[03:25] Tim Ferriss and Ray Cronise
[06:15] Thermodynamics and Weight Loss
[09:09] Tim’s Self-Experimentation on Weight Loss
[12:18] Methods Other Than Cold Bath Immersion
[17:07] Brown Adipose Tissue
[21:38] Exploring the Topic of Temperature and Weight Loss
[27:02] Appetite Suppressing Supplements Tim Takes
[32:46] Ray and Michael Phelps’ 12,000 Calories
[37:48] Ray’s Research Developments
[44:03] Where Ray’s Research Will Take Him Next
[52:38] End of Podcast
In today’s episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast: Is Calories In Equals Calories Out A Real Weight Loss Equation, Do Changes In Body Temperature Result In Weight Loss, How Your Biology Responds To Cold, What To Eat Before Cold Exposure, and The Future Of Cold Exposure And Fat Loss.
Brock: Well, hey, Ben. How’s it going today?
Ben: I Woke up this morning super-duper stiff, did a cold soak in the river this morning…
Brock: Nice. Yeah, a cold soak never goes awry and it’s always a welcome feeling on some sore muscles, eh?
Ben: Check this out. So, there you go. Yeah. And essentially, I don’t want to turn this into shouting out, I don’t even shave my legs.
Brock: Okay. So, obviously Ben is not here, and that was likely the worst editing job I possibly could have done to try to convince you that he is here. But anyway, Ben just got back from his preparation for the zombie apocalypse, as I like to call it. I don’t think that’s really what it was, but he was off in the Rocky Mountains and he was only back for a few hours before he took off for jolly old England. So, I’m on my own this week. And so, we decided to take this opportunity to dig into our vault and pull out episode number 130, which was an interview with Tim Ferriss and Ray Cronise, two guys who know a lot about cold thermogenesis. And this interview is going to give you everything you need to know about cold thermogenesis, and there’s also a lot of extra cool tips that are available in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com. So, make sure you go over there.
And included in those links, there’s a link to a talk that Ray Cronise did at the Become Superhuman Event, which is only available in the Ben Greenfield Fitness app, and that is only available from bengreenfieldfitness.com/app. You can download the app for your iPhone or your Android phone and you’ll get access to all kinds of cool extra stuff that isn’t available anywhere else, including some gear review videos that I have done and a list of other cool things that you can dig into in the app itself. So, make sure you tune in next week and we will get right back in to answering your questions. We’re determined not to have two weeks in a row of weird podcasting, even though I’m going to be flying back from Philadelphia and only be just off the plane before we record, we’re going to get it out to you, the people. So, stay tuned, and of course, keep listening to hear from Tim Ferriss and Ray Cronise.
Ben: Like I literally, but I don’t even shave my legs.
Ben: Hey, folks! This is Ben Greenfield from bengreenfieldfitness.com, and I’ve got a couple of guys on the line right now, Tim Ferriss and Ray Cronise. And Tim, who you probably know of from a couple of books that he’s written, “4-Hour Work Week” and the “4-Hour Body”, has specifically a very interesting chapter in the “4-Hour Body” about mastering temperature to manipulate weight. And in that chapter of his book, he also talks about Ray and the interesting weight loss that Ray was able to experience by manipulating his temperature and also some of the experiments that Tim performed on himself. So, guys, thanks for coming on the line.
Tim: Thanks for having us.
Ray: Yeah. Thanks for having us, Ben.
Ben: So Tim, starting off what inspired you to actually contribute an entire chapter of your book to the topic of mastering temperature to manipulate weight?
Tim: I experimented with cold exposure starting, in earnest, in 1999 or so. The reason was muscular recovery. So I was looking at contrast therapies, in using hot showers and ice baths to speed recovery among other things. I had also read a book at the time called “Thermogenesis”, and hypothesized that if I could use pretty well-established supplements or stacks like the ephedrine, caffeine, aspirin stack in combination with cold that I should technically lose more body fat, and that turned out to be the case. So, I started with muscle recovery, then began using it for body fat loss. And in the course of writing The “4-Hour Body”, had wanted to explore this chapter, but quite frankly, didn’t have enough data. And that’s when luck intervened and I was introduced to Ray at NASA Ames Research Center where I’m a faculty member at Singularity University. And Peter Diamandis, the founder of the X PRIZE Foundation, or chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation, introduced the two of us, and that was a match made in heaven. So, Ray was then able to work with me and offer me a lot of the science that I would not have had access to otherwise.
Ben: Got it. So when it comes to science, obviously, when people think about being cold and weight loss, one of the things that comes up is this law of thermodynamics, that either Ray or you can address. But that’s the fact that energy cannot be created or destroyed, and it can only change forms. How does this actually relate to weight loss in the traditional sense, when we’re not talking about cold experimentation?
Tim: I think Ray is better qualified to jump on the thermodynamics, considering his job was to keep space shuttles from burning up for a while. So, Ray, you want to talk on that one? And maybe some of the misconceptions about the thermodynamics?
