Do you think cold showers increase testosterone? If you’re about to get seriously chilly in the name of testosterone, hold off for a moment and pop that robe back on. The info you need is right here.
If you listen to fans of Wim Hof, the Dutch ‘Ice Man’, there isn’t much that cold immersion therapy won’t do. Cold water baths and showers are touted as a bit of a panacea. Amongst the many benefits attributed to dousing yourself in ice and cold water is the idea that it can boost testosterone levels in men.
But can it? Is there any valid data underpinning this claim?
Do Cold Showers Increase Testosterone?
Cold showers do not raise your natural testosterone output. However, if your testosterone levels are on the low side of healthy, then there are plenty of options.
There are also plenty of other benefits to taking cold showers – all of which I discuss below…
First things first, what do low testosterone levels mean for you?
As a man, your testosterone levels are crucial for a broad range of health concerns. It is genuinely difficult, if not outright impossible, to be fully healthy without full testosterone output.
Everything from your body mass, body composition and athleticism to your sexual health, mood, and drive will suffer from low testosterone output. You will suffer a much greater risk of developing numerous chronic health conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, and various forms of cancer, and your quality of life in general will likely be greatly impaired.
There are a few symptoms to look out for. These are the most common concerns effecting men with low testosterone output – and, indeed, highlighting the presence of suboptimal testosterone levels.
Erectile dysfunction, low libido, and infertility are common where testosterone levels are low. So too is a lack of drive overall, a low mood, and increased levels of stress and anxiety.
You will likely experience a loss of muscle mass and bone density, or struggle to put new muscle mass on, even as your body fat levels rise near enough uncontrollably.
Feminising features might also occur, including development of breast tissue and a loss of body and fascial hair.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms associated with low levels of testosterone, there is a good chance that your testosterone levels are either suboptimal, or even clinically low. You should talk to your healthcare provider about options for medical intervention – there are plenty of ways you can boost your testosterone levels, including by taking an exogenous testosterone supplement.
Cold Showers and your testosterone output
Where do cold showers and cold immersion therapy more generally fit into this? As above, proponents often cite testosterone output optimisation amongst the benefits on offer.
There has been a good deal of research into the topic. Most of it centres on the testicles and scrotum.
The reason men’s reproductive organs hang outside the body is to keep them at an optimal temperature for sperm and hormone production (including a lot of testosterone production). This is around 35 to 37 degrees Celsius, or 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
The theory behind cold immersion for testosterone output is that it lowers scrotal temperature. This in turn is thought to somehow enable optimal sperm and testosterone creation.
It doesn’t really work for testosterone.
The research shows that bringing the testes’ temperature down only really affects the sperm.
It affects certain DNA processes that in turn can lead to increased volume, quality, and motility of the sperm. For instance, one study from 1987 showed that maintaining testicular temperature on the lower side (as low as 31 degrees Celsius, or 88 degrees Fahrenheit) can optimise DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis, leading to improved sperm production.
This is backed up by a 2013 study that showed cooler testes could lead to improved shape and movement of the sperm.
Thus, cold showers may play a role in mitigating some of the effects of low testosterone – namely, boosting fertility. This is very different to claiming that they can raise testosterone levels.
A landmark study from 1991 showed that cold water has no effect on your body’s levels of testosterone. Another study, this one from 2007, showed that colder temperatures may actually decrease your testosterone output.
Thus, if you want to raise your testosterone levels, cold showers are not the way to go about it. There is plenty you can do that has been proven to work (see below), but freezing your testes off in the bathroom each morning isn’t one of them.
However, all of this hints at a possible role for cold water therapy as part of a broader treatment plan for low testosterone. It cannot raise testosterone levels (quite the opposite, as we have seen), but it can mitigate many of the symptoms of low testosterone, namely low fertility, low energy levels, poor body composition, poor post-workout recovery, and poor immune function.
