Published on December 22, 2014
Meet Eric (pictured above as he stares off into some mysterious icy wilderness).
I'll keep this simple for you: Eric is mildly obsessed with the use of cold exposure to burn massive amounts of calories. He invented a vest that I use every week, called a CoolFatBurner. You put the vest over your shoulders, where your body carries the majority of your rapid calorie burning brown adipose tissue, and then you just sit there.
Oh yeah, one other thing: the vest is filled with cold packs.
So anyways, you may be scratching your head, you may think all this is woo-woo, you may already know about “cold thermogenesis” but you're not quite sure how practically to do it, or you may simply want an easy way to nudge any extra holiday calories off your waistline and instead use them to generate pure, clean body heat.
Either way, keep reading, because Eric is today's guest author, and he's going to give you a glimpse inside the nefarious, shivering mind of the ultimate fat burning weapon inventor – himself. Enjoy.
Howdy and Happy Holidays.
If you've been reading Ben's blog or listening to his podcast for the past year, then you probably already know of the fat-burning benefits of cold thermogenesis, cold showers, keeping your house cool and wearing special gear that keeps you cold. Along with interviewing guys like iceman Wim Hof and neurosurgeon Jack Kruse, Ben was the first person to reveal the results of my groundbreaking indirect calorimetry experiment, which shows that high intensity cold stress can boost your metabolism by 301% (gotta love burning an extra 600 calories while I play video games).
Since then, I've shown that wearing my Cool Fat Burner vest can boost adiponectin by 60% in two hours, raise resting metabolic rate, and activate brown fat – and keep it active for hours after removing the cooling vest. We later duplicated this experiment last August, just to further show the cold thermogenesis can maintain maximal brown adipose levels even through a hot summer season. Using the weapon of cold, we also showed that you can spot reduce stomach fat via cold-induced fat cell apoptosis.
That's fat cell death. Goodbye muffin tops.
But we now know that the Cool Fat Burner can do a lot more than speed up fat burning. It can also directly encourage muscle growth. This is arguably just as important as the fat burning benefit. Why?
As of the time you are reading this, over 2/3 of Americans are overweight, with the modernized world not far behind.
But when many people try to lose weight, they end up losing muscle tissue along with that fat, sometimes losing a lot of valuable muscle that can be very, very hard to get back! This is obviously not good. Aside from the fact that you’ll look less healthy, be weaker and have decreased performance at most physical tasks, you may also be at higher risk for the various metabolic and “lifestyle disorders” you tried to avoid by losing weight in the first place.
And now, since you lost muscle, your workout capacity and resting metabolic rate have dropped, which means that what used to be a maintenance level of food that was burned by your own muscle is now a calorie surplus!
So your purpose in become the ultimate fat-burning machine is clear: you want to be able to burn fat, while preserving (or even building new) muscle.
How To Burn Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time
Cold thermogenesis can be your secret weapon in this battle that so many others struggling at the gym don’t (yet) realize.
To help maintain muscle while you burn fat, cold thermogenesis can help you:
- increase insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle.
- induce “nutrient partitioning,” your ability to direct nutrients away from fat, and into muscle.
- increase adiponectin, a hormone that can increase mitochondrial biogenesis. This means your muscle cells have more mitochondria – the “power plants” of the cell – and these mitochondria can work harder, longer, and burn more fuel, and burn it while producing fewer free radicals.
- increase the hormone irisin, which can lower myostatin, and that allows for unlocked and increased muscle growth.
- general PWO (post workout) recovery and decreased inflammation.
- enhanced sleep – a way to not only recover faster, but also preserve and even help build muscle.
So cold thermogenesis can not only boost metabolism, burn a massive number of calories, and help keep the fat off, but it can also help preserve and even promote muscle gains. Click on the links for yourself. The research has spoken, and it just makes sense when you think about – in the same way that exercise can be uncomfortable and eating healthy or skipping a few holiday bottles of booze can be uncomfortable, cold exposure can be uncomfortable – but the benefits of even mild cold stress are profound. Discomfort pays off.
So what is the best protocol to optimize cold thermogenesis and make all this happen?