Ray: Yeah. I think, Ben, that the part that you probably should keep in mind, and everyone should could keep in mind, and really the secret is where Tim started with his stacks. Because if you think about what he was doing, he was still mastering thermodynamics. I mean, yeah, it’s sensational to talk about ice baths, and being cold, and shivering, and there is some definite benefit with all of that. But ultimately what Tim talks about in the book in a more subtle way, and I think what he was experimenting, which is really closer to the ultimate truth of how we harness this, is the idea that we’ve got a completely understand the energy of any system to do it. And the traditional paradigm in the conversation that started all this with Tim and I was this idea that everybody has this idea that it’s calorie in, calorie out. And at the most basic level, that’s true. But like any generalization, when you start digging in, well, it’s almost always true.
The problem that we had is that the only calorie out, calorie in is obviously anything we eat, but the only calorie out that we have is really exercise. And that’s the place where both Tim and I were frustrated, because there are many ways to force the body to expend energy that don’t necessarily involve climbing stairs, or running, or those kinds of traditional activities. And so, part of what he had experimented with was obviously the thermogenic effect of food, which is your body has some, the processes that uses the thermodynamics, not necessarily of getting hot or cold, or your body temperature changing that much, but the energy consumed in processing the food and how the food is processed. And then that stretches all the way back to the ideas that I was looking at, and that was really simply if my body wanted to be 98.6 and maintain that homeostasis, was it going to use more energy if I exposed it to a cold environment? And I think the answer is yes. So, the idea behind this is not about just being extreme, although obviously the extreme cells, people like hearing about people doing crazy things to their body. But what Tim, I think, really stumbled in upon in his research was actually using another kind of therapy and seeing other multiplying effects that lasted beyond just the initial exposure.
Ben: Okay. So Tim, your book is about self-experimentation, or a good portion of it is about self-experimentation. In this particular category, what type of things did you experiment with when it came to seeing whether changes in body temperature could assist with weight loss?
Tim: A lot of it was looking at short duration exposures. Because in the literature, typically you might look at a perfusion suit where someone will be wearing an actual suit that has been circulated, than then has cold water of a specific temperature circulated through it for an hour, two hours, three hours. And unfortunately, we don’t necessarily want to do that in real life. So, I had to look at alternatives that would be not only effective, but practical with real world responsibilities. So, I looked at cold showers [0:09:43] ______, I looked at cold baths of different temperatures and was able to more or less determine guidelines based on pounds of ice and the average bathtub be roughly 20 pounds of ice for a standard bathtub in the United States at room temperature or slightly colder, in some cases up to 30, but no more than that. Also looked at the hormonal response and body composition responses to these different stimuli. It’s challenging, of course, to separate out, or control variables, but I would simply ensure that that was the primary change I was making and that the diet, the exercise, et cetera remain constant. I also experimented with performing the cold exposures at different times of the day. So, in a fasted state, after food, before food, et cetera to try to identify what had the greatest fat loss impact.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Now when you were doing these experiments, were you looking at all at dietary supplementation or things that you could do in conjunction with cold therapy to enhance weight loss, if it could be enhanced?
Tim: I did look at this. I had to hold off on that for a period of time because I would either have to do it for all of the experiments or for none of them to make them comfortable. Two things I noticed that worked reasonable well were cayenne, that you could use some type of cayenne pepper extract, and you need to keep an eye on the big use. But taken with a small amount of protein, I’ve found that to enhance the thermogenic effect and the mechanism is explainable, so it’s not a mystery. It’s a pretty straightforward combination of two thermogenic approaches. The other one was protein, eating protein about an hour beforehand. And that could be as simple as unflavored whey protein in cold water and using that, as Ray mentioned, to capitalize on the thermic effect of food and protein in that case is going to be generally the most, produce the strongest effect.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Now, as pleasant as it sounds to take a few 10-pound bags of ice and put them in your bathtub and sit in there for a long time, in terms of practical ways that people could implement something like this to speed up weight loss without putting themselves through that kind of discomfort, did you find that there were other methods aside from cold bath immersion?
Tim: Oh, there are tons of options, and Ray can talk about a number of them. I simply prefer the short and sweet. And I also actually do the cold baths specifically ’cause they’ve demonstrated to be very effective as mood enhancers and also for sleep purposes. I don’t only use them for fat loss, I think Ray should comment on this. I have found cold showers to be very effective, and also simply using ice packs if you place them on the upper back or upper chest while you’re watching TV for 30 minutes to try and target the brown adipose tissue, the fat burning fat that’s typically located in those areas in adults. But Ray has a few other options that have worked well for him. So, I’ll let Ray jump in.
Ben: Gotcha. And I’ll come back to you on that brown adipose tissue, Tim. But Ray, what do you think in terms of other ways aside from cold baths?
Ray: So, this is an interesting thing that Tim stumbled into. And I know that when we first talked, most of his was about the exposure of whole body of data in the ’50s and ’60s where they actually did long exposure. Like they exposed men from anywhere from two to 22 days at 60 degrees C, or 60 degrees [0:13:26] ______ and 45 degrees C, 15 and 20. And what was interesting is that when they were looking at adaptation, that was one thing, there was a big push to say, “how do people get used to it”. So, you can think about sort of Navy BUDS training, how can we teach people to experience the cold and adapt to it to be functional. The other thing was what was the caloric intake that you needed to support somebody in the field when they were in a cool environment. What did their nutritional changes have to be. But here’s the interesting result that is very, very, I think, applicable to what Tim found, and that is that adaptation for most people came in terms of their ability to suppress their initial metabolic boost.
