Ray Cronise’s study into ‘Weight Loss, the Metabolic Winter Hypothesis, and Solving Obesity’
I first heard about Ray Cronise through a Facebook thread started by my friend who’s a PT and has experienced the benefits of taking cold showers every day for the past couple of years. Now, I know the benefits of an ice bath for recovery, particularly after a long run, but for some reason (can’t think what!) I just haven’t quite taken to having a full-on ice shower in the mornings! I’m sure there are advantages, in that it promotes blood circulation as well as makes you more alert; but could there be more to it than that? Could having a cold shower every morning actually help you lose weight?
Through some prior research I knew a little bit about thermogenics (which means tending to produce heat), and its use as an aid to weight loss. They are most commonly applied to drugs, which increase heat through metabolic stimulation. In bodybuilding, athletes wishing to lose fat use drugs, which are purportedly thermogenic to increase their basal metabolic rate, thereby increasing their energy expenditure. Caffeine and ephedrine are commonly used for this purpose, but there are far more dangerous, and even fatal, drugs out on the market.
Cronise’s research into thermodynamics started as a result of struggles with his weight over years working as a scientist at NASA. His background in science led him to study the human body’s nutritional and caloric energy balance, and how to drive weight loss through basic thermodynamic principles. Ultimately his conclusion through the research is that diet and exercise are not the only factors that can lead to weight loss. In fact, Cronise discovered that by adding cold stress to his body on top of the controlled diet and regular exercise, it actually doubled his weight loss. If you put this into perspective, most of the calories you use up (energy) during exercise are lost through heat (when we get hot and sweaty). Imagine if we all had the ability to cool our bodies down constantly when doing exercise — we would be able to disperse our heat more efficiently and therefore able to train for longer! Apparently our bodies have the ability to produce 5 times the heat when under cold stress, which is quite incredible.
Thermodynamics isn’t the only subject covered in the online interview. Cronise talks about other areas that are the possible causes of obesity, including our relationship with food and how it’s evolved over time. He also touches on why “eat less, move more” doesn’t matter, and why obesity is about diet (intake) and not necessarily to do with exercise (energy expenditure) or lack of. He mentioned an interesting point on this, which was that most people believe that by moving more this will help them lose weight and burn more calories. However this only uses up your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores and actually doesn’t help you lose weight in the long run. Humans are the only species that go out and move actively and exercise in order to mitigate the excess calories that we choose to eat. Every other species on Earth is restricted because they don’t have the options we have (i.e. a local Tesco or Sainsbury’s) in the natural world. It’s a matter of survival for animals, whereas we have entered into a world of chronic overnutrition, where we have unlimited access to food and are obsessed with putting food in our mouths.
In the absence of dietary modifications, exercise does not produce that much weight loss, which I think most people understand now since the subject has been written about over and over again by health and exercise experts. However, Cronise believes that in the absence of exercise changes, dietary modifications DO produce weight loss every time. But can it really be as simple as a varied, nutritional diet, a good night’s sleep and a cold shower in the morning? Have a listen for yourself and see what you think. I have to admit, I’ve braved the cold shower a few times a week as a result of this study! Let’s see if I start to see and feel the benefits of thermodynamics…
Link to Ray Cronise’s blog: hypothermics.com