Tag Archives: experiment

My 60 days of ice baths: Experimenting with testosterone and vitamin D

Vitamin D

Photo: Colin Dunn (CC)

A few days ago, I took my first hot shower in 2 months. It was glorious.

Let me clarify: I spent the last 2 months in a self-imposed science experiment. It was 60 days of ice baths, Brazil nuts and megadoses of vitamin D.

Project Bulk has changed my life for the better, but I found a new challenge. I wanted to see if I could increase my body’s vitamin D and testosterone levels.

A blood test in late August revealed that my vitamin D level was below normal and my testosterone level was average. Reading “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links] had inspired me to check on both during a routine physical.

Vitamin D has become a routine part of blood work this year at my doctors’ practice, since more people are turning up deficient. I was a little surprised, since I’ve take a daily 400 IU capsule (the lowest dosage) for years. I don’t get a lot of sun on a regular basis.

I upped it to 5,000 IU capsules, one upon waking and another before bed. That’s 10,000 IU a day, or 70,000 per week.

It worked.

Vitamin D chart

Chart: Vitamin D levels over 60 days

I had started at 27 ng/ml and aimed for 55 ng/ml. After 2 months, I was at 92 ng/ml. Easy stuff.

I scaled back: I’m now taking one 5,000 IU capsule per day.

Testosterone would be trickier. Much trickier.

I didn’t want artificial supplements: A body that becomes dependent on testosterone boosters is less able to produce it naturally.

I’m producing an adequate level, but could I raise the bar?

“The Four-Hour Body” suggests this daily regimen:

  • 2 cod liver oil/butter oil capsules, one upon waking and one at bedtime;
  • 6 Brazil nuts, three upon waking and three at bedtime (though the author notes this was for his selenium deficiency);
  • 6,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D, half upon waking and half at bedtime;
  • ice baths or cold showers, 10 minutes upon waking and 10 minutes at bedtime.

I substituted cod liver capsules and Kerry Gold butter for the capsules.

Those ice baths felt great in September when the highs were in the 80s and 90s, less so in late October when the lows dropped into the 30s.

And Brazil nuts … wow, $7 to $12 a pound. Delicious, but pricey.

The results were disastrous.


Chart: Testosterone levels over 60 days

I had a 20 percent to 26 percent drop in testosterone levels. I would’ve been better off doing nothing!

I immediately stopped with the ice baths (yay!) and dropped the butter and nuts. I went back to my previous daily dosage of fish oil capsules (which I had been taking with a simple multivitamin).

I strongly encourage you to check your vitamin D level at your next physical. Ask your doctor to have it tested with your blood work. If you need more, you can eat vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, mackerel or mushrooms; get more sun; or take vitamins.

Really easy stuff.

If you’re looking to boost testosterone, WebMD suggests more sleep, a healthy weight, more exercise and less stress.

I’m going to let my testosterone level return to its previous normal while digging deeper into the research. My experiment could resume in January with different dosages or new tactics.

This is why I measure, experiment, measure again and remain skeptical. It works in the long run, if not always in the short run.

And I learned that my toughness extends to creature comforts. Ice baths, while uncomfortable, aren’t that bad. Billions of people do it regularly.

But if I can raise my testosterone while enjoying hot water, I shall.

Day 18: The skinny

Day 18

  • Weight: 124.6 lbs.
  • No workout today
  • Total inches: 117.1
  • Protein: 139 g (21 g over target)
  • Calories: 2,625

Mike has known me a long time and has been guardedly supportive of this crazy scheme.

“You could stand to add a few pounds,” he says.

I have to remind him that my body fat percentage is already too high. I’m glad I checked, because before Aug. 30, I had no idea.

This is one of the minor annoyances of being skinny: People tell you how you should actually be; they tease thinking it is harmless. (I can only imagine the real pain that overweight people endure day in and day out.)

For me, this is about only one goal: gaining muscle. I’ve never made a concerted effort before, so I’d like to see if this approach works. It might take more than 30 days. It might take 60 days, or 365 days, or 5 years. Who knows?

He had, at one point, even suggested anabolic steroids. To me, that is no more of a solution to me than liposuction or implants or any other artificial shortcut. I simply won’t do it. I want to be healthier, not just more muscular. Muscles will improve my body fat percentage. Working out will improve my strength and stamina.

It is weird to try to explain that my experiment involves only two actions: eating and working out (three, if you count tracking numbers). It is even weirder in a state such as Alabama, one of the fattest states in America. Just today, a new report said that 62.6 percent of adults here would be obese by 2030, double that of 2011.

That breaks my heart. As a champion of local food, real food and balance in life, I want to see me and others live longer, healthier lives.

So gaining 10 pounds of fat within 30 days would be far from triumph for me. How is that so difficult to grasp?