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Cold Thermogenesis: Putting It Into Practice

December 14, 2020

In a temperature controlled world designed around comfort, cold exposure (also referred to as cold thermogenesis or CT) has become a surprisingly hot topic (pun intended).

Not only does deliberate cold exposure leave you feeling great, it accesses ancient biological programs intended to optimize our physiologic function and thrive in challenging environments. Although, we are hardly challenged by nature’s elements anymore, we can still reap the incredible physical and mental benefits through intentional practice.

The most popular and widely practiced method has become cold showers. They are accessible and most have a fairly consistent shower routine, which proves a recipe for success. While they are incredibly beneficial and should be practiced consistently, there is a whole world of exciting methods which should be explored as well.

Whether you’re just getting started or looking for to up your game, there is sure to be a method for you! From least difficult to the most complex, here are some great strategies for making it happen:

Face Dunks:

Face dunking is a great entry into the world of cold thermogenesis. Not only is it easy and accessible, it’s much less daunting than being sprayed with cold water or submersed entirely.

Equipment Required:

  • Shallow Pan
  • Water
  • Refrigerator/Freezer


Facing dunking can likely be done with items you already have lying around—so no excuses!

To get the water as cold as possible (without freezing it), fill a shallow pan and let it sit in your freezer for about an hour.

Once it is cooled down, take a deep breathe and place your entire face in the pan. At first, the cold water may be extremely uncomfortable—look to stay submerged for 5-10 seconds initially. Continue building as it becomes easier, eventually working to accumulate a specific amount of time, coming out to take a breath as needed (say, 2-5 minutes).

This is a great practice to adopt before going to bed as it has a calming effect and lowers body temperature. It’s also great if you’re traveling and want a quick solution to jet lag or simply want to be consistent with your cold exposure practice.



    • Easy to do anytime.
    • Free!
    • May take less time to adapt to.
    • While immersing the face offers great benefits, there are more to be had by exposing more of the body to the cold.

Cold Showers:

Taking cold showers is a great way to start your CT practice and it’s getting a lot of attention lately. Not only do most have access to a shower, most also have their shower routine nailed down so it provides a consistent reminder to keep it going.

Note: Even if you use a different, more complex method, it never hurts to continue taking cold showers for additional exposure/benefit.


If you’re new to cold showers, start slow. Begin with just 10 seconds and build, consistently adding time each day/week. If you struggle, don’t feel pressure to increase time right away—move at your own pace, while still challenging yourself.

Eventually, work towards 2-10 minutes of cold water exposure depending on time. Experiment with contrasting different temperatures as well—i.e. 2 minutes of cold, 2 minutes of hot, etc.

Reminder: Focus on the breath! Forgetting to breathe will elicit a panic response and make the experience more stressful. While the goal is to activate the sympathetic response, you want to learn to strategically work through it. Focus on breathing through the discomfort and coming out stronger.

Finally, always end with cold! It may be tempting to warm up the shower once you're finished, however ending with cold is a great way to keep the benefits of your cold shower going.

Equipment Required:

    • Shower
    • Cold water
    • Quick and easy to control.
    • Accessible to most.
    • Great way to begin a cold thermogenesis practice.
    • Can be done everyday.
    • Easy way to build a habit as you already have a consistent stimulus.


    • Many would argue that cold showers are actually more challenging than full immersion into the water.
    • Temperature of the water may not be as cold as you would like in some seasons/locations.

Tub and Ice:

If you’re looking for an extra challenge, filling a tub with ice and water is a great option.


Using the tub method offers the benefit (if you could call it that) of full body immersion. While it may seem daunting at first to get your entire body in the cold water, over time you will likely find it is much easier than showers.

Using the tub in your bathroom is certainly an option, but may not be as ideal as purchasing a livestock/water tank and using outside. Tanks are fairly easy to locate and purchase. You will likely want something that holds at least 100 gallons and will be sturdy. We found that this one worked well, was fairly inexpensive, and was large enough to fit two people comfortably.

Tip: choose a plastic tub as cold metal can be uncomfortable. Also, make sure it has a drain plug or you have access to a water pump for easier draining.

To fill a tank with 100 gallons of water takes about 20 minutes. If you’re on a well, be sure you have the capacity to do that before running it dry.

To cool 100 gallons of water to 55 degrees requires about 40-60 pounds of ice when the temperature outdoors is 75 degrees or below. As the temperature rises, you will need more ice and it will be more difficult to sustain the lower temperatures.

There are several ways to obtain this much ice.

  • The most obvious is simply purchasing ice from the local grocery store, but this can get expensive over time.
  • You could also purchase a large ice maker, that continually makes ice—the only down side is the initial expense and storage space for the machine.
  • The most cost effective way seems to be making your own ice by freezing water in anything that will hold it. The biggest bang for your buck is purchasing a couple 5 gallon refillable water jugs and freezing them. While this requires the space and time to do so, it will produce a large amount of ice and cool water very effectively.

You can keep the water in the tank without draining for about a week or two depending on frequency of use. Add food-grade hydrogen peroxide or epsom salt to clear up the water as needed.

Use both temperature and time as variables when starting out and remember to take it slowly. For instance, start with 2 minutes and build up over time or start with a warmer temperature and work your way down. Ideally, you want to get to 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit and be able to sustain exposure for 30-45 minutes.

To make this method worth your while, do it with friends and make a full day of it. The ongoing cost of ice can add up over time, so splitting it with others and making the most out of each session is a great strategy. If you have time, do multiple sessions in the day to get the most bang for your buck.

Equipment Required:

    • Tub or stock tank.
    • Water.
    • Lots of ice.
    • Thermometer of some sort.