How To Use Cold Thermogenesis
I've integrated some of the most effective diet plans, workout paradigms, and cold thermogenesis breakthroughs into what I call the “Body Recomp” plan. This plan is highly individualized and customizable, since it’s really just a set of principles that you pick and choose as you please, combining diet, exercise and cold stress in the absolute best ways to meet the goals of burning fat, building muscle, and improving health, with the speed at which you go dependent on how far you're willing to take the diet and the cold.
Is your goal to eat 18 scoops of ice cream (dairy-free vegan coconut ice cream, of course) and partition those calories away from fat and instead shove them into muscle, all while still walking around with exemplary health markers and clinically low insulin levels? Well, here you go:
Eventually, I'll have the Body Recomp plan up on the new Cool Fat Burner site with free access. Until then, I'm going to give you a few general concepts, principles, and practices you can get started with.
To begin, you must understand two simple concepts: mTOR and AMPK – one builds up and one breaks down, respectively. The table below fills you in.
The key in building muscle and burning fat at the same time is to unlock the benefits of both these processes, while avoiding the negatives of both – to build your muscles, without increasing fat storage or abnormal, cancerous cells and to burn fat and clean up bad cells without tearing down muscle.
And that, in a very basic scientific nutshell, is how you build muscle and burn fat at the same time.
The Levels of Cold Thermogenesis
Back when the Cool Fat Burner was first created, I defined 3 distinct levels or intensities of cold stress, based on the level of cold stimulus required, the systems they activate, and the results they give you.
Level 1: Beginner / Casual Intensity:
This feels like being lightly cooled off, and would be like hanging out in a 65°F room with minimal clothing. It activates the autonomic nervous system, and causes a small increase in calorie burning (probably around 10%). This is a low level of cold thermogenesis, and could be done for hours a day, with minimal effort. You may even experience enhanced glucose uptake at this level.
For example, I received an email from a Cool Fat Burner user who wasn’t ready for the insulin sensitizing effects of cold thermogenesis. He said he wore the cooling vest over a T-shirt, and when he approached the 30 minute mark, he nearly passed out! When I questioned further, it turned out his mother was diabetic, and that he was 100lbs overweight and had a fatty liver.
Simply put, the customer had poor insulin sensitivity, and was pre-diabetic and cold thermogenesis caused a massive burning up of blood glucose, pulling it into brown fat and muscle tissue!
Even though I don't encourage cooling yourself into hypoglycemic shock, this of course proves the power of cold exposure, and demonstrates why brown fat is being researched to help treat or even prevent (T2) diabetes. It also demonstrates that you need to be careful when engaging in cold thermogenesis, because it actually works!
Level 2: Moderate Intensity
This is a deeper chill, and starts to activate brown fat and skeletal muscle uncoupling. This will definitely increase glucose uptake and start to allow for nutrient partitioning. The calorie burn numbers here can depend on how much muscle and brown fat you have (you'll burn more calories when you maintain muscle while losing fat).
Also note – cold thermogenesis can maintain maximal brown adipose tissue levels even through summer, which I found when wearing a cooling vest around 1.5 hrs a day, and verified with PET scans. So while hot weather will decrease brown fat in everyone else, you can use cold thermogenesis to maintain maximal BAT levels and fat burning even through the summer.
Level 2: Hardcore Intensity
This intensity ventures into the realm of shivering. But before you go running for the hills, understand that there is a spectrum here – this can be a subtle, barely perceptible pre-shiver that only works in small muscle groups, and progress up to large-scale shivering shaking your entire body.
Even in the indirect calorimetry experiment, doing slight to moderate shivering, interval shivering (so-called “shiver surfing”) I demonstrated a boosted metabolism of over 300%. This level also produces the highest levels of adiponectin and irisin.
So shivering will burn a massive amount of calories, can help preserve or even build muscle, can radically increase insulin sensitivity, causes the fastest increase in your regular brown fat stores, and cause “browning” of your subcutaneous white fat into “bright” or “beige” fat, as well as a whole host of health and life-extending benefits (some may mistakenly think that hardcore intensity would be an unpleasant experience, but they’d be wrong).
