Cold Water Immersion Blunts Increases in Circulating Testosterone
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Cold water immersion can take place in any number of settings, from home tubs to specialty tanks or plunge barrels and cold bodies of water. Physical therapy clinics and local spas may also offer immersion as a service.
The Importance of Testosterone
Testosterone has received much scrutiny in recent years, with several companies marketing testosterone supplements as ways to build muscle mass and libido, increase sex drive, and enhance virility.
This carefully controlled process ensures just enough testosterone is made available for our bodies' needs. For example during adolescence and early adulthood it increases in order to support growth of internal and external reproductive organs, promote masculine characteristics. These include increased body and pubic hair growth, deep voice production and the growth of armpit, chest and pubic hair and beards among males while helping sustain sex drive while helping maintain healthy erections.
Apart from its specific functions, testosterone plays an integral part in maintaining proper energy and fat metabolism within the body as well as protecting bones from resorption.
Furthermore, testosterone has long been recognized for its sex-enhancing qualities; studies have demonstrated its ability to increase sperm release and foster penile reflexes which lead to successful sexual encounters for males.
Tests conducted on animals indicate that testosterone is essential to the formation of the hippocampus, an area in the brain responsible for memory formation. Studies on humans have also demonstrated that those with lower testosterone levels are at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease.
Testosterone increases production of nitric oxide in the brain, which may play a crucial role in spatial recognition; hence its ability to improve performance on tasks that require spatial awareness like remembering where you put your keys.
However, these findings are limited in data and require further study. Although its exact mechanism remains unknown, low testosterone levels could be contributing to build-up of fatty plaques that obstruct neural pathways.
Regardless of these restrictions and uncertainties surrounding testosterone's significance in health and wellbeing is undeniable and it's vital that individuals take steps to maintain healthy levels.
What Is Cold Water Immersion?
What Is Cold Water Immersion (CWI)? CWI refers to the practice of subjecting one's body to cold temperatures in order to stimulate immune function and expedite healing, commonly used as an athlete recovery strategy.
CWI may take place through taking a cold shower, submerging in an ice tub, or jumping into the ocean.
Primary among these methods for improving recovery is decreasing muscle temperature.
Muscle exercise causes breakdown and the production of lactic acid waste product that causes soreness after workouts. Soaking in cold water reduces this temperature while pushing excess waste back into circulation so it can be flushed out more easily.
Cold water immersion also increases cardiovascular circulation, an essential function for keeping our hearts strong and healthy - giving our entire bodies more energy than before.
A weak cardiovascular system can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and an impaired immune system - while cold water immersion improves this by increasing blood flow throughout the body and stimulating release of catecholamines from nerves that activate immune response systems.
Does Cold Water Immersion Affect Testosterone Levels?
Cold therapy has long been used to aid muscle recovery after workouts and strengthen immunity. Here is an examination of available research into whether this advice holds water.
Testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day, typically reaching their highest point during morning hours. Production of testosterone depends largely on temperature - an ideal range is between 87 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit for production.
A study demonstrated that exposure to lower temperatures have a positive effect on plasma testosterone levels.
Another study published in the American Journal of Men's Heealth demonstrated that repeated bouts of hot thermal stress and cold water immersion did increase testosterone levels in men, but not significantly.
However, in a slight contradiction, a review published in 2000 didn't note any fluctuations in testosterone levels when men were subject to repeat exposure to cold air.
That said, workers who spent most of their time in extreme low temperatures (meat factory) showed a decrease in their testosterone levels.
One study published in 2015 shows that cold water immersion (CWI) may reduce muscle growth, yet not eliminate it completely. The study concludes that CWI should be reconsidered as a post exercise therapy.
Taken regularly, cold water immersion can stimulate your cardiovascular system, increasing blood flow throughout your body and improving heart function and oxygen levels while simultaneously reducing swelling.
However, its use as a therapy to increase testosterone levels doesn't show a great deal of promise as the results from studies are conflicting at best, but realitically show no significant benefits.