How To Use Cold Therapy to Kill Fat Cells

There are many different ways to biohack the human body. Different foods and supplements can supercharge your immune system, for example, or help keep your heart strong. RFID chips can connect you instantly to devices to make a variety of different tasks a bit easier. Sleeping in a cold, very dark room can help you sleep much better, which can help many different aspects of your health. 

However, one of the more interesting (and chilly) biohacks out there is something known as cold thermogenesis. Now, to be sure, cold therapy isn’t anything new. People have been using it for decades due to its health benefits. That being said, many people today are using cold thermogenesis to do something that doesn’t sound like it should be possible: lose weight. More specifically, they’re using cold thermogenesis to burn fat, which then helps them lose weight. In today’s article, we’ll take a cold, hard look at this cool biohack. (Yes, puns definitely intended.) Enjoy.

What Is Cold Thermogenesis?

Cold thermogenesis, also known as cold therapy, is based on the fact that humans (and most other mammals) use thermogenesis to produce body heat and keep warm. What cold thermogenesis does is give regular thermogenesis a good, hard kick in the pants.

You see, when your body is exposed to the cold, your brain immediately directs it to work harder to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the process your body uses to stay, for lack of a better word, stable. For example, it keeps your core temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as keeping other internal functions normal and optimal. In short, your body works harder when you’re cold to make sure you stay warm and don’t die.  

However, to do this, your body needs energy, and that’s the key to this whole process. As your body reacts to the cold, it produces more energy to keep you warm. When it does, it burns calories (which are basically the fuel for the fire). To do this, your brain stimulates your metabolism and several different hormones that help regulate your body’s temperature. They include thyroid hormones, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Again, this is the key to cold thermogenesis, as we’ll see in just a moment.

Burning White Fat and Brown Fat to Make Energy 

So we know that your body wants to stay at homeostasis, especially when you’re exposed to very cold temperatures. To do this, it needs energy and calories and, to get them, it starts to burn fat. Interestingly, there are two different types of fat, white fat and brown fat. 

White fat is the type of fat that most of us already know about, especially when we look at our bellies, buttocks, and hips. This white fat, which many of us assume is ‘bad,’ is actually beneficial to your body. In normal amounts, it helps to insulate important organs like your heart, liver, kidneys, etc. Too much can be unhealthy, of course. (And, for many of us, a bit embarrassing too.)

Brown fat, which technically is called brown adipose tissue, is a specialized type of fat that is actually activated by the cold. This is the fat that helps you stay warm in the cold and maintain your core temperature. (The aforementioned homeostasis.) The reason it does this is that brown fat contains more mitochondria than white fat. Mitochondria act like little fat-burning engines, burning calories when you’re cold to increase your body’s energy levels and keep you warm.

Interestingly, the heat production caused by burning brown fat also causes several other positive changes in your body. For example, it lowers your heart rate, keeps you warm with less shivering, and, (most importantly, if you’re looking to lose fat), can help promote weight loss.

What Does the Research Say About Cold Therapy for Weight Loss?

In the last few years, there has been quite a bit of research around cold thermogenesis, cryotherapy (both aka cold therapy), and their potential benefits. Let’s take a look at what scientists have found:

Cold Thermogenesis Works Better in Water than Air

The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that water is better than air for cold thermogenesis as far as results are concerned. In other words, if you were naked and exposed to very cold water, you would burn more fat than if you were naked and exposed to very cold air. The reason behind this is that water has a conductivity level that’s 25 times higher than air.

Whits Fat Can Behave Like Brown Fat When Necessary

The National Institutes of Health have found that, when your body is exposed to extreme cold, white fat can start to take on brown fat characteristics. In other words, the white fat will start burning calories and thus burn off more fat to keep you warm. 

Exposure To Mild Cold Can Increase Brown Fat (and its Metabolic Effects)

A small study (only 5 men) by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases found that, when exposed to 10+ hours of mild cold (66 degrees Fahrenheit), there was an increase in brown fat and thus an increase in the metabolic activity that it causes.