Two Sample Days Of Cold Thermogenesis
So, using these principles and applying those various intensities of cold thermogenesis, here are two sample days from the Body Recomp plan. Example one is for clean-bulking muscle (e.g. you want to build muscle and you really don't have much fat to lose), and example two is for fat burning without losing muscle.
Example 1 – Anabolic Day (clean-bulk muscle building):
Goals: turn on mTOR, build muscle without gaining fat. Enjoy cheat foods. Increase metabolism. Have a ‘break’ from dieting. Enjoy satiety, experience a full stomach. Overall ‘building up’ of the body. Yep – you guessed it – perfect for the holidays.
Meal 1: Breakfast
-~50gm protein, moderate fats, very low carb (usually take fish oil and chia seeds and fat-soluble vitamins like Vit D with this meal)
Note: Brazil nuts have a lot of selenium, which can build to toxic levels. Eat in moderation.
If your workout suffers from having no carbs and you’ve ruled out it’s not just psychological, then throw in some slow-digesting carbs. Oatmeal would be an excellent choice.
Workout 1: Early afternoon, muscle-building resistance training.
NOTE: “resistance training” is a bit ambiguous. We know that progressive overload is needed to preserve / build muscle. Yet it’s recently been implied that the differences in rep ranges – the classical 1-5 reps for strength, vs the 7-12 reps for hypertrophy – may not be as clear cut as we once thought.
It appears one should work a muscle at least 2-3 times a week, anywhere from the “power rep range” (typically 1-5 reps) to the “hypertrophy rep range,” (usually 8-12 reps) and still get the same muscle size growth or preservation. So specific rep ranges may not be too important in terms of muscle size and preservation, and individual goals, can factor in here.
Note: On a more metabolically intensive variant of the Body Recomp plan, you can cycle in extremely high rep work, complexes, anaerobic work, metabolic work, HIIT (high intensity interval training), and LISS (low intensity steady state cardio). You can also frequently cycle the type of exercise, as well as add ‘exotic’ methods, such as resistance bands, paused reps and timing schemes, partial movements, conjugate principles, and so on, to prevent plateaus and boredom. To preserve muscle simply means you need to spend adequate time on strength-end of the strength/endurance spectrum.
Meal 2: Post-Workout Meal (carb refeed)
-Lots of protein adequate carbs, as well as fiber and pro/pre-biotic elements. (if you take probiotic pills, this would be a good time to pop ‘em)
-At least 50-60 gm protein in this meal.
-Alternate post-workout meal: Junk food / cheat meal version: use your imagination. Just make sure you get enough protein and make every attempt to keep things Ben approved. A giant gluten-free pizza with a pastured egg and some feta cheese on top? OK. A basket of greasy, inflammatory chicken wings? Probably not.
Note: While it may only take 20 gm protein to increase muscle protein synthesis, it’s still probably a good idea to get more protein per meal, especially if you’re older, andI never get less than 40gm protein in any given meal. I like to get .8 to 1 gm per pound bodyweight every day, divided into 3-5 meals. I weigh between 190lbs to 200lbs, depending on current goals, so I never get less than 150gm protein a day.
After this post-workout meal, I'll go for 1.5-2hrs wearing one or both cooling vests (Cool Gut Buster along with the Cool Fat Burner)
I may not shiver during this session, because I don’t want to burn off too many calories, nor activate AMPK – I want those post-workout meal calories to go into muscle building.
The goal here is for increased nutrient partitioning and pushing the nutrients into the muscles. I’m not really trying to burn too many calories, unless I went overboard with the junk food and fear carb spillover. Moderate intensity cold thermogenesis is enough.
Meal 3: Night Meal
-Probably at least 80 gm protein. High protein, moderate fat, lowish carbs (no wrap or chips here).
So by the end of the day, I probably had nearly 200 gm of protein and I had a decent amount of carbs (almost all in the post workout meal). The ‘cleaner’ version of the PWO meal had a lot of fiber, prebiotics, and phytonutrients. The junk food version (not pictured) would be lacking in all that, unless I took fiber supplements and vitamins with it. Lifting was done somewhere in the 1-5 or 8-12 rep range per set, trying to get a minimum of 30 reps per muscle group for the whole workout. Cold thermogenesis was used to help catch any extra calories and hopefully push them into muscle and BAT.
So the end results would be increased muscle growth, boosted leptin and thyroid, a psychological break with the cheat meal, a full belly, and muscles that would feel pumped and full with little to no added fat, all followed by a deep, restful sleep.
Example 2 – Fat Burning Day (burning fat without losing muscle):
Goals: Fasting or “PSMF” (“protein sparing modified fast” to maintain muscle synthesis, since muscle synthesis can continue for up to 48 hrs after a hard workout). Huge calorie burning and fat loss. Activation of cellular cleanup and the enhancement of health and longevity via AMPK pathways.
Note: much of day will be spent in either an air conditioned environment (if it's hot outside) or with heat turned down or off (winter). Ideally wear minimal clothes. Keep fingers, toes, ears, and nose warm.
Meal 1: Breakfast
- –Coconut oil
- -Grass-fed butter
- -Cocoa powder
Also take fish oil and chia seeds, as well as any fat-soluble vitamins here, such as Vitamin D or Vitamin K.
Note: The coffee will help to shut down appetite stimulation, and the fats will lessen gluconeogenesis of the PSMF protein-only breakfast (e.g. the ability of the proteins to turn into sugars).
-Protein slurry. 60-80 grams of casein (and egg?) protein powder, with powdered peanut butter (or – since I know Ben is reading this – raw almond butter) and almond milk or coconut milk. Bacon on top.
Note: Consider avoiding whey (and maybe egg) protein if you’re trying to maximize AMPK. Whey contains a lot of the amino acid leucine. Leucine activates mTOR. This is good on anabolic days, not so much on fat burning AMPK days.
Remember, AMPK is involved in cellular cleanup, the destruction of harmful junk cells, and longevity. We want to maximize AMPK on this fat burning day. So at least for the morning hours, consider keeping insulin low, mTOR turned off, and AMPK revved up as high as possible. That means not eating whey, and possibly not even eating eggs, as they too can be insulinogenic, turn on mTOR, and turn off AMPK.
Meal 2: Late Morning / Early Afternoon Meal
-Long, hardcore cold thermogenesis session. I’ll go at least 1.5 to 2hrs. At least 1 hour will be spent somewhere around shivering. (NOTE: it is not advised to wear a cooling vest longer than 30 minutes without medical consent)
Even after removing the cooling vests, I’ll lounge in the same cold room for at least an hour or so. So this single session alone could run upwards of 4 hours. But I'm still being productive (and yes, also playing video games) during those 4 hours.
Meal 3: Late Afternoon Meal
High protein, low fat, no carb.
Evening cold thermogenesis.
Take a chill-walk, wearing the CFB (CoolFatBurner vest) if feasible. The extra walking will serve as low intensity steady state cardio (LISS), and adding cold thermogenesis to the mix adds even more calories burned. Go for at least an hour.
Note: Dress lightly if possible and walk slow and casually, so as to not generate too much heat via exercise.
Meal 4: Night Meal
-At least 200 gm of protein for the day, very low fat and carb. PSMF. (eat at least 1gm protein per pound bodyweight on fat burning days, to help preserve muscle)
So with an already boosted metabolism, I’m already in a huge caloric deficit from the PSMF. Add to that many hundreds of calories burned from the CFB and I should easily hit 1/2lb of fat loss this day.
What’s more, by keeping insulin low especially through morning, by depleting glycogen all day, ad by being in constant fat burning mode, I’m maximizing insulin sensitivity, improving health markers, activating AMPK, and doing some serious house-cleaning on the body’s cells.
So that's it!
Yeah, I know you probably have questions, so leave them in the comments section below. I'll answer.
These two sample days were obviously opposite in nature and outcome. Anabolic growth vs. metabolic cleanup. Building muscle and repairing tissues vs. burning fat and cleaning up cellular junk.
So choose your goal. Then, as a famous shoe company once quipped, just do it. And yes, either strategy is 100% Ben Greenfield approved and endorsed. Have fun.
Cold thermogenesis and the Cool Fat Burner can help with both.