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June 13, 2023
Doesn't it seem as though our quest to improve our health is never-ending? There is always a new strategy, supplement, or biohack designed to help us get healthier.
Interestingly, one of the more famous biohacks is also one of the simplest. We're talking about cold showers, with some reports making it seem like cold exposure can improve almost every facet of our lives.
One such claim is that cold showers can raise testosterone levels. But to be honest, a cold shower is such an easy and cheap testosterone-boosting biohack that it almost seems too good to be true.
This leads us to the question: Do cold showers boost testosterone?
We're about to find out! In this article, we've gathered all the research and anecdotal stories to determine whether cold showers actually increase testosterone.
Table of Contents:
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone found in men. During puberty, testosterone floods the body of boys, which triggers several processes that produce male characteristics. These include:
While the primary sex hormone of females is estrogen, they still have small amounts of testosterone. Even though the amount is 1/10th to 1/20th of men's total levels, it still plays a pivotal role in women's health.
It works to increase bone strength, strengthen muscles, improve sex drive, and support menstrual health. Ladies, you can learn even more about this in our article on 5 Ways Women Can Naturally Increase Testosterone Levels.
As mentioned, testosterone plays numerous vital roles in the human body, and it's constantly working to regulate our health.
Our body is like a machine, and when a component as vital as testosterone is out of whack, you are going to notice it. Low testosterone levels can mean a loss of strength, decreased muscle mass, issues with sexual health, mental health concerns, and more.
That said, due to the natural ebb and flow of hormones, an individual can experience regular fluctuations between high and lower testosterone levels.
Certain lifestyle choices can also affect our hormone levels, which we'll get into below, but the good news is there's something you can do about it. We also discuss the importance of testosterone in more detail in our article: How To Increase Testosterone.
Symptoms of low testosterone are generally gradual, so it can be challenging to spot if you don't know what to look for. Here are some of the most common symptoms of someone experiencing low testosterone levels.
To sum it up, having low testosterone takes away your zest for life and negatively impacts your self-esteem.
Low testosterone levels can obviously wreak havoc on the body. As a result, it's only natural to want to take part in activities that raise your testosterone levels.
One of the hottest biohacks to find their way into almost every aspect of our lives is cold therapy. Exposure to cold temperatures through various mediums is reported to improve recovery, improve circulation, increase mood, and, of course, increase testosterone levels.
That's all anecdotal, though. So, what do the studies say?
The initial interest in this subject seems to go back to observing men who live in colder temperatures. Numerous studies have shown that men can improve sperm count when they regularly live in a region with colder temps1.
In addition, other studies have suggested that regular exposure to heat and hot water (wet heat) can decrease sperm production and even shrink testicles2. And if heat decreases sperm production, then it's reasonable to believe that cold exposure must increase it!
But, that's not exactly the case.
For one, while connected, sperm production is not necessarily directly linked to testosterone levels. Second, many of these studies examine exposure to extreme temperatures. And third, just because heat may cause harm to sperm production, doesn't mean excessive cold helps. It just means you may want to mitigate long exposure to heat.
A study from 1991 produced some concerning results when it compared the response of two environments on various endocrine systems, including total testosterone3. One group cycled at 90 watts for 20 minutes, and the other was immersed in cold water.
The exercise group saw positive responses in all hormones, including total testosterone, which increased by 20.8%. However, the cold water group actually saw a decrease of 10% in total testosterone levels. It should be noted that these were acute changes and not necessarily permanent.
At the same time, some studies exist in which cold water immersion does help improve testosterone levels.
A study from 2017 examined the effect of cold exposure after exercise (sprint intervals). After completing 15 × 30 m sprints, participants either sat in a whole-body cryotherapy chamber or a room-temperature space as the control group. The cryotherapy conditions produced significantly higher testosterone levels at 2hr post-exercise (21%) and 24hr post-exercise (+28%)4.
We should note that the temperature for cryotherapy is significantly colder than what would be experienced when taking cold showers.
However, another study from 2019 showed the opposite. After 11 resistance-trained men completed a weightlifting regime, they then either partook in active recovery or cold water immersion. The researchers found that the cold water immersion actually blunted testosterone levels5.
As we can see, research studies are anything but conclusive. The same goes for anecdotal reports. Some share positive results, and some say the opposite.
One plausible suggestion is that the age and health of the individual could play a role. As many studies are done on young, active, and healthy men, we would already expect to see optimal testosterone levels, and any disruption could lower them.
On the other hand, cold exposure may help in populations with lower testosterone levels, such as older men.
To start, too much contradicting evidence exists to say cold showers raise testosterone definitively. However, cold showers do seem to affect sperm production and quality positively.
The primary theory is that it keeps the scrotum at an optimal temperature, but the results aren't so much increased testosterone but rather sperm quality.
For example, a study from 1987 found that keeping the scrotum at a temperature of 88-99 degrees Fahrenheit resulted in increased DNA synthesis, RNA synthesis, protein synthesis, and sperm production6.
From what we have seen in research, it seems this idea has been extrapolated to testosterone levels.
Setting the cold showers aside for a second, there are other things you can do to increase your T levels that may have a more meaningful impact than simply taking a cold shower.
You often hear that a man's testosterone levels drop after a certain age. This is true, but it's not solely due to his age. In reality, people tend to adopt all or some of the following habits.
Here are the negative habits that are hurting your testosterone levels.
Again, these are things that can hurt your testosterone levels. Therefore, your first goal should be to reverse them. Start exercising, fix your diet, and get quality sleep. You know, your basic healthy stuff.
In addition to lifestyle changes, there are some behaviors that you can partake in for increased testosterone.
