Do ice baths increase testosterone? The cold hard facts

Ice baths are becoming increasingly popular as more and more people experience the physical and mental benefits that cold water therapy can offer. This post aims to answer a question that is being asked a lot recently, do ice baths increase testosterone?

This question around ice baths and their impact on testosterone may be quite a common one amongst athletes, regular gym-goers, or those getting a bit older and wondering how to increase their testosterone levels naturally.

This topic can be quite important for men in particular due to the benefits increased testosterone can bring. Read on to uncover exactly why testosterone is important, what the science says about cold water therapy, and its impact on our body’s hormones.

What are ice baths?

An ice bath is a practice that involves submerging a substantial part of the human body in a bath or plunge-type structure in cold or icy water for a specific duration. It is also known as cold water therapy.

For most people to maximise the benefits of an ice bath, you should aim for 11 minutes a week total, this can be split between multiple sessions. By hitting 11 minutes a week you will increase your stores of brown fat which boosts core body metabolism.

Generally for cold water therapy the ideal temperature is between 10-15°(around 50-60 Fahrenheit). The common recommendation duration for an ice bath is to never exceed the number of degrees in minutes. For example, don’t exceed 10 minutes in a 10°C ice bath.

Why is testosterone important?

Testosterone is a sex hormone that has an important influence on various functions within the body, particularly for men. Testosterone regulates a man’s libido (sex drive), sperm production, strength & muscle mass, and bone density, as well as increasing the production of red blood cells. After around age 30, men’s natural testosterone levels gradually decrease.

If your testosterone levels are too high or too low, it can affect your overall health, this applies to both men and women. It’s becoming increasingly common for men to have testosterone levels below normal. In fact, it’s been found that men’s testosterone levels have been dropping 1% a year since the 1980s.

Low testosterone can be caused by the following:

  • Age
  • Injury or diseases involving the testicles
  • Pituitary gland problems
  • Critical illnesses
  • High levels of stress
  • Certain medications

How low testosterone can affect your health:

  • Depression
  • Low sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Decreased strength and muscle mass
  • Increase in body fat
  • Decreased focus

The above explains why testosterone is a vital hormone to men which has a major role in the quality of our lives. It’s important that we look to increase this level naturally if possible, through exercising and lifting weights, eating a healthy high-protein diet, prioritising sleep, and minimising cortisol levels. We may also be able to increase our testosterone levels with ice baths.

Do ice baths increase testosterone?

There has been limited research on the correlation between cold water therapy and testosterone in men, even fewer in women. An older Japanese study from 1991 has shown that cold exposure before exercise can actually increase luteinizing hormone levels, which suggests greater testosterone levels over time. It was also shown that cold exposure after exercise is not optimum for testosterone levels.

In men, precooling exercise with an ice bath can provide a significant boost in testosterone & luteinizing hormone, result in long-lasting health benefits, slow ageing, increase libido, and improve sexual & reproductive health.

Dr. Thomas P Seager proved the findings from the Japanese study further by conducting his own experiment involving cold water exposure before exercise which may involve pushups, pullups, kettlebells, or jumping jacks. At the age of 56, his total testosterone is 1075 ng/dL, which is considered high even for a teenager. He recorded his friend, Jason’s testosterone levels over 3 years whilst following a similar regime (ice baths before exercise) and he was able to demonstrate 913 ng/dL after 3 years from 550 ng/dL which is nearly double!

Dr. Thomas P Seager describes what his regime looks like.

  • Ice bath at 2 degrees Celsius (36F) or less for 2-4 minutes at least five days a week: On average, this resulted in about 15 minutes of total ice bath time a week. This temperature is extremely cold and should not be attempted without working your way down the temperatures.
  • Integrate intermittent fasting and carbohydrate restriction: Dr. Thomas would perform a 24-hour fast once a week. He believes that intermittent fasting paired with cold exposure helped accelerate the transition into ketosis and keep him there for longer.
  • Exercise after an ice bath to restore circulation to your limbs: Dr. Thomas would often use a 25lb steel mace to warm up straight after his ice bath, but sometimes will do pushups, pullups, kettlebells, or jumping jacks. Below is a video of his favourite workout for rewarming after his ice bath.

Integrate the practices safely

The above information should be extremely useful in modifying your daily practices and habits to better meet your goals, whether it’s increased energy and focus, increased sex drive, or greater muscle mass. Everybody is different so it is important to experiment with these different practices to see what works best for you.

Some of the above practices are on the extreme side if you are an absolute beginner, such as the 2 degree Celsius ice bath and the 24-hour fasts. I would suggest starting with 15 degrees Celsius for your first ice bath to ease yourself into cold water therapy. I’d also suggest starting with the 16/8 intermittent fasting method instead of diving straight into the 24-hour fasts.

I’d recommend the Wim Hof Method to pair with your ice baths as you gradually get into the lower temperatures, this will help you gain control over your autonomic nervous system which will help you relax your body in those freezing temperatures. If you’re struggling to reach those colder temperatures in your ice bath, have a read on how to keep your ice bath cold in summer and how to make reusable ice for your ice bath.

Have you had any experiences with ice baths and testosterone results? Please share below in the comments





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