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Can Cold Showers Burn Fat? And Do Ice Baths Burn Fat?

By Jason
September 26, 2023
8 minutes
Can Cold Showers Burn Fat

You might have seen social media ice bucket challenges as a means of supporting and promoting donations a few years ago. These days social media is talking about ice baths for burning excess fats and getting your dream body.

So, did you find your way here while looking for the science and research behind cold water showers for weight loss? And are you wondering if the ice bath hype is based on facts or is it just a myth? Well, fortunately, it is true.

Cold water therapy has been used in the past for several health benefits. It is just now that modern people are discovering this amazing therapy and giving it a try.

Therefore, if you are also one of the people who wants to try it after knowing all about ice baths. Let us help you here with this informative article on cold showers for burning fat.

Table of Contents:

  • Part 1: The Science Behind Cold Water Showers for Burning Fats
  • Part 2: The Idea of Ice Water Baths
  • Part 3: How to Take Ice Baths to Burn Fat?
  • Part 4: Effect and Benefits of Cold Water Showers on Different Organs of the Body
  • Part 5: Contraindications of Cold Water Bath
  • Part 6: Side Effects of Cold Water Bath
  • Part 7: Can Cold Showers Burn Fats?
  • Part 8: Other Ways to Burn Calories and Lose Weight

    The Science Behind Cold Water Showers for Burning Fats

    The Science Behind Cold Water Showers for Burning FatsThe science behind cold water showers for burning fats is based on the principle of thermogenesis, which is the production of heat in the body. Let us see how it works here.


    Thermogenesis at a normal temperature means producing heat in the body by engaging in strenuous activities like exercise that causes muscle contraction, sweating, and increased heart rate.

    The heat generated in the body burns fats by utilizing them, regulates the level of hunger and satiety-related hormones, and manages weight. The role of exercise in weight loss has been determined in a study published in Diabetes Spectrum of the American Diabetes Association [1].

    A similar principle is used in cold thermogenesis which is further divided into shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis.

    Shivering Thermogenesis

    When the body is exposed to cold temperatures either in the form of ice baths or a cold external environment, the muscles activate and start to shiver to produce heat in the body and maintain its temperature.

    This heat is produced by the stimulation of resting energy expenditure in the body. Moreover, it improves metabolism and burns fat.

    Can Cold Showers Burn FatNon-Shivering Thermogenesis

    Non-shivering thermogenesis also works on the mechanism of production of heat in the body. However, this heat is not produced by shivering muscles. Rather it happens as a result of utilisation of brown fats in the body.

    Brown fats are rich in mitochondria. These are activated in a cold environment and they activate the resting energy expenditure of the body in return. As a result, calories are lost.

    The benefits of brown fat burning and thermogenesis have been explained in a study carried out to find methods of controlling obesity. This study was published in Frontiers in Endocrinology Journal [2].

    The Idea of Ice Water Baths

    The history of ice baths for burning fats is not clear. However, in 2020, a man named Dan O’Conor started taking ice showers and ice water plunges in winter to wake himself up and have a refreshing day ahead.

    He said that ice showers gave him an endorphin rush, made him ecstatic, and improved his mental strength. Additionally, he encouraged his wife to do the same.

    After a year, Dr. Will Cronenwett did the same and agreed with what O’Conor said. Later, more and more people tried ice baths and discovered their amazing benefits including weight loss.

    How to Take Ice Baths to Burn Fat?

    How to Take Ice Baths to Burn FatIce baths can be overwhelming for you if you are used to warm showers. So, do not start with cold showers immediately. Rather, decrease the temperature of your bathing water gradually until your body gets used to the lower temperature.

    Once you feel like your body can take ice-cold water, follow these steps.

    • Fill your bathtub with water by turning the cold water tab on
    • Add a few buckets of ice cubes into it or simply change the temperature to 15 degrees Celsius if you have an advanced bathtub
    • Wait until the water gets coldest and go into the tub in a way that your full body is soaked
    • Wait for 10-15 minutes
    • After the bath, drink water and eat nutritious food

    Also, never let the temperature get lower than 5 degrees Celsius, and never stay in ice water longer than 20 minutes. Although ice water therapy is healthy, excess of it can cause more harm than good.

    Effect and Benefits of Cold Water Showers on Different Organs of the Body

    Not only burning fats and helping in weight loss, but Cold water can also prove to be beneficial for several other systems and organs of the body. The systems that most benefited from ice showers are given below.


    Cold water plunge increases the blood pressure as well as heart rate. So, it stimulates the heart to pump blood more efficiently and supply blood to the body. Consequently, the nutritional needs of the body are met.

    A study published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health shows the effects of cold water on the heart, respiration, and brain [3].

    Blood Vessels

    Ice showers cause the constriction of blood vessels to trap the heat in the body while maintaining core temperature. The blood flow in the constricted vessels becomes more streamlined and directed toward the target organs.

    The mechanism of vessel constriction by exposure to cold has been explained in an article by PubMed [4].

    Skin and Hair

    Hot showers dry out the skin and burn the keratin of the hair. In contrast, cold water helps in shrinking skin pores, adding glow, strengthening cuticles, and preventing hair damage.