For more details on testosterone-increasing behaviors, read our article on How To Boost Testosterone Naturally.
Testosterone boosters, which are supplements that support healthy testosterone levels, have become quite popular in the last few years, as their goal is to raise your T levels by helping your body produce more testosterone.
These supplements typically include a combination of effective mineral,s herbs, and vitamins, which we highlight in our article on the 8 Best Supplements to Increase Testosterone Naturally.
When looking for an effective T booster, look for proven ingredients. Some of the best ingredients to look for are:
My favorite testosterone booster currently on the market is TestoPrime, as it combines natural ingredients such as D-Aspartic acid, Panax ginseng, zinc, and Fenugreek. Plus, every batch is third-party tested for quality, safety, and efficacy by an independent laboratory.
Looking for more great recommendations? Check out our article on the 7 Best Testosterone Boosters.
One of the best places to find answers to "How much do cold showers increase testosterone?" and "Do cold showers actually increase testosterone?" is Reddit. No, it's not science, but it's a great place to find real experiences from people who have nothing to gain by bending the truth.
When reading the Reddit boards, one Redditor did seem convinced:
"Short answer, yes. At least in theory. Cold exposure or cold showers can boost testosterone mainly via 2 mechanisms: an increase in catecholamines (dopamine and noradrenaline etc) which increase testicular cAMP (independent of LH) leading to steroidogenesis; the resulting increase in dopamine inhibits prolactin (leading to an increase in LH and thus testosterone); third possible mechanism is the fact that testicles operate better at cool temperatures." (source)
Interestingly, most boards give some version of this response:
"It's more about going out of your comfort zone. If you manage to force yourself to do it, which is not pleasant, you can perform better in other hard tasks that life/ work throws at you. So not directly, but surely can boost your self esteem and perhaps in the end influence also T levels." (source)
In other words, it seems the average person isn't using cold showers to change their testosterone levels, but rather for other health benefits. At the same time, some real users do seem to find some sort of positive effect on testosterone when taking cold showers.
With this in mind, a good approach would be to take cold showers for all of their health benefits, while also adopting other good habits, such as exercise, diet, sleep, and testosterone boosters, to help improve your T levels.
If there's little evidence for raising testosterone, you may wonder why so many people do it. Well, there are actually quite a few other health benefits when compared to hot showers.
One typical report from cold showers is that they can make people feel great. Some describe it as being "100%," while some say it's like an instant boost of confidence, likely from the dramatic increase in norepinephrine.
Further, other studies show that cold exposure can improve mood levels, contributing to having more energy and feeling positive7.
Withstanding uncomfortable situations builds character. As cliché as that sounds, it's a cliché for a reason. Putting yourself in extreme conditions and then forcing yourself to stay there when you can easily leave will help build mental toughness.
You can also learn how to maintain your breathing rate under extreme conditions. Whether it's the pressure of a big presentation or running an ultramarathon, controlled breathing under stress benefits various real-life situations.
As mentioned in the above studies, there does seem to be adequate evidence to suggest that cold showers can increase sperm production.
Extreme cold stimulation can decrease the body's core temperature. Then, to raise it, the body's internal systems "rev up" to produce energy. Examples include shivering and contracting muscles, leading to increased metabolic activity.
Now, we're not saying one cold shower will help you drop 5 pounds, but it's an interesting topic that may have some merit. If you're trying to lose weight, it certainly wouldn't hurt to pair cold showers with a weight loss meal plan.
Apart from the iffy science of cold water showers, there are some other aspects you should actually be concerned with. It is possible cold showers may have a negative impact on your body.
One of the primary concerns is that it may mitigate muscle hypertrophy. While researchers aren't sure of the exact mechanisms, it seems as though cold exposure can somehow disrupt the anabolic process10.
We should note that this seems true when done in proximity to training, so while an ice bath may mitigate muscle soreness, it shouldn't be used regularly if muscle hypertrophy is the goal.
Another concern is that cold showers can become an unnecessary stressor. When we work out, our bodies are in a weakened state, and our immune system and white blood cells can drop shortly after intense training. This is one reason why it's not uncommon for people to get sick after running marathons.
While the gym isn't a marathon in terms of length, the damage done to muscles is intense, and your stress hormones are elevated. Your body needs time to relax and "come down" from the training stressors. If you don't give it that and instead add cold exposure on top of your training, it could backfire.
In case you still have lingering questions, we'll answer some of the more common ones below.
It's impossible to definitively even conclude that they do.
While research is scarce, the following groups may see better results than others: older populations (40+), men with low testosterone levels, and men who live in warm temperatures for extended periods.
Other than the benefits directly connected to sex, i.e., sperm production, both men and women can expect to see the other benefits.
As of now, the research is unclear.
This is one area that seems to have sufficient evidence. It seems that cold showers may increase sperm count.
When examining all of the research that we currently have, the evidence is iffy at best. While there are some potential benefits to various forms of cold therapy, eliciting high testosterone levels doesn't seem to be one.
There may be some scenarios in which ice cold water and cold water therapy raises testosterone levels, but making a blanket statement is dishonest. At best, we can say that "it wouldn't hurt to try," assuming you don't try after a training session.
If you're looking for an effective way to increase your testosterone production, I recommend pairing cold showers with healthy habits that will boost your T levels, like exercise, healthy eating, and proper sleep. In addition, finding a testosterone booster that includes natural ingredients is a great way to restore your testosterone levels.
Looking for a great supplement to increase your testosterone levels? Check out our articles on the 7 Best Testosterone Booster Supplements and 8 Best Supplements To Increase Testosterone Naturally.
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