So, if you think about it this way, when you first get into that cold, that exhilaration, also the thing that can be dangerous if you’re a heart patient, certain people to shouldn’t do this, as Tim’s probably explained as well in the book. But the bottom line is that initial exposure causes a huge spike in your metabolic rate. It can be from 20% to 400% if you’re full-on shivering. Somewhere between four and 500% your resting metabolism rate can be generated by full-on shivering, miserable, not wanting to be there, but to tell you how far that goes. You’re talking about an RMR from 2,000 calories a day to an RMR of 10,000 calories. Obviously, you’re not going to say exposed to it 24 hours a day, but just to put that in perspective.
But what’s interesting is the effect, the initial effect, the rise in metabolic rate happens on almost instantly on exposure, your heart starts to go up. And these are some of the same things, things like green tea extracts, and cayenne, and the things that Tim was talking about the thermogenic effect the food, it just causes your body to rev at a higher rate. I mean that’s how all of those kinds of products do it. Well, Tim found a way to do it by simply exposing temporarily to cold. I came at it from a completely different perspective. I looked at what those guys were doing and said, “Can I expose my body to long duration,” in my case, 60 degrees F. And the answer was yes. And so, I did a number of things that were long and steady because I had the flexibility and the time to be in that cool environment all the time. I wasn’t in an office. I was specifically doing this for a six-week period, and I did the shiver walks and a number of those things.
So, mine was sort of the… it’s like the tortoise and the hare. I think the slow duration has a bigger magnitude over the longer run, but I definitely believe what he’s doing has an impact. I mean it is a measurable impact, and there’s plenty of studies to support it. What I don’t know much about is the BAT side, and that’s what I’ve been looking at now. And I think Tim raises some really interesting questions that we know that we find it more in adults. Babies have it a lot. A lot of their energy is, the thermal energy is derived from that because they can’t move in such a way humans can…
Ben: Before we get too far ahead of ourselves with BAT, Ray, because I know some people won’t understand what that is, I want to come back to you on that. And by the way, folks, Ray is a material scientist at NASA. So he does know what he’s talking about when it comes to this stuff. Tim, you had hypothesized, or suggested, that there may be other mechanisms at play above and beyond this rising metabolic rate, and that’s when you brought up the issue of BAT in your book. Can you explain what BAT even stands for and why you brought it up?
Tim: BAT, B-A-T, stands for brown adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is just fat. The fat that most people think of, the fat you see on a steak, the fat that you grab on your love handles is called white adipose tissue. And generally thought to not do a hell of a lot, it’s actually almost like an endocrine gland. We won’t get into it, but the brown adipose tissue is less common and you find it primarily in infants and other animal, or increasing body temperature. And infants aren’t going to be running around to heat themselves, and they use this brown adipose tissue to keep warm in many cases. It does, however, exist in adults. And what makes it very interesting is it’s brown because of mitochondria in the fat itself, which makes it actually more similar to muscle tissue than normal fat. Long story short, you can trigger this brown adipose tissue with cold exposure, and it causes the body to burn calories, fat calories specifically, to generate heat. So, that was one plausible mechanism that I’ve looked at to explain why, let’s say Ray, could go from, I think it was 1.5 pounds of fat loss per week to 4.5 pound of fat loss per week. What might be some of the other mechanisms besides just the calories in, calories out use of cold.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. So this BAT isn’t something that would necessarily be an unsightly fat that you’d develop upon cold exposure. It’s actually something that you can get and still not look fat?
Tim: Oh, yeah. It’s something you want more of. You wouldn’t even be able to see it unless you had a PET scan or something like that done. It’s something that activates. It’s not unsightly. It’s not going to be something that hangs over your belt. This is the type of fat you want to have more of because it helps to keep the unsightly fat off of you.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. So, in terms of practical applications for people, you mentioned cold packs. Is there anything else that people can do? I mean, is something as simple as drinking very cold water, or turning up the air conditioning in your home going to work as far as burning extra calories?
Tim: I’ll jump in on that. So, Ray did a number of things, including the walk outdoors with just a hat and gloves, and he started to leave his jacket home in 60 degree weather.
Ben: Were you wearing pants, Ray?
Ray: I was wearing pants.
Tim: Yeah. If you were in San Francisco, you might be able to get away with no pants. But most of the country, you can’t.
Ray: Real men wear Speedos.
