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Using Temperature To Optimize Performance, Brain & Body Health

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t use cold towels or sponges on the neck! This will send false signals to the brain about your thermoregulation

  • Cooling the face, hands, and bottom of your feet will cool you twice as fast as anywhere else

  • Heat on hands can hinder performance – keep the palms of your hands cool during exercise: avoid gloves if possible since they trap heat, loosen the grip on handlebars or device when safe

  • “Failure” of rep is actually due to how hot the working muscles get, not simply lack of strength

  • If you are experiencing hypothermia, try using warm pads or water bottles placed at your feet

Heating & Cooling Of Brain And Body

  • We have built-in mechanisms to cool our body or send signals for natural heat loss if we’re hot

  • We have an internal thermostat is collecting information from the whole body

  • Do not use sponges or cold towels on the back or neck: information to the brain is coming from the body; putting a cold towel on the neck is putting a cold stimulus in the brain which can falsely lead you to believe you are recovered but the brain is still hot

  • To cool the brain: you can have a cooling effect on the brain by pouring water over the head

  • Heating and cooling of the brain can lead to brain fog: rising of body temperature can induce immediate reduced cognition when sufficiently heated

  • You can feel cool through the use of ice cubes, cold towels, etc. and still be dangerously overheating internally

  • Symptoms of hypothermia: you stop sweating, extreme exhaustion, elevated heart rate, generally feeling miserable – symptoms have a slow onset and are difficult to relate to danger, so people tend to push through (even to the point of death as seen when athletes collapse in practice)

Cold & Cold Plunge

  • First, you get a shock which translates into a shot of adrenaline

  • Cold stimulates vasoconstriction which causes heat loss

  • The fundamental difference between cold shower versus cold immersion: cold bath develops boundary layer (so the body feels enveloped in cold)

  • Cooling decreases swelling of the brain

  • Cooling the face, hands, and bottom of your feet will cool you twice as fast as anywhere else

Leveraging Cold For Performance

  • The most immediate impairment of muscle fatigue is a rise in temperature of muscle, causing “failure” of rep

  • Take a cold shower (just a few minutes) before tough exercise to increase the capacity of body mass to absorb excess heat; this will cause your body to delay sweating which can allow you to push harder

  • Loosen grip on handlebars (e.g., bicycle, ski erg, rower, etc.) when possible because we have heat sensors on the palms of our hands

  • Heat on the hands can hinder performance: exercise gloves impede heat loss from hands (just like socks impede heat loss from feet)

  • When cooling hands, you want to get hands cool to the touch – not ice-cold which will induce vasoconstriction of the exact portals you’re trying to cool

  • Check out to receive alerts about their public release

  • Anabolic steroids increase performance 1% per week – cooling has been shown to increase performance by 300% in one week


  • The best way to measure core temperature is esophageal (but this isn’t practical at home)

  • Tympanic (ear) temperature is the most accurate at-home test but the laser needs to be pointed in the right place

  • If you are experiencing hypothermia: try using warm pads or hot water bottles on your feet

  • Wearing a heat cap in cold weather can reduce heat from escaping and warm you up but you want a good knit with some breathability

  • Shivering is an adaptation designed to heat us up & increases metabolism about 3-4x resting (whereas metabolism increases about 10x)

  • Shivering doesn’t have to be in the presence of cold: we shiver when we have a fever too

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

  • What is NEAT? energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise

  • If you increase the activity of any kind, you increase energy consumption and heat

  • Examples of NEAT: yardwork, gardening, fidgeting, tapping foot

  • Some energy drinks tout thermogenic effects which probably make you more jittery and increase NEAT but won’t necessarily improve performance

Tips For Better Sleep

  • 1. Have a regular bedtime and regular wake up time

  • 2. Don’t use screens within several hours of bedtime

  • 3. Relax! Don’t work right up until bedtime

  • 4. Cool your sleeping environment, making it easier to thermoregulate

5. Try a warm bath before sleep


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