    • Low barrier to entry.
    • All necessary equipment is fairly accessible.


    • If you are purchasing large quantities of ice, it can add up quickly. The potential solution is to purchase an ice maker—while they can be expensive, it is a one time investment up front.
    • Ongoing cost if you pay for water.
    • Preparation and planning required each time.
    • Requires space for tubs.

Natural Water Source (Ocean, Lake, Pond, River, etc.):

If you want a free and easy way to get some cold exposure, use a natural water source like a lake, pond, river, or the ocean. In most areas, some body of water is typically accessible—if not, make it an adventure and seek one out.


Once you’ve found a natural water source, the next step is to get in there! Like all other forms of CT, taking it slow initially is highly recommended.

Some additional considerations when using a natural water source:


  • Make sure it is open to the public and not a private body of water.
  • Plan out your post-CT warm up strategy. This may mean bringing additional clothing, choosing sunny days or having access to a fire.

Equipment Required:

  • Natural occurring body of water. This could include: ocean, lakes, rivers, ponds, etc. 
  • Running water is an added bonus and challenge!


    • Free and fairly accessible.
    • Provides a more natural experience.
    • Grounded


    • In many areas, water eventually may get too warm to use.
    • Sometimes difficult to judge temperature of water. However, you can purchase thermometers that will assist.


Chest Freezer:

The chest freezer is a popular choice amongst those looking to elevate their CT practice with an accessible, inexpensive and relatively hassle-free option.


Choosing the correct size is key and you will likely want something that is roughly 20 cubic feet at minimum. Don’t be afraid to head to your local hardware store try out a couple or research the dimensions and plot it out. Visit your local scratch and dent store or keep an eye out for used freezers on local marketplace websites as they can much cheaper.

You’ll also want to keep the lid in mind and find a freezer that allows the lid to stay open when you’re in it.

Once you have purchased your freezer, place your chest freezer strategically, keeping in mind that once it is full, it is likely not moving. This means keeping it near a water/power source and having the ability to drain it when needed.

Seal up your freezer using a non-toxic adhesive along the edges, seams and any spot water could leak. If your freezer does not have drainage, you may need to explore adding a drain plug or simply use a pump to get the water out. You may also want to any remove wheels and ensure the freezer is well supported and level as water has significant weight, which could compromise the integrity of the freezer.

Depending on the temperature of the water coming out of the tap, it may take some time for it to cool initially. If you want to speed up the process, throw some ice in there.

To keep the water cool consistently without forming ice blocks, use a timed outlet and set it to kick on a couple hours a day. To monitor temperature, use a wired temperature probe that can be kept in the water.

To keep the water clean without chemicals, use a combination of food-grade hydrogen peroxide and epsom salt. Drain water as needed depending on use.

If you’re looking to get fancy and make your chest freezer look good, add a wooden enclosure or some paint. Sky’s the limit!

*SAFETY IS KEY* Because you are using the chest freezer in an unconventional way and mixing water and electricity, it is imperative that you take safety into consideration. This includes:

  • Making sure you have the correct outlets (GFCIs)
  • Keeping water away from the electronics—if they are underneath the freezer, this may mean elevating it.
  • Unplugging freezer while you are in it.

You also don’t want to inadvertently introduce any toxic exposures to your set up, so research all products thoroughly and ensure all are safe.

Minimum Equipment needed:

  • Chest Freezer
  • Non toxic sealant
  • Power source and GFCI outlet
  • Time outlet
  • Temperature probe/Thermometer
  • Garden hose and water source
  • Sink to hose adapter if required.
  • Food grade hydrogen peroxide and epsom salt
  • Pump or drain plugs
  • Bath mat

Optional Equipment:

  • UVC filter or Ozone Generator for easy cleaning.
  • Wooden enclosure for looks.


    • Offers a one-time, upfront investment.
    • With proper setup, water will stay consistent temperature without the hassle of ice


    • Requires some ongoing maintenance and a little bit of work initially.
    • Most chest freezers only have the room for a single person.

Cold Tub:

If you’re serious about your CT practice and looking to up the game with a solution designed specifically for this purpose, there are certainly options available. Many resemble hot tubs and and can generate both hot water and cold water. However, this market is extremely nuanced and can sometimes be a bit confusing. It is imperative that you do your research and thoroughly vet out each option as not all products are created equally and can be expensive.


If you’ve been practicing any of these CT methods for any period of time, you’re likely becoming fairly adapted to the cold water. However, it is important to note that many cold tubs can reach temperatures much lower than the other methods and you should take it slow initially—both with the temperature and exposure time.

Since each cold tub differs, refer to manufacturers directions for set up and maintenance.

The best part of the having a sophisticated cold tub set up is the convenience and practicality. Simply jump in and get cold!

Any and all cold exposure is welcome and if you can make it a part of your daily routine, go for it! Even jumping in for just 2 minutes is a great way to tap into the sympathetic nervous system and introduce some positive stress. However, continue to experiment with different lengths of time and challenge yourself. Extended exposures (20-45 minutes) offer maximal benefit and will leave you feeling great.


    • For the most part, many of these setups require very little maintenance.
    • Eliminates planning of CT sessions—ready to go when you are.
    • No more purchasing of ice!!!


    • Potentially expensive.
    • Can be difficult to navigate the options and make a choice.

Takeaway: If you’re ready to make CT part of your functional lifestyle, there are plenty of options to choose from. Find a method that will fit into your daily routine and easily become a habit. At the same time, don’t get comfortable—continually challenge yourself and mix it up.

And don’t forget—share your practice with others as community optimizes success!

See you in the field.



Medical Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Monette nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program. Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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