My SO has been a cold shower fanatic for quite some time…first, an evangelist, and now, just an adept, doing it as part of her daily ritual. One of my children has firmly joined her in this practice. I did it once, maybe twice, in the gelid waters of our home shower, and found it just too cold.
But here I am, perhaps the only person who can get cold in a tropical climate, frequently cold to shivering in an air-conditioned restaurant. And while I will admit to a certain frisson of sexual excitement at the prospects of shivering, no matter the cause, it is just not normal. I have a furnace inside of me. Blessed since childhood with a fast metabolism, I should be able to melt blocks of ice.
Mistress has decided that I should start taking cold showers. And just like that, I am. I thought perhaps just a quick finish of 10 seconds or so, just long enough to feel the cold tendrils dripping into your scalp or down your spine—that moment when it is at its most shocking, and figured that would be enough. But she suggested instead, “why don’t you test yourself and see how long you can go…and each time, try to go a bit longer.” Oh that Mistress, she knows that when forced to compete with myself, and to do so in a way that is in honour of her request, well, I might be in there until my lips are blue.
I used to think that having a fast metabolism was a sign of someone with a bright inner flame, and that I equated with a shorter lifespan—as in, you burned up your candle faster. Now I know that this is false. What I know instead is that having a fast metabolism is like recycling…the faster it runs, the fresher our bodies are. What do I mean?
On average, the human body completely replicates itself every 7 to 10 years. Some cells work faster than others—a reflection of their use and abuse. The skin, for example, replicates itself every roughly every 27 days. Your gut lining and entire digestive system, just like the skin, is considered an “external organ”.
Having a fast metabolism is the best way to not gain weight. The curious thing about weight gain are the peculiarities of fat cells. Fat cells can be gained easily—overeating, a sedentary lifestyle, hormone imbalances…but once they are put on, you can’t get rid of them. Amazingly, fat cells can change size by a factor of 50 times. When you diet, all that happens is that fat cells shrink in size—which is why it is so much easier to gain weight than it is to lose it, and why diets without lifestyle change don’t work. Chief among lifestyle changes is how to ramp up your metabolism. Cold showers do this. So too does cryo-therapy [blogged about here], which is said to burn an amazing 800 calories or so in about 3 minutes. All I know is how cold it feels.
Fat cells regenerate at the rate of about 10% per year. Every 8 years, about half have regenerated. Overweight people, however, add fat cells at the twice the rate of people who are not, unfortunately condemning themselves to a vicious cycle of ongoing weight challenges.
I like to think of it this way—as we eat, our food is broken down and filed away for future use by the body when the body needs the energy. If we keep eating beyond our energy requirements, we gain weight. More importantly, we also do not recycle the storage in our bodies…that which is stored becomes less “fresh”. The recycling process is a source of fundamental health. Japanese scientist Yoshinori Osumi won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of authophagy—the process by which your cells destroy themselves. This process has been found to be highly regenerative, and is the key to maintaining health as we age, and indeed slowing down the aging process.
How do you do this? By staying thin. By not maintaining a constant level of eating and energy consumption, but instead by going up and down—in other words, intermittent fasting or periods of fasting. Our bodies are built on the food we eat, so eating healthily is vitally important—we are truly what we eat. By forcing our bodies to rebuild themselves, we become fresher, and more alive. Encouraging a faster metabolism is an important part of this process. We do this by choosing to eat certain foods, essentially a diet based on fruit and vegetables—foods which are easily digested but also cleansing. Exercise is also critical, as it increases cellular desire to be fed and replaced. And finally, actions like cold showers do the same.
Every day we need to replace on average 200-300g of protein. Every two to three months, our body protein is fully turned over. This is a key metabolic process. Interestingly, we do not help this by eating more protein. We do so by doing its opposite, fasting for periods of 24 hours. Our bodies make the proteins we need from fats and carbs as well as proteins, so alternating periods of fasting with a balanced diet based on greens is how to trigger a faster turnover process in the body.
What else? Drinking water increases the metabolism by 25-30% for the hour after you do it. When you realise that our bodies are essentially water, you are again contributing to the change-out process. Drinking water helps you to lose weight because it is an accelerant.
What are the benefits of cold showers?
- Mental alertness…this occurs because it forces us to take deeper breaths, thereby reducing the level of CO2 in the body…with CO2 being a waste product, this is a good thing;
- Lower stress…the mild shock of the cold water is a form of body stress which habituates you to controlled body stress…and this habituation makes you better able to handle stress the rest of the time;
- Willpower…learning to withstand the cold shows increasing levels of willpower. This is a good thing;
- Weight loss…cold showers increase your metabolism, but more specifically encourage your body to burn fat. This is freshening.
Do you take cold showers daily? Dip daily in a cold stream or swim in the ocean? I’d love to know about it and the benefits you see…and in the meantime, think about recycling your body, to keep it fresh, and remember to put good things in it.