Tim: Right. Which is where I live, so I’m able to talk smack about it. You could also, like you mentioned, drink, I would say 500 milliliters, which is like two-thirds of a bottle of wine in terms of volume, of cold water first things upon waking. I’ve found this to be very effective. So, if I do 500 milliliters of ice cold water, don’t give yourself brain freeze, first thing when you wake up and then go for a walk outside, a very fast 15-minute, let’s just say you did it three times a week, I’ve found that to be very effective for accelerating fat loss. It is important that you time that first thing in the morning in my experience. And I will challenge you a little bit on the ice bath. Like Ray mentioned, if you have a heart condition, this is not something you want to do right off the bat. Surprisingly, I’ve seen a very high level of compliance with people who start the ice baths, do it three times a week, and do it for five to 10 minutes only up to the waist. It’s really only uncomfortable for the first 60 seconds or so. So, I would say that I don’t think that it’s as out of reach as people might think. Because they think ice bath, and they think being up to their neck in ice, convulsing as they shiver. And that’s simply not what happens when you’re doing it up to your waist. So, I actually do think that’s more practical than one might thing.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. In terms of places where you might see research going as far as the use of cold or temperature adjustments for weight loss, or research into brown adipose tissue, Tim, have you seen that the weight loss scientific community as a whole seems willing to accept and explore this topic?
Tim: I’ll be curious to see if people can get studies funded that are intended to specifically look at the fat loss application. Ray’s, I think, in a good position to comment on this. One area I do think will be looked at more closely, and I would like to see it looked at more closely is the role of adiponectin which is another hormone most people haven’t heard of. But the role of adiponectin in fat loss and muscular gain as it relates to cold exposure and other types of environmental stimuli, and specifically looking at whether the effects of adiponectin can be triggered by a very short duration cold, which I believe is the case. So, that’s one area of research that I think will be interesting. But, Ray, what do you think? Do you think people will be getting money to look at this stuff?
Ray: I actually, I think if we can get over the hump and here’s the scientific hump we have to get over, and it’s actually pretty simple if you look at it with an open mind but it’s difficult, it’s kind of like BMI and a number of other things where people are locked in. But one, there is actually a lot of research going on to generating brown adipose tissue from white adipose tissue or just encouraging more brown adipose tissue. And you see a lot of that, that actually is active research. So, that’s actually, I would say, the most accepted streamline kind of research is looking at how you can generate or protect the brown adipose tissue you naturally have and looking at the levels of brown adipose tissue of obese versus non-obese people and what the connection is. So I think there’s a lot of that kind of work that will continue to go.
What I actually see as the big misstep of the industry is the fact that there’s a lot of things such as swimming that have gotten a bad rap, that are very much a thermodynamic drain, and people are immediately equating excess hunger because I believe you’re burning a lot more calories at those times and it generates a residual hunger with the idea that you’re going to somehow put on weight, like this idea that you’re going to put on layers of what fat to insulate yourself which just simply isn’t the case. And so the point that I see is some really well-funded studies, especially on swimming. But on the things that Tim has even talked about, we’ve talk about the shiver walks, a number of other things, I think there’s ways that you can trigger some long-term. But if a person’s not told that they’re going to get hungry, I think they’re going to tend to over eat. I think one of the areas is taking strategies like what Seth Roberts has done with the oil and combining some of these strategies that we know suppress hunger when you’re eating foods, the things Tim are doing so that you actually don’t get hunger. Because one of the things that neither Tim and I could tell you today that could be a big part of this is that we’ve managed to stave off our hunger even though we were exposing ourselves to these losses. I don’t know, Tim, if you want to add something on all of that.
Tim: I think that’s an important point, mainly, and this is true of exercise as well. If you take someone who has 30 plus pounds to lose, let’s just make it a larger number, 50 plus pounds to lose, I think asking them to change their diet and change their exercise, or incorporate exercise at the same time can actually increase the likelihood of failure because if their dietary habits aren’t locked in as subconscious, if it’s no longer their default, you’ll find that many of them overeat after they go to the gym and they completely knock out any type of caloric deficit that is produced. Not to say that caloric deficit is the only value of exercise, because I think that that’s actually really misguided in a lot of ways. However, I think the same is true for exposing yourself to thermal loading through swimming, let’s say, which can be very effective. Particularly if you’re doing, I forgot to mention, I did experiment with longer, slow and steady duration, or as you’d probably noticed, I’m impatient. I like short, quick fixes. I looked at effectively high intensity interval training via swimming, so doing 550-meter, 100-meter repeats for several period of time, 10, 15 minutes, and then getting out, by doing it in a cold pool, appeared to be very, very effective. But like Ray said, you get very hungry. And one of the ways to stave that off is by having branched chain amino acids, let’s just say 10 to 15 grams, or some type of rapidly digested protein, like whey protein, prior to the workouts so that it hits your bloodstream after you leave the pool. That would be one, I think, force multiplier that is worth experimenting with that people are going to go testing this in the real world.
Ben: That’s interesting. I’ll actually be experimenting with some of those protocols this summer. Me and a few friends are doing a 122-mile swim over in Lake Tahoe, and I’m sure we’ll be consuming many, many calories. But Tim, I know you got to go soon. Quick thing, before you go. If you could leave people with a couple of ideas if they end up implementing these, what are a couple of ideas that you have in addition to the branched chain amino acids for them to suppress hunger? Are there any supplements your self-experimentation that you’ve found to be good for suppressing hunger or suppressing appetite?
