Im sure you’ve heard the popular advice to drink ice water to “speed up your metabolism” by burning calories, but is this really such a great idea? Like many times before, a look to the ancient forms of medicine may hold the key. While it may “speed up your metabolism” if you look a little deeper, you’ll find out like many popular fads in the mainstream, its not really that good for you. First of all I like to think about things logically. Your body is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Now you add some ice water which is close to 35 deg. F & even though you may not feel it, it does come as a little shock to your body. Now if you keep in mind that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, at least very easily, the energy to warm this liquid up and maintain a homeostatic internal body temperature does in fact come from your body. This may not seem like a big deal but if you understand the body in terms of energy, you’ll see why this is not so good.

We are born with a certain amount of energy which in Traditional Chinese Medicine is called the “vital essence” and is stored in the kidneys. In modern western medical terminology, there is a thing called adrenaline whose supply is supposed to last for the rest of your life and just so happens to be stored right above the kidneys in the adrenal glands. Now what you do with your life specifically how quickly you use up all your energy or “vital essence” determines how long and the quality of your life. So going back to that ice water strategy to “boost your metabolism.” If you only have a certain amount of energy to last the rest of your life, do you really want to spend it warming up ice cold liquid in your belly or would you rather spend a few more quality years with your friends and family and checking things off that bucket list? The choice is yours. While most of the mainstream health & fitness advice seems to be aimed at “speeding up your metabolism” in energy draining ways, older cultures like the East Asians from India & China have been focused on strengthening their energy with hot food and liquids even in the summer. Having known this simple law of thermodynamics & health for over 5000 years dating back to the early origins of Ayurvedic Medicine in India, Indians and Asians benefit from not only stronger immune systems but better digestion and overall vitality because of it. Reason being again that as your energy is diverted into other activities like warming up cold liquids or digesting large amounts of sugar, less energy is available for other vital functions like immunity, breathing & pumping your blood.

As owner of a health center for over 5 years in NY and working closely with acupuncturists, I found that over and over again the patients coming in with chronic health problems like chron’s disease, IBD, fibromyalgia and especially infertility often had cold extremities. Feeling the fingers and toes of patients was often one of the first diagnostic tools used to asses the strength of a person and their overall health. Someone with cold extremities is found to have poor health & circulation as the body conserves its energy & blood flow to the vital organs like the heart and lungs. So as a general rule, if you want to do something on a daily basis to improve your health, drink hot liquids and eat hot food especially in the winter or when the weather drops in temperature. You may notice you’ll be the only one in the office or at school not coughing and sneezing when the weather changes. Just remember, while drinking ice cold liquids to “speed up your metabolism” may sound like the smart thing to do in the modern health & fitness world, it comes at the expense of draining your energy and not only taking quality out of your years but years off your life. As always, Have a Great Day & Namaste.

– (c) Richie Santucci, RD, CDE, CPT 03/2016


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