Cold showers & fertility
As we have seen, cold showers may bring great benefits for fertility. In fact, reducing regular exposure to warm water can boost your sperm count by around 500%, according to the same 2007 study mentioned above. This is a far cry from claiming that cold showers lead to increased sperm count; however, ditching hot showers can, which means cold showers by default.
Cold showers can also improve motility and morphology.
Cold showers & energy levels
Cold water immersion lovers tend to cite the increased energy levels they enjoy as a central reason for taking the plunge. There is some evidence to back this up. A study from 2016 found that perceived energy levels were higher in participants taking cold showers for three months.
A 2010 study shows that cold water immersion may also enable you to recover from physical activity using less energy…
Cold showers & post-training recovery
Cold showers decrease inflammation and increase blood flow, or vascularity, without any additional energy output needed. They may also lead to quicker recovery times, though these effects may be slighter than often claimed.
A 2010 case report showed that it helped to reduce tenderness and aches post-intense training. This in turn allowed for a faster return to training.
However, a couple of studies from 2007 and 2016 questioned the extent to which this is true – the benefits were found to be very slight, especially in relation to delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS).
Cold showers & metabolism
Cold showers may have quite a profound impact on metabolic health and body composition. They have been found to activate brown adipose tissue (BAT, or brown fat).
Brown fat has something of an inverse relationship with white fat – the more you have, the less white fat you’re likely to have. Or, rather, the likelier you are to have healthy amounts of white fat. White fat is what we’re talking about when we talk about wanting to lose weight – it’s the stored fat we want to do away with.
Thus, cold showers may lead to improved metabolic health and body composition by making your brown adipose tissue far more active.
Cold showers & immune health
Low testosterone levels can be associated with poor or compromised immune function. Cold showers can be associated with the opposite – they may have a small impact on your immune system, boosting it by a slight amount.
Cold immersion leads to an adrenaline release in the body. This causes your body to both increase production of anti-inflammatory substances by your immune system whilst also reducing its inflammation response to infection. These combine to help your body better ward off illness.
So how do you raise testosterone levels naturally?
As above, if you think you have low testosterone, you should speak to your healthcare provider. It could be that your levels are clinically low. At this point, you may be prescribed exogenous testosterone, usually as a gel that you apply topically.
It could also be the case that you are medically fine, but that your testosterone is sub-optimal. Unfortunately, most doctors won’t do anything about this, even though those sub-optimal levels may be severely negatively impacting your quality of life.
At this point, there are some lifestyle factors you should consider putting into play. These will help to raise your natural output, optimising it in a way that cold showers won’t. This in turn should lead to improved physical and mental wellbeing.
Firstly, you should try to lead an active lifestyle. This will help to bring you out of the danger zone for most chronic illnesses and medical concerns. It will lead to an elevated mood and a decrease in stress and anxiety, which in itself should lead to improved testosterone output. Hard resistance training in particular has been linked with greatly increased natural testosterone output.
Alcohol and cigarettes have also been shown to naturally diminish testosterone output. If you smoke, you should try to quit, or at least cut down. The health benefits are profound. If you drink more than a couple of measures per week, consider cutting down. This will lead to improved mental wellbeing as well as allowing your body to naturally create more testosterone.
You will also need plenty of rest, both to rejuvenate and replenish your body, and also to mitigate the effects of stress. Improving sleep quality and/or duration can lead to a significant boost to your natural testosterone output.
Finally, we are what we eat. An unhealthy diet, full of processed foods, salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats will likely reduce your natural testosterone output. A healthy diet, replete with healthy fats, lean proteins, and plenty of fruit and veg, will conversely lead to greater natural testosterone output.
If you are struggling with erectile dysfunction, consider speaking to a counsellor, therapist, or your GP. Talking therapy could help. Medications like Viagra or Cialis will definitely help, at least acutely and in the short term.
My final thoughts
Cold showers do not raise your natural testosterone output.
However, if your output is on the low side of healthy, there is plenty you can do. Lifestyle changes can make a large difference. Cold showers can, however, make small improvement that may mitigate the effects of low natural testosterone output, making them a potential ally in overcoming your symptoms.