Putting it All Together: Moderate Carb Paleo, Resistance Training & Kettlebells, Intermittent Fasting and Cold Thermogenesis

This is the post I was planning on drafting for last Monday when disaster struck, and I simply decided immediately to put everything off for a week that I was doing and had planned.

Cold Thermogenesis

I’ll start at the end, since it’s the newest thing. A month or so ago I first began to blog about Cold Thermogenesis (CT), followed it up with another, and then just shy of a month ago, renewed my own experiments with my own 150-gallon backyard tub.

There’s also been a few others I’m aware of who’ve weighed in on the issue:

  • Keith Norris @ Theory to Practice: Cold Thermogenesis…or Core Cooling?
  • Dave Asprey @ Bulletproof Exec: Cold Thermogenesis in Tibet, and the Dangers of Biohacking Made Real
  • Michael Smith @ Critical MAS: Cold Weather Training
  • Kevin Cottrell @ Jack Kruse’s Optimized Life (guest post): Cold Thermogenesis 11: Paleo Fx to Practice (be sure to check out the impressive test results reported by Cottrell in massively lowering his CRP, a marker for systemic inflammation, by 90% in a month)

And so, from April 9th until now, I’ve been in the tub most days (perhaps 5-6 days I haven’t been in and 3 of those were because of being out of town). I’ve tried not to make a big deal about it in terms of water temperature or time. At first, I set two 5-gallon buckets of water in the box freezer and then used those to bring the temp down.

IMG 0903
IMG 0905
Big Cocktail

Thing was, I’d been away for nearly a week (used an unheated pool at one place for 2 days, temp ~60ish) and so had no idea how long it took to freeze 10 gallons of water solid. I used both of them upon my return to get that water down to around 50. I refilled the buckets and more than a day later they were still not solid, which I didn’t know until I put them in the tub and when the ice slid out, discovered that the wall thickness of the ice was only about a half inch (though the water pocket inside was very cold).

So, besides just the pain of having to refill those buckets and wait, it’s not very feasible anyway—and I’m just not the sort of person who’s ever going to go buy bagged ice to dump in the water. Time to rethink.

First step was to get the tub out of the sun, so I drained it and moved it under the patio cover. This worked well. I can refresh to some extent each time with the garden hose that’s running about 54 deg right now, or drain entirely and refill, which is good for the lawn anyway. Refreshing it each day is also nice for skimming off the dust floating on the top, as it just runs over the side.

We had some hot weather and it got up to around 60 or more, but with cooler days recently, it was down to 52 yesterday. Today it got to 90 outside, but this evening the tub had only reached 60. So, to sum it up, I’m going to go with whatever the tap temperature is, year round. I figure it’ll be under 50 for all of the winter months solid, and at height of summer, somewhere 65-70 at most and maybe even less on a refill.

This is plenty good enough. Having it outside for the evenings when the temperature dips helps a lot. It also must be noted that I get all the way in, right up to my mouth; but if I was in a bathtub, no way to do that. And I’m not the slightest bit interested in packing myself in bags of ice. So, again, what’s better? Colder, but not fully submerged; or a bit warmer, variable temperature but all the way in? I think you know where I see the tradeoffs shaking out.

In terms of time, it’s been as little as 15 minutes and as long as 35 with the average probably falling in the 20-25 minute range. I was not aiming for any specific results, yet, but rather to simply get used to doing it nearly every day and making it a habit that I’d enjoy, and that has certainly been the case. Today, for instance, I was over at our swim club and did a 30 minute light, leisurely swim in water that’s likely somewhere in the 70-75 range. And just a few minutes ago, after dinner, I did 15 minutes in my own tub.

…I have obtained one very specific result. I’m a bit hypothyroid and have been for years, with elevated TSH, but low normal for both T3 and T4. The only symptom I suffer that I’m aware of is cold hands and feet sometimes. Well, and this was pretty amazing, but from my very first session almost a month ago, 26 minutes at 52 degrees, I have not experienced cold hands or feet a single time. Not once. In fact, I sometimes feel as though I’m radiating heat off the palms of my hands and soles of my feet. Weird.

