Dr. Andrew Huberman, a renowned neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University, has made significant contributions to our understanding of brain development, function, and neural plasticity. One of his fascinating areas of research is the impact of cold showers and cold plunges on our mental and physical health. In this article, we delve into the science behind this practice and explore its numerous benefits.
Thermoregulation, or the body's ability to maintain its core internal temperature, plays a crucial role in our health. A key component of this process is brown fat, a type of body fat that acts as a furnace for our metabolism. Unlike the typical white fat that we often associate with weight gain, brown fat is beneficial. It's rich in mitochondria, giving it a brown colour, and is primarily located around the clavicles, upper back, and around the heart.
Cold exposure, such as taking a cold shower or a cold plunge, can increase the density of this brown fat. This means that the mitochondria in the brown fat become more concentrated, allowing it to burn hotter and longer, much like the oil in a candle. This process can lead to improvements in our resting metabolism and insulin management.
According to Dr. Huberman, the key to reaping the benefits of cold exposure is to get uncomfortably cold for about 11 minutes per week. This can be achieved through various methods, including cold showers, ice baths, or even walking outside in cold weather with minimal clothing. The important thing is to ensure safety and avoid dangerously cold temperatures.
The benefits of cold showers and cold plunges extend beyond physical health. They can also boost mental resilience. When you force yourself to stay in a cold environment, you're exercising top-down control and overriding your natural desire to seek comfort. This can help build mental resilience.
Cold exposure also leads to a significant increase in dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. This can leave you feeling mentally clear and alert for several hours.
Moreover, cold exposure can enhance metabolism and fat loss. When you shiver, your muscles release a molecule called succinate, which activates the brown fat, leading to an increase in metabolism.
Cold showers and cold plunges, as explained by Dr. Andrew Huberman, offer a host of benefits, from boosting mental resilience to enhancing metabolism. By incorporating deliberate cold exposure into your routine, you can tap into these benefits and potentially improve your overall health and well-being. As always, remember to prioritise safety and listen to your body's signals.
After delving into the benefits of cold exposure, why not dive even further into the warmth of sauna's. Discover how they can be used in conjunction with a cold plunge for maximum benefits.
Dr. Huberman recommends getting uncomfortably cold for about 11 minutes per week, divided into several sessions. Even if you just turn on the cold tap for the last couple of minutes of your shower, it's extremely beneficial.
The water should be cold enough to make you feel uncomfortable, but not so cold that it's dangerous. Always prioritize safety.
Yes, any form of cold exposure, whether it's a cold shower, a cold plunge, or being in a cold environment, can provide the same benefits.
Avoid dangerously cold temperatures and always listen to your body. If you start to feel too uncomfortable or show signs of hypothermia, warm up immediately.
Cold exposure can increase the density of brown fat in your body, which in turn can enhance your metabolism and aid in fat loss.