Whenever I see people go ice swimming I wonder what makes them choose such a crazy hobby. Just the thought of that cold water is enough to make me shiver.
Now, it seems that swimming in cold water may not just seem crazy but may even be detrimental to your weight loss efforts.
And it doesn’t have to be ice freezing cold water. A temperature of 20 ºC (which equals about 68 ºF) is enough to make this workout much less effective for reducing weight than you may imagine.
Why Swimming in Cold Water May Hinder Your Weight Loss
It has to do with what happens when you finish swimming. A research study looked at the post workout food intake of 11 men after they concluded a 45 minute swimming workout. Some of the men swam in water whose temperature was 33 ºC while others swam in water whose temperature was merely 20 ºC.
When the post workout eating patterns of the men were compared it was discovered that the men who swam in the colder water ate about 40% more calories than those who swam in the warmer water. Their appetite was simply much higher .
This is a classic example of post workout compensation and how some workouts, and the conditions in which they’re performed, can lead to high calorie consumption afterward. This can reduce the effectiveness of the workout when it comes to weight loss.
The likely reason of why this is happening is that the cold simply increaed the appetite of these men so they ate more. It should be noted that the amount of energy these men expended during their workouts was similar. They burned nearly the same number of calories during their workout but one group ate a lot more afterwards.
So, if you choose swimming as your cardio workout and your goal is to lose weight, you should swim in heated pools and avoid cold ones.
In addition, be aware that if you do swim in cold water that you will likely experience a lot of hunger after your workout is done.
All this doesn’t mean that swimming as a whole is bad for weight loss only that swimming in cold water is far less effective than doing so in warm water or doing other forms of aerobic activity.
 White LJ, Dressendorfer RH, Holland E, McCoy SC, Ferguson MA, 2005 Feb. Increased caloric intake soon after exercise in cold water. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 15, 38-47.