to other healthy volunteers. We know that this hormone is released in response to increased autonomic nervous system activity and that it suppresses the immune response. In accordance, the levels of inflammatory mediators in Hof’s blood were much lower. On average, Hof’s immune response was decreased by 50 percent compared to other healthy volunteers. In addition, hardly any flu-like symptoms were observed. These results are definitely remarkable.
Hmm. Counter-intuitive to me, because it seems one would want to mount a greater immune response. Or is it that it’s an overblown immune response to something that’s what gets you, not the pathogen itself? I seem to recall that for influenza, what kills people is the immune response turned to a positive feedback mechanism.
Turning the issue of how much heat is lost, here’s what Ray wrote in comments.
The generic number I came up with about three years ago when working with Tim on The 4 Hour body is that the energy to melt, and raise to body temperature, 66 lbs of ice = 1 lb of fat (3500 Kcals).
later I did a one dimensional solution to Founier’s law and then a more sophisticated model using mathematics that took into account skin thickness, adipose tissue, and muscle.
It turns out that sitting in 27C water (80F), which is where mild cold stress begins, burns about 2.4x RMR or for the average 100 watt human, or about 240 watts. This was compared to actual measurements of metabolism that range about 230-270W, so I considered it solved. (btw, using watts here as that takes into account time so that 1 watt is .86 kcal/hour ).
Another way to look at it is that sitting in 80 deg water for an hour a day would be metabolically akin to burning energy for 25.4 hours per 24-hour day. The key is not to increase you food intake to account for it. So, it’s fat loss not by eating less or moving more, but expending more heat.
Here’s Ray’s general guidelines for exposure.
Water temperature less than 60F/15.5C and air temperature less than 32F/0C are great lines of WARNING. in temperatures lower than this there is a chance of hypothermia. Walking hypothermia can be very serious (google it) and so it stands to reason when you go below these thresholds it’s 1) at your own risk and 2) should be done with caution.
That being said, cardiac response is rare, but happens with sudden cold shock. The best source I have for those of you that want to evaluate the overall depth of physiological responses is the Journal of Applied Physiology.
I will add that this article is not dealing necessarily with those trained, but everyone should recognize a lot of similar information surrounding the subject and see that it’s pretty well documented. There are literally 3 binders on my desk of papers (I haven’t learned to keep them on my iPad yet and have to print to really study).
So, Adam is correct in that there are no bright lines, only “guidelines.” What Richard and others have described here is also true – it’s an endorphin rush and absolutely is oddly addictive (I hated to be cold when I started). For the record, Wim gets cold, wears coats, and feels the initial pain. He can push past it better than anyone I’ve seen, but he isn’t a genetic freak as everyone dismissed him as for years.
I think the method is to ease into this and the others here that are pressing how serious this can be, please heed that warning. I think everyone can learn to do it and it will have a measurable, positive impact on metabolism and overall immunity, but I also think we need not be reckless. […]
I think in water/air above those thresholds you are free to play within reason and incidentally, we are finding all the repeatable, documented positive benefits seem to be equally obtained in mild vs extreme exposure. Below that, think about what you are doing.
So, there you go. Maybe it’s not necessary to go into the 40-50 deg range at all, that more towards 60 is OK. From own experience when I was doing 40ish deg for 15 minutes post-workout twice per week, when the cold plunge pool was on the fritz and the temp climbed to the 55-60 deg range it was a huge difference. I felt as though I could remain in the water indefinitely and also, it was a lot less “painful” for those first few minutes.
Ray and I have been shooting some emails back & forth and I asked him about other questions and issues he thinks should be considered.
- Does cold exposure make you fat? Insulation hypothesis.
- Must we eat a paleo (or vegan) diet?
- Must we do ice baths or extreme exposure to gain benefit?
- How long have these studies been conducted?
- How about the gut as an endocrine organ, and does cold therapy have any connection to it?
Alright, I’m sure Ray will be around in comments to help us hash all of this out.
Finally, here’s this, just for a lighthearted chuckle. It didn’t escape Melissa McEwen’s notice that Jack is a neurosurgeon and that Ray used to work as a scientist at NASA. Here’s That Mitchell & Webb Look, 2 minutes.
Update: OK, I have a send post up, this one about my mad dash this morning to get all set up and what my first cold water exercise in over a year was like. 26 minutes at just over 50 degrees, up to the neck.