Shivering Helps You Burn Fat

This is extremely interesting and not fun at the same time (unless you find shivering uncontrollably to be enjoyable, of course). The Journal of Applied Physiology found that you can increase your metabolism by 5 times or more when you shiver forcefully. This, in turn, prods your body to burn even more fat to keep warm (and stop your teeth from chattering).

How To Use Cold Therapy to Kill Fat Cells

Now that you’re an expert on cold thermogenesis, you’re probably wondering how you can use it at home to lose weight by burning fat. Below are several of the best ways to do exactly that:


Cryotherapy and cold therapy are exactly the same except that, with cryotherapy, you’re placed into a (very expensive) cryotherapy chamber for only a few minutes. Since most people don’t have enough money to purchase their own cryotherapy machine, they usually go to a spa, doctor’s office, or chiropractor’s office to get it.  

Ice Baths

Possibly the best cold therapy that you can get at home, ice baths lower your core temperature significantly, activating the calorie-burning power of brown fat. Also, an ice bath can (and usually will) cause your body to start shivering, which, as we mentioned earlier, is also an excellent way to prod your body into burning fat to keep warm. You’ll need a large bathtub, of course, as well as a few bags of ice to make it happen. However, if you do, the fat-burning effects that you receive will be better than any other cold therapy you can do at home. 

Cold Showers

One of the easiest ways to use cold therapy to kill fat cells is to take a cold shower or if you like, a cold bath. However, the jury is out on how effective cold showers and cold baths actually are in terms of burning large amounts of fat. While research shows that even a small reduction in your body is ambient temperature will increase the number of calories it burns, it might not be enough to make a real difference in your overall weight.

Wearing a Cooling Vest

One interesting cold therapy practice is to wear what’s known as a “cooling vest.” As the name suggests, a cooling vest is basically a specially made vest that has some type of cooling ability. Think of them as similar to a cold pack but large enough to wear around your entire upper body. One of the best reasons to use a cooling vest is that you can wear it anywhere and anytime you like to take advantage of the fat-burning effects that it causes. 

Lower the Temperature in Your Home or Office

We all like to stay warm and cozy, especially in winter. However, if you want to burn more fat, turning down the temperature in your home or office is a good way to do it. One particular study showed that if you turned the temperature from 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit down to 66 degrees (which, let’s be honest, still isn’t that cold), it can increase your body’s ability to burn brown fat. You’ll need to do it for at least 36 hours, however, to see any results. Also, as with cold showers, the results might not be anything to write home about. 

What Are The Other Benefits of Cold Therapy?

Cold therapy for burning fat definitely has its advantages over other fat loss methods and processes. Besides killing fat cells, however, cold therapy and cold thermogenesis can benefit your body in several other ways, including: 

Keeping Your Brain Strong and Healthy

Cold therapy decreases degeneration by stimulating so-called “cold shock proteins” in your brain. This prohibits cognitive decline and memory loss and may significantly help someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. 

Boosting Your Immunity

Research has shown that cold thermogenesis boosts immune function by decreasing inflammation. It also stimulates the release of norepinephrine, which can improve the integrity of your immune system significantly.

Helping You to Sleep Better

Not only does cold therapy help you to fall asleep, but it can also increase the overall quality of your sleep. One study showed that only three minutes of cryotherapy was needed to fall sleep faster and get more much-needed REM sleep.

In Closing

It might not be the most pleasant of therapies, but cold therapy, cryotherapy, and cold thermogenesis (which are, more or less, exactly the same) have definitely shown an ability to help kill fat cells. Using the methods we spoke about above, you can get started burning fat today quite easily (if a bit on the chilly side). 

Did you enjoy today’s article? We sure hope that you did and that it answered all of your questions about using cold therapy to kill fat cells. If you have more questions or would like to leave a comment, please do so in the space below. Also, if you have any interesting stories or anecdotes about using cold therapy in your own life, please consider sharing them with us. Thanks!

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