Other results include phenomenal sleep and a general sense of having a far wider comfort zone for whatever the ambient temperature is. I’m comfortable when it’s 60 deg in the house when I get up, and comfortable now, when it’s 77 inside the house. And I didn’t even know it got up to 90 outside today until I saw the temp while in my car.

The strangest, most counter-intuitive thing I’ve experienced, however, is this: 60 degree water is colder than 50 degree water. Of course, what I mean by that is it feels colder and I feel colder faster, shiver sooner. At 50 degrees, I have no problem staying in for 30 minutes, feel warm for the first 10 minutes, and don’t begin feeling really cold until about the 20-minute mark. At 60 degrees I begin feeling really cold in the 10-15 minute range and at 20 minutes I’m really itching to get out. My speculation is that 50, and perhaps even down to 40 (which I used to do at the gym), is a “sweet spot” where your body mounts a bigger defensive response and thus doesn’t feel as cold as quickly as 60. The takeaway for those experimenting with this—dipping their toe in the water as it were—is if you don’t get the water down to 50, you may feel as though you can’t adapt, and give up.

Moderate Carb paleo

Calories absolutely count. I can’t believe I ever fell for the Low Carb Myth (LCM) that they don’t. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t see anything wrong with being LC if that’s what you like. In fact, and get this: cold adaptation via CT may just turn out to be the grand unifying theory for how to make LC work for you without having some of the problems people report (such as cold hands and feet). A paleo LC diet is very satiating—since it replaces empty calories with nutrient dense fat and protein. CT isn’t going to do any magic, but it is going to make you burn through a few more hundred calories per day, and if you can manage to not feed your face more, you just may break through that LC plateau so many hit at about 20% body fat (more for women).

But as with CT above, I want things as simple and natural as possible. I don’t want to count, I don’t want to do nutrient breakdowns. Rather, I want to eat a varried diet and not worry about eating starch or not eating starch. I want to eat paleo and eat what I want, when I want. And throw in dense nutrition often, like tonight’s meal: liver and sautéed kale (with onions, bacon, garlic and sprinkled with vinegar).

Beef Liver
Sautéed Kale

That’s the most nutrient dense animal food meets the most nutrient dense vegetable food.

Resistance Training and Kettlebells

While I’ve done some form of resistance training all along, and even the Leangains protocol, I’d never done much but some kettlebell swings and presses at the gym I used to go to. A week or so after getting my tub in the backyard, I got these:

IMG 0909
Kettlebell Friends

There’s a 26, 35 and a 44 pound bell and I really love them. Mostly, I’ve just been having fun with them in a totally random fashion almost daily. Could be for a couple of minutes, or 5 or 10. Little to no structure. One of my favorites is simply standing straight up, feet together, hands at sides, and with the 44 pounder, simply begin swinging it around your body, switching hands at the front and the back. Do it clockwise 10 or 20 times, then the reverse. First time I did it, my biceps were more sore than 2 sets of curls at 95 pounds. And, my traps and delts got a workout too.

I’ll probably be getting one in the 70 pound range soon.

Intermittent Fasting

I’ve mostly been doing the Leangains fasting method for quite a while now, most days, and mostly just because I usually don’t feel like eating before 11 or noon anyway, and am usually done eating by 8 pm. Martin Berkhan & I never did get to that post on fasting, but of course, I have tons of posts on intermittent fasting going way back, including doing my workouts in a fasted state.

Beginning a few hours ago I began the first full, no-shit 24-hour fast I’ve done in some time.

Putting It All Together

The last month has been a lot of experimenting, particularly with the CT and the Kettlebells. So now it’s time to put all the foregoing theory into integrated practice. I’ve got around 20, maybe 25 pounds of fat to lose, still, so this will be a 10-week program I’m embarking on, with the aim of dropping about 2 pounds per week. Here’s how it’s envisioned now, but I may adjust things as I go:

