Do cold baths use more calories ...

Seriously, is that the real reason why so many people on here are so keen on immersing themselves in icy water?

My impression, based on a loose awareness of thermodynamics and concepts like shivering thermogenesis, is that the answer is "yes, but not enough to justify the discomfort involved" - but I've never seen any figures or equations to back this up. Can anyone here enlighten me?


  • i thought cold baths were better for your muscles or something like that? less achy?
  • I thought cold baths were for when the bromide wore off.
  • just had a thought tipsy said she had a cold bath after the Dublin marathon and felt alot beter walking around day after compared to London when she wasnt feelin as good after.
  • So it prevents stiffness? Isn't that what I said?
  • looking at a pic of me first thing would do that and you dont have to get cold
  • The speculation about achy muscles has been done to the death. I'm asking a completely different question :o) One that should have a quantifiable answer.
  • >Friendly sort of reptilian slap for DB, just because he's there<
  • about the cold I read that if you eat a chocolate bar in a freezer it burns more calories than sitting and eating it at room temperature. so I suppose it could burn more calories
  • Surely that's because it is more difficult to eat so you use more energy.

    (Psst, V-rap, I'm trying to be sensible now - I'm not sure how long I can hold on though).
  • if you are sitting in a freezer as well I suppose your body works harder to maintain your core temp
  • age 14 & anorexic, i thought it did. i also thought drinking cold water was good, for much the same reason.

    the below was stuck on the wall of the physics dept. at college:

    Beer and Ice Cream Diet

    As we all know, it takes 1 calorie to heat 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. Translated into meaningful terms, this means that if you eat a very cold dessert (generally consisting of water in large part), the natural processes which raise the consumed dessert to body temperature during the digestive cycle literally sucks the calories out of the only available source, your body fat.

    For example, a dessert served and eaten at near 0 degrees C (32.2 deg.F) will in a short time be raised to the normal body temperature of 37 degrees C (98.6 deg. F). For each gram of dessert eaten, that process takes approximately 37 calories as stated above. The average dessert portion is 6 oz, or 168 grams. Therefore, by operation of thermodynamic law, 6,216 calories (1 cal./gm/deg. x 37 deg. x 168 gms) are extracted from body fat as the dessert's temperature is normalized.

    Allowing for the 1,200 latent calories in the dessert, the net calorie loss is approximately 5,000 calories. Obviously, the more cold dessert you eat,the better off you are and the faster you will lose weight, if that is your goal.

    This process works equally well when drinking very cold beer in frosted glasses. Each ounce of beer contains 16 latent calories, but extracts 1,036 calories (6,216 cal. per 6 oz. portion) in the temperature normalizing process. Thus the net calorie loss per ounce of beer is 1,020 calories. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to calculate that 12, 240 calories (12 oz. x 1,020 cal./oz.) are extracted from the body in the process of drinking a can of beer.

    Frozen desserts, e.g., ice cream, are even more beneficial, since it takes 83 cal./gm to melt them (i.e., raise them to 0 deg. C) and an additional 37 cal./gm to further raise them to body temperature. The results here are really remarkable, and it beats running hands down.

    Unfortunately, for those who eat pizza as an excuse to drink beer, pizza (loaded with latent calories and served above body temperature) induces an opposite effect. But, thankfully, as the astute reader should have already reasoned, the obvious solution is to drink a lot of beer with pizza and follow up immediately with large bowls of ice cream.

    We could all be thin if we were to adhere religiously to a pizza, beer, and ice cream diet.

    Happy eating!
  • My theory about this is that exercise heats you up.

    The quicker you can get yourself cool, then the less effort your body needs to make to get it back to normal.

    Therefore cool baths are good.

    And hot baths arent as you feel really woozy coming out of them, and then need to go for a lie down. But its quite good fun.
  • Vrap, as a medical professional surely you are more qualified than most of us to answer your own question? Interesting concept though, it sort of makes sense that your body would use up more energy. I'd never thought of that before, just use cold showers for the afore-mentioned muscle relief.
  • I like it, DG!