Tim: There quite a few that’ll suppress appetite well. The question is which do you take long-term. Let’s see. There are a lot of bodybuilders that take Dianabol. It’s just I wouldn’t recommend that. Let’s see. I would say that if you are consuming an abnormally large, a high protein breakfast, you really don’t experience the hunger pangs as much as you might expect. That’s the starting point is setting your glucagon, and ghrelin, and so forth on the right track in the morning by having at least 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking. And that’s a pretty decent amount of protein. If that’s whole food, you’re looking at four, five hard boiled eggs, whole eggs. I prefer certainly to try to do that with a shake of some type and then some whole food. But if you do that, you find that you will consume naturally 20 to 30% fewer calories throughout the day, particularly if you have a few eggs. Now this has been studied extensively.
So, if you have a big breakfast with eggs, let’s just say two eggs and then you can do whey protein and have some other vegetables and so forth, hypothetically, and I know it doesn’t work out perfectly this way, but if you increase your appetite 20% on just swimming, you should net out and really not feel much of a change. And when I was experimenting with this, that was the approach that I took. I ensured that I was consuming more protein for a reason. One, to suppress appetite slightly. And number two, to increase the thermogenic effect of food. In terms of supplementation, I’ve never taken anything, really, to suppress appetite. Any stimulant will have that effect. That could range from something like coffee to an A2 adrenergic receptor antagonist, but those get pretty gnarly if you’re something like yohimbine, for example, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. I find that the protein does the job really effectively.
Ray: And I would say, to add on to that, the fact that part of Tim’s low carb diet is he’s got lots of legumes. So, you’ve got high fiber food. And the great thing about those is they’re very difficult to overeat. So, things like spinach, kale, broccoli, beans, those things, if people develop the taste and flavor for those, the great thing about ’em is they can literally gorge themselves and they won’t get any significant calories. But they will have a lot of nutrient density. So, there’s a lot of really positive nutrients in them. And so actually, the more they eat, the more they lose. So, it’s one of those thing that it’s kind of a bonus food. And if you can learn to have a taste for that, and if you told people, “Hey, you’re going to be a little bit hungry,” but when you eat, this is a smaller subset of things that you’re allowed to just really go nuts on, then you’re not going to likely overeat. It’s the calorically dense, nutrient poor foods. A lot of the protein sources come with a fat, there’s the fat, and obviously any of the sugars, so things that are sort of Tim’s low carb recommendation, but those things go away. So, we want to stay to nutrient dense, calorically poor foods. And then you can just have at it. Eat what you want, but obviously it’s that knowing. I think it’s the knowledge. That’s the power here. Someone’s told, “You’re going to get hungry,” then they’ll know that hunger means excess now. It doesn’t mean, it’s not knowing it and it insidiously creeping up on you because you have an extra shake, or eat the wrong foods, or you don’t know. It’s the knowledge, and I think that’s what we’ve lacked in all the peer-reviewed studies that I’ve seen. They all sort of say, hand waving, “Well, we kind of didn’t tell ’em what to eat.” Well, doesn’t that really defeat the point?
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Tim: I would also add one more thing, and that is that part of the reason that I time ice baths, during which I just read, it’s actually pretty pleasant, if you can imagine that. But I time the ice baths also an hour before I go to bed for, I do it for many reasons. But one of the reasons is that if I get hungry while I’m asleep, it doesn’t bother me. If I get hungry just before I go out to eat dinner with four buddies, that could be a disaster and undo a lot of progress. So, I also make a point of doing this before bed, not only because of how good you sleep, but because it helps to stave off the negative effects of appetite. I will have almond butter before I go to bed as one way to stabilize blood sugar and prevent any type of excess hunger pangs. But the timing, I think, is really important. With anything, with many things, exercise, diet, investment, timing is really everything. And I do think that that applies to cold exposure as well. And I’m happy to answer one more question if you’d like, or I can let you gentlemen carry on the good fight without me.
Ben: Well, I think Ray’s got a little bit more science that he wants to delve into. Tim, you’ve been a wealth of knowledge. I would definitely point out to people, if you want more of Tim check out his fantastic blog over at fourhourworkweek.com, and we’ll also put a link to his new book, “4-Hour Body”, where he does have a chapter entitled “Ice Age” where he also delves into this topic. So, Tim, thanks for coming on.
Tim: Oh, my pleasure! Thanks for having me, gentlemen. And have a blast! I’ll let Ray introduce you to the wild world of thermodynamics and fat loss. So have fun, guys!
Ben: Alright. Catch you later, Tim!
Ray: See you, Tim!
Ben: Alright! So, Ray, just real quick, kind of a funny story, but what first got you into this? You mentioned the book that you heard about Michael Phelps eating 12,000 calories a day. How did that not jive with you?
Ray: Well, I mean you can imagine. I was eating 12,000 calories a week. That was my caloric intake for a week, and I was tracking everything. So sort of back into this, I started with a spreadsheet and I was doing primarily the Body for Life Program. That was Bill Philips. I had recently met Bill and actually was interviewed by him, and I did okay success-wise on that program. Small frequent meals, that worked out for me. The exercise regime was good. But I just wanted to make a lot more progress because in my particular case, I was doing well at about the 12-week mark, and I think a lot of your listeners can probably relate to this. But somewhere around 12 weeks, I just was tired of it. I mean I wish I could say that I had more willpower, and I certainly didn’t have as much to lose as some people at only 50 pounds, but I would get to the 12-week mark, things would be good, and then I would go back to my old habits and end up back where I was. So in this particular case, I’d come down about 20 pounds, and I really wanted to succeed.