  • Moderate Carb paleo: Low to moderate carb on rest days; high protein, moderate-to-high carb and low fat on post workout days. No counting, just a general sense. The two post fast/workout/CT meals per week will be huge lean protein and huge starch/fruit.
  • Resistance Training & Kettlebells: One structured 30-minute fasted workout per week with the bells; and a structured, Leangains style 30-40 minute fasted workout per week heavy (dead lifts, leg presses, standing presses, weighted chins, seated cable rows…maybe some light bench presses). I may add some intervals or sprints once per week.
  • Intermittent Fasting: Two 24-30 hour water, unsweetened iced-tea and black coffee-only fasts. These generally go from noon to dinner the next day or, if a shorter fast, late afternoon to dinner the next day. In the late afternoon before breaking the fast, I’ll get in the workout and a session in the cold water.
  • Cold Thermogenesis: Every day for at least 30 minutes, post-workout and fasted on my two fasting days. On days when I swim at the club, I may shorten the CT sessions to 15 minutes minimum.

So there it is. Ten weeks beginning today and who knows, maybe pretty much forever beginning today, with fasting being scaled back to once per week.


  1. Glen on May 6, 2012 at 23:07

    So why moderate/low carb? What happened to the potato as a staple food thing? You seemed very excited about it a little while back.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2012 at 23:13

      Potato is moderate carb. And I never used the word staple once, nor implied any such thing.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2012 at 23:13

      I’ll be eating plenty of potato, if that answers your comment better.

      • Glen on May 6, 2012 at 23:26

        Yep that does answer my comment better.

        I’m not trying to be argumentative or anything but back in this posting https://freetheanimal.com/2012/02/why-low-carb-for-everyone-advocate-kevin-geary-got-himself-banned.html you did use the word staple.

        I would have thought potato would fall under the high carb category since it sits at about 80% carbs. Don’t have anything against potato – I’m just wondering.

      • unknown on May 7, 2012 at 02:23

        What potatoes are you talking about, exactly? Pringles?

        Most vegetables are predominantly water by weight.

      • Glen on May 7, 2012 at 02:45

        Just going off what is here: http://bit.ly/zXbN8e which gives 82% carb & 18% protein. I’d always assumed it was the calorie content that determined whether you’d label something high or low carb. If we’re talking by weight then I guess that’s a different way of looking at it.

      • Stephen K on May 7, 2012 at 04:07


        I assume Richard is referring to the carb content of his diet as being moderate, rather than the carb content of the individual vegetables he eats.

  2. Hipparchia on May 7, 2012 at 03:59

    I arrived at a similar program, although in the girly version. I accidentally became cold-adapted over an unusually cold winter, so now it’s kettlebells, cooling off and eating food.

    I don’t have any fat to lose, but I am looking for a regular thing to do to keep me a happy and curious animal, full of energy.

    This blog has been a great resource to learn the basics, and a great inspiration to continue on a path that is best suited to me.

  3. Todd on May 7, 2012 at 06:09

    Any low level activity like walking or just whatever you do in a day?

  4. Matt L on May 7, 2012 at 06:57

    Richard, been enjoying your recent posts. Question – any insight on how you prepare the beef liver? I recently purchased a bunch of beef liver from a local farmer but have been to intimidated to tackle it yet.

    • Carlos Morales on May 7, 2012 at 07:10

      I like eating liver heavily spiced with a mix of curry powder and garlic, cooked in ghee and onions.

    • Todd on May 7, 2012 at 07:21

      Onions caramelized in butter and maybe some mushrooms. Pull them out of the pan and put the chopped liver in. Season with rosemary, salt, pepper, and I deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar. Eat as is or with a bed of greens. Simple, nutritious, and pretty delicious. Liver grows on you pretty quickly if you’re not used to it. I grew up on Braunschweiger at my grandparents and had no idea it was liver til much later.

      • Matt L on May 7, 2012 at 09:10

        thanks to both of you – I plan to tackle the liver this week and will give your methods a go

    • Matt P on May 8, 2012 at 05:54

      If you trust the source, which I do with mine, I go with raw (you can freeze it for 14 or more days first if you fear parasite and the like). I do not like the texture of even lightly cooked liver. I don’t mind it raw, finely chopped as with tartare. You can go with some of the traditional condiments (see link) or straight.


    • Sean on May 8, 2012 at 08:06

      Paté is a pretty nice way to eat liver (I think Richard might’ve posted a recipe for this, otherwise easy to google).

