Do Cold Showers Increase Testosterone Levels?

Do Cold Showers Increase Testosterone Levels?

There is a growing amount of literature on the impacts of cold exposure on the body. Modern science and state-side pop culture are waking up to the benefits of ancient cold water practices, and collective interest is growing. We’ve talked about cold exposure’s impact on our metabolic rate and The Søeberg Principle (TLDR: the work of warming yourself back up after the cold plunge is GREAT for your metabolic health, and there are a few ways you can increase those benefits). There are a lot of claims online that standing in a cold shower or taking the frosty leap into a cold plunge can increase your testosterone levels, so we’re turning to the scientific community to help discover the impact of cold plunge on testosterone levels. 

What Does Testosterone Do?

The conversation around the hormone testosterone usually focuses on adult male physiology and sexual function, but testosterone plays a critical role in the bodily function of people of all genders and ages. Testosterone is a multitasker, carrying out numerous functions in the body, including: sexual development, bone and muscle mass, fat distribution, mood and quality of life, red blood cell production, and brain function. Just like all of our hormones, testosterone supports our overall well-being.

Testosterone is a hormone primarily associated with male physiology and sexual function, but it actually plays a critical role in many aspects of health in for people of all genders and ages. Testosterone is a multitasker, carrying out numerous functions in the body, including sexual development, bone and muscle mass, fat distribution, mood and quality of life, red blood cell production and brain function. Long story short, testosterone is an essential hormone for overall health and well-being. And while many have claimed that standing in a cold shower or taking the frosty leap into a cold plunge can enhance your testosterone levels, it's important to understand what the scientific community has to say about this!

How Does Cold Water Affect Testosterone?

Recent studies have surfaced suggesting that cold exposure might indeed influence the hormonal response, potentially impacting testosterone levels. One such study from Japan’s Hokkaido University observed that while cold exposure decreased testosterone levels temporarily, it caused a significant increase in luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone responsible for stimulating testosterone production in men, after cold exposure [1].

Don’t let the thought of the brief T dip be a deterrence! The belief is that this short-term decrease in testosterone levels during cold exposure is fairly insignificant, and the rebound effect experienced from stimulating testosterone production more than makes up for it in the aftermath!

Cold Water Immersion Benefits for Hormone Balance

Research is happening across the globe, with a study from Loughborough University showing potential benefits of cold water immersion on hormone balance, including testosterone [2]. The data from this study indicated that cold water immersion could help to manage and potentially improve the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio, a key indicator of stress and recovery.

Cortisol and testosterone have an inverse relationship. As cortisol (a stress hormone) rises, it interferes with the function of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which regulate your testosterone levels. This decreases circulating levels of testosterone in your system. On the flipside, increased testosterone levels signal to the pituitary and adrenal glands to reduce the secretion of cortisol. No hormone is innately good or bad. We have all of them for a reason. What creates problems is when hormone levels are out of balance. Cold water therapy helps keep this hormonal relationship in check.

So Where Does This Leave Us?

The science surrounding cold plunges and testosterone levels is both fascinating and complex. Current research presents promising, yet varied findings - cold exposure could potentially influence testosterone levels, but it's clear that the body's response is not as simple as 'cold equals increased testosterone'. Especially because each body has it’s own chemistry to consider [3]!

Whether you're a seasoned cold plunge enthusiast or considering your first icy dip, remember that while the effects on testosterone levels may not be fully established, the benefits of cold plunges extend beyond this single hormone. Cold plunges have been associated with enhanced circulation, improved skin health, boosted mood, and better sleep, among other benefits [4].

As research continues to evolve, we're keeping an eye on the chilling details. While the cold plunge-testosterone connection might not be fully definitive, one thing is for sure: embracing the cold can be an integral part of your wellness journey. Always remember to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Stay cool, stay curious, and keep plunging into the depths of wellness with us at Sauna House!

Citing our sources:

  1. Sakamoto (1991), "Effects of physical exercise and cold stimulation on serum testosterone level in men"
  2. Leppäluoto et al. (2008), "Endocrine effects of repeated sauna bathing"
  3. K. Prüßner et al. (2019), "Cold water immersion for athletic recovery: One size does not fit all"
  4. Vaara et al. (2019), "Hormonal response to whole-body cryotherapy in healthy men"
November 28, 2023
By: Sauna House