    Cold water effectively improves metabolism. It does so by stimulating the release of insulin in the body which causes the breakdown of glucose and fats. Additionally, it activates brown fats.

    So, metabolism is boosted and calories are lost. The effect of cold showers on shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis has been determined in research published in PubMed Central [5].


    Ice shower activates the fight or flight response of the body considering low temperature a shock. As a result, there is an increase in the levels of white blood cells, stress hormones, and defense chemicals in the body.

    So, it reduces the chances of infections and strengthens the immune system as determined in a comparison of immunity between cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans [6].

    Pain Relief

    Cold water therapy has been used as a pain reliever because it makes the nerves numb. It also reduces inflammation which might be the reason behind pain. Additionally, it is used by athletes to reduce muscle soreness.

    A randomized controlled study by PubMed Central shows the effect of cold water on pain and muscle soreness [7].

    Mental Health

    Jumping in cold water leads to the release of happy hormones like endorphins in the body. Therefore, it helps elevate the mood, reducing stress, and empowering the mind.

    This has been explained in hypotheses published in PubMed [8].

    Contraindications of Cold Water Bath

    Contraindications of Cold Water BathWhile cold water has positive effects on all systems of the body, it might not be the best thing to try for people suffering from the following conditions.

    Heart Diseases:

    Heart diseases like arrhythmia, heart failure, and hypertension can be aggravated by ice showers because the heart and vascular systems of the body cannot tolerate the stress caused by low temperatures.

    It has similar results as compared to exercise on cardiovascular health as explained in a study by PubMed [9].


    In diabetes, the feedback mechanism of the body is weakened. So, diabetics cannot efficiently maintain core body temperature on exposure to an extremely cold external environment. Also, it is contraindicated in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

    Lung Diseases

    Any lung or heart disease causing pulmonary edema makes the body susceptible to side effects of low temperature. In pulmonary edema, there is an excess of fluids in the lungs. Therefore, taking cold water baths can deteriorate the condition causing intense cough, and breathlessness.


    In epilepsy, a seizure can occur when the body is exposed to cold water. As a person is not mentally stable during the seizure, it will be difficult to get out of the tub which which may cause hyperthermia, shock, and even death.

    Side Effects of Cold Water Bath

    The side effects of cold water therapy are given as. Also, it is important to note that these are potential side effects that won’t occur if the temperature is not too low, you do not stay in water for too long, and you do not have any of the conditions mentioned above.

    Worsening of Illness

    Cold water therapy can worsen your condition if you try it while sick. The diseases aggravated by cold showers include urticaria, skin allergies, Raynaud’s phenomenon, arthritis, and heart diseases. Therefore, avoid it until your body is fully healed.

    Reduces Muscle Mass

    In some cases, cold water reduces muscle mass in addition to dealing with muscle soreness. It occurs if you try cold therapy at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius or lower.

    The muscle mass might decrease but strength stays the same.


    Going in cold water without making your body familiar with it can leave you in shock or hypothermia. A cold shock can be a lethal complication of cold water therapy.

    Can Cold Showers Burn Fats?

    Yes, cold showers can burn fats. However, the effects are not significant and you have to go on with cold showers for a long time before you see any weight loss. Therefore, ice showers are more effective when taken as a way to improve your physical health or relieve pain instead of reducing weight.

    A 15-minute ice shower burns 3 to 4 calories which is not something you are looking for, right? In such cases, you can have ice water therapy in combination with other weight loss modalities.

    Other Ways to Burn Calories and Lose Weight

    Other Ways to Burn Calories and Lose WeightThe tried, tested, and evidenced methods of weight loss are given below.

    1. Diet and Hydration

    Diet is the key to weight loss. Whether you are doing anything else or not, as long as you keep your caloric intake deficient, you can lose weight. Also, it is important to note that you should lower calorie counts without compromising on essential nutrients.

    2. Controlling Stress

    Stress leads to stress eating and thus increased weight. Moreover, it can lower your metabolism and reduce your physical activity. So, controlling stress and keeping your mind healthy can help you lose weight. Moreover, give stress and weight loss a read.

    3. Adequate Sleep

    Proper and regular sleep is an effective remedy for weight loss even though it does not seem much. Sleep helps in improving metabolism and regulating the hormonal status of the body. Furthermore, the effect of sleep on weight loss has been explained in sleep and weight loss

    4. Exercise

    Exercise is the best way to burn calories, gain muscles, build stamina, and improve your cardiovascular health all at once. Exercise combined with diet is a seamless technique for losing weight and toning the body. Therefore, here are the best weight loss exercises for females.

    5. Changing Lifestyle

    The journey to a healthy weight and a fit body is no temporary game. Rather it is a lifestyle. So, bringing gradual changes in your life like using the plate method for everyday meals, doing exercise as a hobby, walking instead of using a vehicle, maintaining a sleep cycle, and keeping stress in check can be effective for weight loss.

    You can check the benefits of walking in how many miles should you walk a day.


    Ice showers have been shown to have a role in burning fats through cold thermogenesis. In addition, it is good for improving cardiovascular health, immunity, muscle soreness, and more as shown in research.

    However, its effect on weight loss is not compelling because only a few calories are lost in each bath. So, exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes can prove to be more effective if you are looking for ways to lose weight.

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