      It’s pretty rich so it needs to be cut with something. A good paleo way to eat paté is with celery, but I will ‘cheat’ and eat it with the nice Italian bread my foul temptress wife occasionally brings home from the deli.

  5. MAS on May 7, 2012 at 07:38

    Great post. I too feel that CT had true fat loss benefits getting me below 20% body fat, but I got less certain it was beneficial once body fat got around the 10% range. I’ll be watching your tests closely.

  6. Brett Legree on May 7, 2012 at 08:18

    Potatoes are working for me, I don’t care whether people want to call them “high carb” or whatever. I understood Richard’s message a while back and figured I’d try it – I was already doing kettlebells (for a couple of years, actually), and was on I.F. with a pretty strict 16/8 regimen and the odd longer stint.

    The missing piece of the puzzle for me was that I hadn’t listened to Martin’s advice on carb/macro/calorie cycling, I was still hanging on to the high fat/low carb that had worked well as I was shedding pounds.

    When I increased my lifts, I had to eat more, but I didn’t tune my macros or timing, so I started to gain fat (not much, but I noticed).

    Duh. Calories matter… so I figured if it worked for Richard, why not, and being half-Irish, potatoes and me work well together.

    So, here I am about 5 weeks after starting the cycling regimen with lots of potatoes on moderate carb days, and I am even stronger than I was then, yet I continue to lean out.

    This shit works.

  7. Brett Legree on May 7, 2012 at 08:19

    (Haven’t tried the CT yet though – that’s next.)

  8. Ash Simmonds on May 7, 2012 at 23:48

    I do intermittent feasting, once every week or two I’ll sit down and eat as much fat as humanly possible (only 300-400g/<1lb), this leaves me sated and energised for at least 24 hours, usually 36-48 or more, and typically end up losing 3-6lbs in a couple days.


  9. Rhys on May 7, 2012 at 10:10

    Potatoes are slowly repairing my hypothyroid and allowing me to be more active and play soccer again. I could care less about anything else.

  10. Paul C on May 7, 2012 at 11:06

    Your 10 week plan similar to my 12 week plan (in week 8 now). I’ve been averging 1.25 lbs per week lost with mild hunger occasionally (eating slightly less than fully satisfied) and about the same overall level of activity you are planning. That was a higher loss rate and more steady than I expected.

    2lbs average per week sounds high to me. I think I’d have to chronicly cardio and starve to match that, endangering the lean mass I’ve worked so hard to gain. One goal during the 12 weeks was to maintain lean mass without losing. My squat and deadlift numbers went up slightly (probably just making up for body weight loss) and other numbers are maintaining so I think I’m OK there.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 7, 2012 at 11:49


      Yea, 2 lbs might be pushing it, but as I said, I may make adjustments along the way. Also, I don’t expect the fat loss to be linear at all and expect it to slow over time, which should be the signal to reduce intake a little bit more, becaue as you lose fat, you RMR goes down.

      • Tom on May 7, 2012 at 20:40

        I think you’ve got a shot at 2 pounds. Didn’t Ray Cronise manage a sustained 4.8 pounds/week?

  11. josef on May 7, 2012 at 11:36

    “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey calories don’t count?”

    Of course they count. Have you ever seen a fat person come out of a concentration camp?

    By the way, a low calorie diet becomes a low carb (protein and fat) diet.

  12. rob on May 8, 2012 at 04:40

    Interesting article “Feminizing foods for men”

    Men Only Weight Loss is a program that focuses specifically on what men should and should not be eating — foods that program founder Wendy Meyers says are feminizing our men.

    “They are getting the equivalent of several female birth control pills on a weekly or monthly basis. Men aren’t supposed to have that happen,” Meyers said.

    The biggest culprits, according to Meyers? Processed foods filled with preservatives, dyes, or soy, which she says mimics estrogen, a female hormone in the body.

    Also on the bad food list, starchy carbs like bread and desserts. And — get this — beer.

    “Red wine is encouraged. And the clear alcohols like clear tequila, vodkas, if you’re not mixing with sugary drinks,” said Lemmon.

    Meyers says too much of these feminizing foods and you’ll get, “Frequent trips to the bathroom, breast tissue. We see that an awful lot. More and more men are dealing with very large breasts that they are very embarrassed about.”

