Some thoughts on cold exposure
Richard Nickoley/Free the Animal has posted a follow-up post entitled Cold Therapy and Adaptation and Ray Cronise. Although he comments a few times, this comment addresses Ray's thoughts on it all. So far I see no need for a warning label on this one ;-) In any case, Ray presents some excellent information on the topic and I urge my readers to go take a look before diving into the icy water and trying to work up to hours on end in same. For my part, after reading Ray, I think I may well get an inflatable pool and some pool dumbells and such and put it up in the back yard to exercise in this summer. There's a town pool here, but if I have to drive somewhere I know compliance suffers, and although I have access to facilities where I work, no student gets to see me in a swimsuit!!
I admittedly don't know much about Ray as, in all honesty, I've only recently heard of him and Wim Hof what with all the recent buzz. But he sounds knowledgeable and measured. He has also apparently done extensive self-experimentation with appropriate equipment. For example he seems to have looked at his body's metabolic rate response to various durations, etc. of cold exposure. For all the recent hoopla over Kruse's TEDx talk, surgery and MRSA *epic* biohack, we learn from comments (if Lerner could save me the time to link again in comments that'd be great) that he didn't do the usual hormonal panels, etc., and he's not doing the metabolic rate measurements, etc. We've apparently gotten all the documentation/proof we're ever going to get on that front ... Jack has moved on to using CT to treat patients and made some videos there.
One thing I really liked about Ray's recent comments -- and hopefully they take hold -- is that this more is not better attitude need not be applied here, and this could almost totally eliminate any danger. Of particular interest:
Cool vs Cold?
Here is where I think the big gap exists. I think chronic cool trumps acute cold in terms of metabolic function. It sounds like the cliche turtle and hare argument, but metabolically it is much different.
He goes on to describe some experiments. With all this talk over at FTA of folks bathing in 50 degree water for an hour or so it seems we're in peril of rejecting something that could prove to be helpful to "the masses" by extremes most will never even desire to attempt. By this I mean that Cronise is defining even your standard 80'ish degree pool -- not even uncomfortable for most -- which, lest we forget, presents a 20-ish degree temperature gradient that is effective when between the body and water (vs. air). Even if one is not a swimmer, they could easily walk, run (in place or through a shallow end) or some other activity. You could hang off the ladder and kick, tread water, whatever. The point is combine a modest temperature differential with movement and you have the equivalent of the "wind chill factor" of sorts at play.
So I wanted to write this post because I don't want my readers to reject this idea because quacks like Leptin Man are bastardizing them for whatever reason. There is some real potential benefit here, and the best part is that you don't have to start making tens of pounds of ice each day and lie under it in your tub. My common sense radar says this is probably not all that beneficial and potentially harmful (e.g. reduced blood flow, numbness, etc.) even short of frostbite and hypothermia.
That said, I doubt cold therapy will be the be-all-and-end-all treatment for all ills any more than the last touted one was. And it certainly stands to reason that individual results would vary widely. Many of the claims are inseparable from confounding variables. For example if CT seems to improve IR, it is simply because it can accelerate weight loss or metabolic rate (as exercise does) ... or does it really have anything to do with insulin production, clearance or receptor sensitivity? This is the sort of thing I'd like to see studied, and I hope Jack's antics don't cause it to be relegated to the trash heap prematurely.
It seems to me that a goodly portion of metabolic "derangement" derives from calorie excess. Whether that's inherent defect (rare), sedentary behavior, overeating, etc., surely revving up the metabolism using heat generation as the means is worthy of experimenting with. And there's no reason to believe that we wouldn't see improvements just as we do with different forms of exercise. And let's not forget that moving more is vastly superior for obese folks in the water vs. on land!
Here's where it gets interesting because we've got a split along the longevity fault in the community as well. Most of the longevity research favors metabolic milieu that slow metabolism and favor fat over lean mass (though not excessive fat accumulation, as a proportion it is higher in general). What most of us, especially those trying to lose weight, maintain losses, etc., however want just the opposite. A higher metabolism and more lean mass. I've said this before, I don't care if it shaves some time off my life to remain functional and enjoying the life I do live. Many have chimed in here with similar thoughts. Many have also tanked their metabolisms with chronic dieting -- yours truly included, though I'm happy to report I seem to be able to eat quite a bit more these days than in 2009 at about the same weight. So there's hope for that proverbial damaged metabolism. Also on a personal note, this encourages me that there are more strides to be made without the misery of extreme calorie restriction. Yes ... I'm encouraged!
So ... let's not throw the baby out with this bath water! There may well be a potential tool for you here. But I believe Kruse is the wrong messenger going forward, for all the many reasons I and others have outlined. I am hopeful that the community is waking up to this fact.