So, the idea was how do I look deeper in and find some other way to make it more interesting. And I was looking at all the exercises and the spreadsheet saying what could I do every day to just add up the caloric deficit. That was all I cared about I just wanted to rack up a deficit. And it literally happened, I know it sounds like a made-up story, but it literally happened in the middle of that just after I’d figured out a marathon burns about three quarters of a pound of fat in terms of energy. Obviously, it’s not straight fat. But in terms of your overall deficit, it’s around 2600 calories. And so, in thinking about that, I was like, “It just didn’t make sense.” I know he’s an Olympic athlete. I recognize that he obviously does other workouts, et cetera, but no amount adjust his RMR for his health and fitness, how much swimming he did, trying to go back in the websites and figure out what his routines and workouts looked like, none of them added up to that kind of excess calories. It just didn’t make sense. And that was, it sort of hit me. Maybe it’s the water. It’s 24 times more thermally conductive than air. And what I find is that not only does he have that, but he’s got a really low body fat.
So his ability, like I said, your body’s ability to adjust the water is just merely that metabolic spike. But long-term, when you’re exercising, the body’s response is to dilate. You have the vasodilation of the skin, the heat gets shuttled up past the fat, past the adipose tissue. So, there are studies with trending obese and obese women in water environments, and when they’re made to exercise, basically the entire fat layer becomes not a part, it ceases to be part of the insulation equation. It’s really just the muscle that’s insulating, inner core muscle that’s insulating your innermost core, if that makes sense. The fat just goes away because the heat gets shuttled out to the skin like a big radiator to dump the excess heat so that you don’t overheat. So, the point of the realization was he has a low body fat, he’s exercising continuously, he’s got to dump heat. There’s just no way around it. The pools 80 degrees, he’s 98.6, the energy has to go somewhere. It has to come from within him because they don’t stick heaters in him during break. So, where does it come from? Well, it comes from his diet.
So, that was the initial genesis of what to start to do, but then I was amazed at how little people had looked at this seriously because everybody gets stuck with the ice water diet. You suck on an ice cube and you’re going to lose weight. And maybe to put it in everyone’s perspective, to melt one pound, to use the energy in one pound of fat to melt ice, that’s 66 pounds of ice melted and heated to body temperature. So, I want to sort of put that energy, and that’s why many scientists immediately dismiss it, because they do that basic calculation. They say, “Just one pound of fat is 66 pounds of ice.” That doesn’t make sense. But what I think Tim stumbled into, and I came at it from a different approach, but it’s same thing, is that there’s an overall net effect that is not unlike when you run and you stop [0:37:11] ______ all of the good that you’ve done doesn’t stop at that point. The body starts recharging. The body starts doing things. And I think it’s in that post-recovery phase that you’re getting a lot of the benefit.
Ben: Gotcha. So, once you realized this, obviously we kind of mention during talk with Tim that you started your drinking ice water and going on these cold 20 to 30-minute walks with not much clothing on, you mentioned in the book that you were sleeping with no covers on. Has that evolved? I mean, are you doing even more now in terms of cold management, or is your research taking you other places?
Ray: Yes. The interesting thing is what I learned is that most people don’t like cold. They don’t even like the thought of it. And so my question was, it was clear that I was getting results, but I was doing things that were relatively extreme. And so the question was could I get similar effects by other things. And my mind keeps bringing me back to swimming, because I’m not a swimmer. I don’t swim that frequently. That’s one of my goals for 2011, so I really want to be good. I’m not afraid of water and I can swim, I just can’t swim laps like Tim describes in his TED talk. I looked more like a drowning monkey. I just can’t do it with style and I envy people that have that graceful long stride. That being said, if you look at even the most recent data, there’s a lot of people that suggest that you can’t lose weight swimming. And I believe one of the missing factors is this hunger side, that they’re not controlling that factor. Any excess physical activity, if you eat more, do you negate the energy you burn during that activity?
And so, that’s really where I focused a lot of my energy since then was how can I encourage people to take a few layers off, maybe understand how their body gets cold. The body gets cold in a series of steps. The very first thing, it stops blood flow to the skin. We’ve talked about that. The next thing it does is it starts shutting down blood to the extremities. You never get frostbite of the head, it’s always of the toes, nose, ears, fingers. So one of the things I did to sustain a cooler environment is I covered those things. I covered my nose, I covered my face, I covered my hands, I covered my feet so that I didn’t have these feedbacks that would make me more cold. Does that make sense?
Ben: Yeah. Absolutely.
Ray: So, the idea was I was trying to trick my body into being able to sustain it longer without going obviously into hypothermia. ‘Cause people think I’m talking about lowering their body temperature. You don’t want your body temperature to fall because that then uses less energy. You want your body temperature to stay where it is. So, what I did was I would go and I would walk out as far as I could until I just felt like, “I’m cold now.” And when I felt like I was cold, a reasonable cold, then I would run back. And so, by the time I got back, I was perfectly comfortable. Like any other runner will tell you, 30 or 40 degrees is actually a great running weather. I mean, if you actually get out and do it, once you get warmed up, it’s like the New York Marathon and these others, they leave clothes along the way and donate them. I didn’t know about that until recently ’cause I’m not a long distance runner either. So, the idea is that once you get your body going, it’s generating heat, I just walked out and exposed longer before I started that process.