    And if that’s not bad enough.

    “Sex drive, the big one. Libido, it really takes a nose dive,” Meyers said.

    The good news is Meyers says if you follow the plan, it can be corrected.

    “Because of the way this eating program works, it does naturally raise the male testosterone levels and guys like me who are 50 years and older. That’s important in our later years,” Lemmon said.

    • Chris on May 8, 2012 at 06:31

      Oh look, a DIETITIAN disagrees. The only people who know less about effects of diet than people who know nothing about effects of diet are dietitians.

      • Chris on May 8, 2012 at 06:32

        Edit: a dietitian asked about the theory behind the article disagrees.

  13. gallier2 on May 8, 2012 at 06:14


  14. Mark L. on May 7, 2012 at 18:57

    Maybe a 40 degree bath deadens the nerves more than a a 60 degree bath and therefore doesn’t feel as cold. The question then becomes what brings more benefit: feeling the cold or being numb to the cold?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 7, 2012 at 20:31

      Nope, Markr, bzzzzzzt. Sorry, but your speculation is obviously without a micro-second of a scilnittla of personal experience which, in this instance counts for more than just a few PubMed refs, so you’ll excuse me if I must call you: dismissed.

  15. Jerry on May 8, 2012 at 07:27

    I started CT about 3 weeks ago. I’m doing something similar to what Richard does: 300 gal cattle tank outside, connected to an old pool filter. It’s usually 55 to 60 in the morning, 65 to 70 in the late afternoon (it sits out in the Colorado sun all day). Lowest it’s been is 48, highest is 79 (on a very hot day). I start the day with a BAB and a lukewarm shower, lather up, rinse, then turn off the hot tap turn up the cold tap for a few minutes, then jump in to the cattle tank. At first I could do only 10 minutes, but I worked to 30 minutes. Most mornings I do about 20 minutes. I always submerge at least to my nipples, usually to my neck (sometimes I keep my arms out of the water for a few minutes, but that’s harder to do than just getting all the way in).

    The first 2 to 3 minutes are by far the most difficult part. Get past 3 minutes, and remaining 27 minutes are pretty easy. I noticed exactly the same thing that Richard pointed out: colder is usually easier. After I get out, I get light red skin and the shivers. They last for 60 to 90 minutes, then go away.

    Subjectively, I think CT makes the rest of the day go better. It definitely elevates my mood a little, on most days. One objective change that I’ve noticed is that it reduces my blood sugar by 10 to 25 mg/dL. I’ve consistently taken readings before and after CT, and the effect is quite real. So far, I have not experienced dramatic weight loss, but it’s only been a few weeks, and I usually do it only in the morning. I find it more uncomfortable and more difficult to do in the evenings. That’s my next experiment.

    I am convinced that it’s not the temperature of the water that matters, but the temperature difference between the water and ambient air. I say this because on one very sunny, hot day I was feeling run down in the late afternoon, and I got into the tub, with the water in the high 70s. 20 minutes later, I was shivering when I got out, my blood sugar had dropped 15 points, and I was feeling relaxed and in a better mood.

    Richard’s idea of moving the tank into shade is a good one, but mine has its own concrete pad, so I don’t plan to move it. Instead, I’m going to bury some copper pipe and made a heat exchanger. That’s another experiment. I also have a few 150 gallon tanks, which are easier to keep in the shade. I’m planning to experiment with possibly burying one of those, adding Epsom salts to water, etc. My next house will have an in-ground pool.

    Richard, please keep us posted on your results.

  16. Pauline on May 8, 2012 at 08:07

    I have learnt so much from your site Richard and share these discoveries with those close to me and anyone willing to hear. My daughter and I bought kettlebells. I do love using them a few times a week, the weight and swing are just great exercise tools and can be done at home. My partner does ice cold showers with the geyser turned off. Intense but he loves it. I do warm/cold showers then have a shallow ice cold bath afterwards, makes me feel a like a kid all over again. I warm up quite quickly afterwards and feel invigorated and alive. I do Intermittent Fasting 11am-7pm on an irregular basis, always coming back to this a good habit to keep. I do all the cooking and shopping, so real food is what I focus on and makes food shop really simple. I walk each day and park further away from shops and find ways to build easy walking into my daily routine. Reading up on cold therapy, I started drinking cold water on waking before breakfast or coffee, and keep hydrated with water through the day. These small changes have made feel stronger and more resilient on so many levels. Thank you for sharing your own research and journey.