    I do actually know someone who only managed to lose the last couple of pounds on her diet after switching jobs from bakery to deli counter in Morrisons. She attributed it to the change in temperature rather than the greater distance between her and the donuts.
  • it's occurred to me too that it would probably require more energy to keep yourself warm, but I can't back it up with any equations. Not that I'd ever do such a thing ;o)
  • Ironwolf, I got into medical school despite, rather than because of, my maths and physics grades, and was hoping that someone like Bear or Heebie would KNOW the answer.

    I use hot showers to prevent and relieve muscle aches, but dinosaurs are different ;o)
  • The was an article in New Scientist recently that listed lots of reasons why people are more overweight now than they were 50 years ago. One of them was that we now generally all live in centrally heated houses. Before when peoples houses were much colder they had to expend more calories generating body heat to stay warm.

    So I think the cold bath thing would use more calories, assuming that your body had time to adjust and start generating more body heat.(?)

    Personally I will give it a miss!

  • If it's an equation you're after then how about E=ma^2?

    No, that doesn't work, how about E=mb^2...

    Nope, nothing there, let's try E=mc^2, hmmmmm, now we are getting somewhere.
  • Well, FWIW - you'd presumably lose weat as the surrounding temp was lower (the cold water), and I'd guess that the body would try to compensate for this (homeostasis 8-), so it would have to get the heat energy from soemwhere. I do vaguely remember seeign somethign on one of the Royal Society Xmas lectures where they did an experiment like this

    where's it going to get the heat from? It's a biological thing but I'd guess as a by-product of cellular respiration - i.e. burning whatever fuel was around
  • you'd probably lose heat as well ;o)
  • Isn't this a bit like the hot drink vs cold drink debate where people say that hot drinks actually cool the body down? What really matters is the temperature difference between the drink and your body so both hot and cold drinks will have a cooling effect (unless you mix them together first). Never been convinced by the idea that you need a hot meal in the winter for the same reason. My nan always used to say that she needed something warm inside her - she would sometimes say that she needed a banana just to fill a little hole. It wasn't easy keeping a straight face sometimes.
  • What temperature is a cold bath normally at?
    I guess it changes depending on where your cold water tank is and what time of year it is, but I'd be surprised if it where less than 10 degrees C. Apparently a bath holds 65-80 litres when completely full (so only half full for a cold bath?) and room temp of a bathroom is around 22-23 degrees. I'm also pretty sure that in if you stayed in it for around 10 minutes that the temperature only rises a couple of degrees rather than fully up to room temp. So we are talking raising around 30 to 40 litres (30,000 to 40,000g) of water by only a couple of degrees . One calorie (0.001 kcal) raises one gram of water one degree C
    So, that equals 30 to 40 kcal per degree of raised temperature. I seem to remeber that the human body produces around 25-30 kcal per hour of radiated heat in a ambient room (though I could be making this bit up).
    so the answer is , it probably makes bugger all difference. And none of the above takes into account that the water will be heated by the air temp and absorb heat through the sides of the bath etc.

  • I'm inclined to agree with you, Vrap.

    Anyway, cold baths make my willy small.
  • Jeez - you dont need that do you !?
  • [shakes head slowly]

    No sir, I certainly do not.
  • FYI..
    1 calorie (imperial measurement) raises the temperature of 1 ounce of water through 1 degree farenheit.
    1 Joule (SI measure) raises the temperature of 1 gramme of water through one degree centigrade.

    I don't know the answer to the question, but your body will react in two different ways surely? Cold water, blood vessels to extremities constrict to reduce heat loss. Warm water = vasodilation and body having to work harder (=sweating?) to try to prevent overheating.
  • How about saunas? Much more fun than cold baths!
  • Yes peashead I did have a cold bath after Dublin , first one ever and not a pleasant experience, it took me ages to get in, and I had to say too my self come on woman you have just run a marathon you CAN get in this bath of cold water, dont know about the calorie thing (although it make sense that your body is using energy ie caloreis to warm up,)but I really did recover quicker than after London, I would see it that, if you injure yourself you apply ice, so surly having a cold/icey bath would repair any miro muscle damage.
  • There have been some cases of people surviving unscathed from near drowning in very cold water as their metabolism effectively shuts down. Assuming, however, that you don't get to that stage by taking a cold bath I guess that you would burn more calories through shivering in a cold bath than heating up in a warm one but can't find proof one way or the other
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