Ben: Gotcha. You lost, when you were doing the Bill Phillips Body for Life Program, you lost almost 18 pounds, about 17.8 pounds in 12 weeks. How much did you lose in that amount of time, or how much did you lose when you started this program with the cold exposure?
Ray: It was right at, I think, I don’t have the data in front me, but I think it was like 27 pounds of fat. It was like 26 or 28 pounds of fat or something, and then I don’t know what the actual weight was. 209 to 182 is what I think it was.
Ben: So, you jumped from losing basically one-and-a-half pounds a week to losing almost five pounds a week.
Ray: Yeah. So, from 1.6 to 4.8 pounds a week, and the only change that I had, because I really had completed the Bill Phillips Program. This was the third time through it. So I was doing it pretty religiously. And when I commit to something like that, I stick to it. So, I was doing it, and I jumped from 1.6 pounds a week average to 4.8, and that was just the net effect. Now, I don’t know which one of them had the biggest effect. I was sipping about a gallon of ice water a day. That’s -123 calories. You know what I mean by negative calories. In other words, it takes on 134 calories really, just depending on if you set the ice water temperature at 32 or 40, but basically it takes a certain amount of calories to heat that water up to body temperature. When it comes out, it’s going to be 37 degrees. And so the idea here was it was a small amount, but thinking about it in another way, my 50 pounds of weight loss, of weight gain over the 20-year period that I gained it, averages out about two-and-a-half pounds a year, or an extra 168 calories a week, or just 16 M&M’s. So, I want to put that in perspective, what that means in calories.
So when someone thinks about drinking a gallon of ice water, sipping a gallon of ice water throughout the morning, okay, obviously more water is good and you can drink too much. So, don’t drink too much. But if you do that and if it is somewhere between 120 and 130 calories to warm it up, of net calories to warm it up, that’s daily. And we’re talking about 168 calories extra a week excess calories is equal to 50 pounds of fat loss over 20 years, or fat gain over 20 years. Do you see what I mean by these small differences can make a huge change if you’re consistent and you don’t undo it with overeating. So, this is really important, having a system, whatever system you find, that diet-wise you can keep with, that you know what you’re doing. I think at that point, adding some of these other ideas or some of these other strategies on top, layering them on top of it, that becomes a place where you can really succeed.
Ben: Gotcha. So Ray, where do you think that your research or your experimentation in terms of cold therapy or cold exposure is going to take you next?
Ray: We’ve got an amazing community. I had no idea how much people will respond about the media and the book. I mean we have thousands of registered on my site, which is just raycronise.com, or hypothermics.com, you can put the link to it. And what I’m really interested in is creating a forum where we can start pushing the envelope of some of these ideas. I like the idea of the open source concept for the body, I like the idea of self-experimentation and what’s gone on in, like at the TED Talks patients like me and other people that are taking control of not just being geeks about tracking everything, but submitting data to a larger community so that we can learn something. Because it’s very difficult in peer-review science to get compliance on diet and exercise because often it’s college students that are doing are the participants, and they, and going off for a weekend and going off of it, and they’re reporting errors and lots of things. And the other place where you got a lot of really good data where we do get compliance is military, because they literally lot guys up and say, “This is what you’ll eat and this is what you’ll do,” but we’re not doing as much of that anymore.
So, what really would be helpful is over these thousands and thousands of people that you reach, that Tim reached, millions literally that Tim reaches and that I can reach, if we could aggregate people who are willing to do something, and even if they try something a little different, as long as they report it and do what they say and say what they do, that data’s meaningful. And so what I’m trying to do at my site is provide a place where people can submit data and submit that to me, and I want to try to aggregate it and find some really good trends. I believe that we will find it, and we’ve got some pretty cool data analysis tools that allow us to throw out data that’s obviously not acceptable, things that we were using for even stuff that we were doing at NASA. And I think we can actually evolve and learn some techniques that we might not find through trial and error. I mean, literally like a lot of serendipitous science happens, I think that a lot of people trying little things will make a difference. The biggest place where I think we can make a difference is swimming.
And with the stuff that you guys do this summer, if you can track the data, track the water temperature, try to make these things as repeatable as possible, I think swimming holds a big key because you can do it at all fitness levels. You can do it when you’re obese, and you can’t run, and you can’t walk, and you can’t bike. There’s a lot of advantages. Obviously, space is near and dear to my heart and that’s my first love was getting everybody weightless, that’s the fastest weight loss program. So, if you haven’t flown on our Zero G plane, it’s something that’s definitely something you experience, what it feels like to weigh nothing. But at the same time, swimming is the closest thing we have on Earth to that kind of sensation, the idea that you’re able to glide effortlessly. But it’s still a good cardiovascular workout. And so, if we can show that with a controlled diet, that people are exposed to a higher thermal environment and that thermal load or the thermal environment is actually good for weight loss, if they know they can suppress the hunger, we might have a huge impact. And I think that area, right now, the direction that it’s going from the researchers perspective is there’s a lot of data out there that suggest you just don’t, basically the papers all conclude you burn the same amount of calories as swimming as you do these other exercise, but swimming makes you fat. And that to me is a contradiction. They both can’t be true. Either you don’t burn the calories, or you do burn the calories and you should lose weight. I think not telling the people that they’re going to get hungry and people not exploring that part, that’s where swimming has gotten a bad rap, and I would like to see a huge emphasis nationwide on more kinds of water-based activities.