  17. John D. on May 17, 2012 at 06:30

    RN —

    I have been on a long LG-style “cut” for 4-6m. I eat the Perfect Health Diet and lift Body-By-Science-style, so I have all the edgy, almost-paleo buzzwords going.

    Anyway my cut has been slow, purposefully so, with maybe a pound a month since March. For the past two weeks I have been spending 20m a morning, fasted, in our unheated pool. Maybe 65 degrees. For the first week I sat there; the second I started swimming around and jogging in place. Nothing strenuous, but keeping active songs to “dump heat,” as Ray Cronise would say.

    The past two weeks? With zero other changes — in fact, with about 50 extra calories per day? I dropped 6lbs. I was so alarmed that I’ve begun a two-week diet break while I consider my options. I didn’t think I had five pounds to lose (161 to 155). And my lifts have stayed static.

    Anyway all to say this “cold stuff” has merit. I’ve done cold showers before for much longer phases but with zero impact. Major difference between a lengthy, active soak and a briefish shower.

    Keep dumping heat!

    • John D. on May 17, 2012 at 06:32

      Not sure where “songs” came from in “active songs.” prob meant “active so as to…”

    • Richard Nikoley on May 17, 2012 at 11:09

      Good info, John D.

      I’m finding fat loss too. But I’m not going to jinx myself. I’m documenting as I go along. It’s getting to where if I go the odd day without doing 20-30m in the water (around 62 nowadays), I really miss it.

      • John D. on May 18, 2012 at 11:55

        Who knows if it’s fat or not for me… that was part of my concern, it seemed way too fast to be all fat. Also rippling abs didn’t appear along with the weight drop, and they should all be here by now! That said, my lifts were all up again yesterday.

        And it’s given me, right or wrong, psychological breathing room for a diet break, which I am enjoying immensely in the form of extra ground beef.

        Try moving around if you can (hard in a tub). While I saw a pound or so almost instantly after starting, I’d have to say most of the number-changes on the scale came in the week after I began swimming around.

  18. […] Then I read a paragraph on FreeTheAnimal that inspired me to try cold water exposure. From the post Putting it All Together: Moderate Carb Paleo, Resistance Training & Kettlebells, Intermittent Fa…: … from my very first session almost a month ago, 26 minutes at 52 degrees, I have not […]

  19. […] Putting it All Together: Moderate Carb Paleo, Resistance Training & Kettlebells, Intermittent Fa… […]

  20. Keoni Galt on June 4, 2012 at 17:48

    Free the Animal has been one of my go-to guides in this journey towards primal freedom. While a bit skeptical on the CT front when you first began posting about it, I decided what the hell, I haven’t gone wrong yet in experimenting along with you – after all, I quit using shampoo in my hair (and have a lifelong case of dandruff go away), and started eating a wider variety of carbohydrates after a few years of LC eating…so why not?

    I started experimenting with cold showers – and it brought to my mind another common experience I never really paid much attention too: whenever I go beach camping, it’s my morning ritual to wake up with the sunrise and immediately jump in the ocean. Yes, Hawaii has warm waters year round….but still, the difference in air temp and the water temp first thing in the morning before the sun has warmed up the climate is certainly an initial “cold shock” jolt that feels invigorating and refreshing.

    CT? Sure, why not. Don’t think I’ll be trying the cryo-chamber thing though. Cold showers and jumping in the ocean are good enough for me.

    In my humble opinion, there is still one thing I think you should add to this list that would make this an invaluable “Putting it all together” recipe:

    Regular mid-day sunbathing to attain optimal Vitamin D blood serum levels.

  21. […] whole thing in terms of heavy lifting. I essentially didn't work out for months. A few months back, I got kettlebells. I really didn't treat them as formal workouts. Rather, it was 5 minutes here, 5 there, maybe a […]

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