Ben: Gotcha. And I think the one thing if people should not get confused about is the fact that many good swimmers, especially open water swimmers or distance swimmers, are they sometimes are a little pudgier, they’re a little thicker. And remember that one of the reasons that they do that is for performance. For example, I personally try to shed muscle and I will be putting on a little bit of fat before my open water swim attempt this summer just to make myself more buoyant and less heavy, just because muscle’s a little bit more dense. So, don’t get confused and think that you have to look the same way as a slightly pudgy open water or a North Pole swimmer would have to look. Right?
Ray: That’s exactly right. And right now, I’m going to tell you that with you saying that, that’s more than what appears in the peer reviewed literature. They more pose it as a mystery. And in fact, they’ve done studies with runners, swimmers, and triathletes, and they see the similar kinds of recovery and biochemical processes happening in the triathletes and the swimmers, and yet the triathletes and the swimmers are carrying a little bit more body fat. We’re talking about the difference between eight and 10%. For the average person, even hitting 10% is a miracle. So, when they say you have this extra fat, let’s not fool ourselves. I’ve never hit 10% of my adult life. So, these people are already pretty fit to start with. So I think, Ben, what you’re talking about, this is information, there’s a huge disconnect right now, and at the turn of the century, swimming was one of the top 10 activities in our nation. And now, the turn of the last century. Now, that’s not there. At the 1932 Olympic trials, 250,000 people were in attendance. So, swimming was huge in our country. I don’t know if there is a connection between that and fitness, but I do know it’s something that people generally enjoy to do. And I think this is the area where we have the most fertile ground for doing research, and especially folks like you that do both. Because that interval training, the idea of aerobic activity that heats the body up, followed by a cool activity that keeps the heart rate up, but allows you to dump heat into the water, that kind of activity probably will be our best opportunity to use this.
Ben: Gotcha. Well, for you folks listening in, this definitely won’t be a one and done topic here at bengreenfieldfitness.com. I am in touch with Ray and have his contact details, and I’m certain that we will end partnering up or doing some things together in the future to help you out when it comes to weight loss, cold, swimming, and some of the topics that were discussed on the show today. So in the meantime, Ray, I’d like to thank you for the time in this interview.
Ray: Hey, thanks a lot, Ben. I’d love to come back and I’d love to have people submit any data, even if they’re not doing the swimming right now. I’ve got a pretty good tracking program for transformation, it’s a 12-week spreadsheet. And if they would just submit data, the data is helpful for me even if you’re doing something else. As long as I know what you’re doing, having those measurements, aggregating a huge repository of measurements while people are doing transformations or trying to get fit is extremely important.
Ben: And folks, we will be putting a link to Ray’s website so you can go do that if you’d like to. Everything will be on the show notes for this episode over at bengreenfieldfitness.com. So, until next time this is Ben Greenfield and, Ray, just to make sure I pronounce your last name correctly, is it Cronise?
Ben: Cronise. Ray Cronise, fitting, the ice.
Ray: [laughs] That’s the first time that joke’s made, but I think I’ll hear it a lot now.
Ben: Probably! Alright. Signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.
For the past 4 days, I’ve been living in the Rocky Mountain National Park – at above 9000 feet altitude in the depths of the Colorado wilderness. During each of those days, I took a 15-30 minute icy cold plunge into the big mountain lake…
…and there’s a very specific reason why – something called “cold thermogenesis” (also known as “CT”).
If you don’t know what CT is – or why it can help you get massively tougher, burn fat faster, decrease inflammation, boost performance and build cardiovascular endurance, then today’s Tim Ferriss Cold Thermogenesis Special Episode is for you. In this interview, I talk more about the topic of cold and fat loss with Tim Ferriss, and NASA materials engineer Ray Cronise.
In this episode, we discuss:
-Why weight loss experts are wrong when they say that “calories in=calories out” is the weight loss equation….
-What type of self-experiments Tim conducted to see whether changes in body temperature can result in weight loss…
-Exactly how your biology responds to cold, and what it means for your rapid fat loss…
-What to eat before cold exposure to make you lose even more fat, faster…
-Practical ways to get instant cold exposure for weight loss…
-The future of research and experimentation in cold exposure and fat loss…
Due to the fact that I’m off to London this week to speak at the Global Triathlon Conference and do a Primality workshop with Darryl Edwards, we dug this extremely popular podcast episode out of our archives.
If you want more resources on cold thermogenesis, then you’re in luck. In addition to today’s podcast, I’d highly recommend you check out the following: