Well, I’ve been working on this current topic for weeks now, and what originally started out as me being a super psyched fan, wanting to share an amazing discovery with you, has now turned into a healthy warning of getting your hopes up too soon when people come forth with new discoveries. We must be open-minded, so as to not be cynical, but not so open that our brains fall out into gullibility.
Don’t get me wrong, this guy is an incredible specimen of human potential.
Wim Hof, the “Ice Man”, is the holder of atleast 26 world records (it’s hard to keep count with this guy!) including being submerged in ice up to his neck for almost 2 hours while maintaining his core body temperature and not enduring frostbite of any sort. He swam the longest distance underwater, from one hole to another, the holes of which were carved out of ICE, in the Arctic Circle in Finland. He ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking any water. The list goes on.
The grandeur of his feats is not to be disputed. He’s crazy awesome. It’s the conclusions that worry me. He is going around the world, teaching people how to be “happy, strong, and healthy.”
But for the most part, Wim Hof appears to be a wonderful example of BS – Bad Science.
I’m still going to share the mini-book of info that I’ve gathered, but I ask that, if you so choose to explore it, you look at it with a very skeptical mind… which I’ll definitely help you with!
I think that Wim means well, but simply lacks the tools of awareness when it comes to scientifically analyzing why something works, and what conclusions to draw from it.
I’m an avid zealot of full potentiality, and so this guy naturally grabbed me by the eyeballs.
He can do some amazing feats, but so could Michael Jordan. Do we really want to train every day to become more like Wim Hof? What benefit is that for us?
Do you have any inclination to walk up snow-capped mountains with your shirt off? Haha, well maybe check him out then.
Do you want to run a full marathon in the desert without drinking any water… and lose 5 liters of water while doing it? Hardly seems healthy, but you could do it. I suppose that’s neat.
One of the most compelling pieces of study, that really hooked me, was from the Radboud University in Holland. Wim was administered E. Coli bacteria and, unlike the normal test subjects in whom the endotoxin provokes a vehement response in the immune system where they become feverish, get headaches, all over agony, uncontrolled shivering, vomiting, and more, Wim did not experience this. He was able to suppress his immune response, curb the inflammatory reaction, and keep symptoms to a very minimal degree.
Not only this, but he was able to train other people how to do this! In the second study, 12 subjects were trained, and 12 were not. The results were startling. The trained subjects did “well”, just like Wim, and the others… poor guys.
This is groundbreaking science, because the orthodox model says that you CANNOT affect the autonomic nervous system consciously. With Wim’s method, people are able to control it, and suppress the immune response.
And that’s a good thing!?!?!? Let me spell it out for you: The body’s immune response is designed to KILL the bacteria. If you suppress that, the bacteria is going to wreak even more havoc than it would otherwise. Sure, you don’t experience all of those symptoms, and that’s nice, short-term, but in the long run, I think that this type of immune suppression is unwise.
During the study, “the increase of the stress hormone cortisol in Hof was much more pronounced compared to other healthy volunteers.” Stress hormone. In other words, he was able to cause his body to go into fight or flight mode, as if he were being chased by a lion, and ofcourse if you’re fighting to survive from a predator of some sort outside, the body will take the resources away from the inside, less threatening enemy than a lion, and supply you with a functioning body, free from the symptoms.
He preaches that his method will make people “happy, strong, and healthy”.
But after digging into this guy for more than 50 hours, I came to realize that there are other fundamentals in life that can achieve these goals at an even greater effectiveness. And certainly, his alone, will not do the trick.
And that’s what I’ll be focusing on from now on in my research… until we have this foundation laid down properly.
If you’re interested, keep reading, I’ll go ahead and detail my breakdown of this guy, but in short, I think this is a great reminder to focus on the fundamentals. Be sure you have the basics down first, before you potentially waste your time looking for the Holy Grail, shortcuts, or tricks.
Here are a couple of my favorite videos about him, but if you watch these, and are amazed and want to start doing his method, make sure you read through, and especially be sure to read the Precautions section below
5 minute animated Intro - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gKgUE76udK4
You’ll notice in the first video, he mentions how amazing it is that we can alkalize the body, even up to 8.0 levels. This is, once again, in error in beneficial results. Sure, you may be able to do it, but do we really want to?
Maintaining normal blood pH is vital to our survival. If pH is too acidic and drops below 6.8, or too alkaline and rises above 7.8, the result can be fatal. This is because pH levels directly affect the ability of our internal organs and metabolism to function.
Scott Carney, an investigative journalist from America, came to expose him as a charlatan. It only took him 2 days before he was convinced Wim is the real deal, and he was standing in shorts in the cold.
But just because this guy was sold this bill of goods, does not mean it’s worthwhile for us.
While he and the other health seekers were doing Wim’s breathing method, which is essentially hyperventilating in a structured way, Wim assured them “Fainting is okay,” he says. “It just means you went deep.”
It’s this kind of pseudo-science crap that leaves me incredibly skeptical of this guy. A more scientific explanation of why you faint is expanded upon in the “Precautions and Contraindications” section.
Wim makes some outlandish claims, stating that he can help all of these conditions:
And that you will also benefit in all of these areas:
These are all based on the supposed “higher oxygen levels in the blood” from the breathing method and the increased alkalinity that results from it… which has not been proven. Plus, the cold exposure, which is supposed to strengthen your cardiovascular system. Here’s an idea, do some cardio. But more importantly, don’t do the things that tear up the lining in your vessels in the first place…smoking, lack of exercise, lack of fruits and veggies, excess alcohol, etc. And lastly, swiftly dealing with pathogens? We already broke that down earlier from the study in Holland. I wouldn’t advise his method for that.
The theory goes…
Our ancestors were subjected to adverse conditions that simply could not be shut out by brick buildings or metal cars. They had to suck it up and deal with icy mountains and parched deserts, WITHOUT any kind of footwear or animal skins.
Heat, cold, wind, pressure differences – all stimulate strength of our body and mind and keeps us from contracting diseases.
Back in those days, our impulse to seek comfort was a survival mechanism. But in modern times, this same impulse, ingrained into our DNA over millions of years, is now a disease mechanism. We have become so comfortable, so quickly, that evolution can’t keep up, and our bodies have weakened.
But the key to unlocking our lost potential is still hiding away within us! We need only to return to the conditions that we once faced, with the right mindset and strategy ofcourse.
Wim Hof has a lesson for us. A reminder. A calling, to bring us back to the primordial state of our prehistoric physiology, which has always been there, but has become alienated through our modern lifestyles.
All in all,
His mission is to spread love
“If you radiate good energy because you are happy, strong, and healthy, that’s love.” – Wim
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Haha, that’s why it’s so insidiously compelling!
Why/how he is able to do these feats – This is from the Vice documentary AND his TED talk
TED - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9Cgaa8U4eY
He has trained himself to be better at dealing with the cold over many years, on top of his genetic predisposition to be able to handle the cold.
His twin brother André (with similar brown fat amounts) also showed the bigger capability to endure the cold, without being trained in the breathing techniques Hof uses (research bij prof. Van Marken Lichtenbelt, Maastricht University
Do not. I repeat, DO NOT practice these breathing techniques while operating heavy machinery or standing until you are quite familiar with them. One expansion to his basic breath causes me to become so lightheaded that I sometimes have to sit down or else I will fall down. I’ll explain how and why soon.
The breathing technique emerged naturally when he plunged into the icy water. Instinctively, he would breathe in more than he let out, similar to when a woman is in the throes of childbirth. This breathing switches the body to a “lower consciousness”, where instincts reign over the intellect. And when he dunked himself underneath the ice, going from breathing to holding his breath, that’s when he really noticed the changes.
“Any element that threatens the oxygen carrying capacity of the human body will promote cancer growth. Likewise, any therapy that improves the oxygen function can be expected to enhance the body’s defenses against cancer. In order for cancer to ‘establish’ a foothold in the body it has to be deprived of oxygen and become acidic. If these two conditions can be reversed cancer can, not only be slowed down, but it can actually be overturned.”
- Dr. Mark Sircus, Ac., OMD
Likewise, If your body is acidic, the minerals in your tissues and bones will be used to mitigate the acidic environment, so that you will return to homeostasis. If this happens too often, you will become mineral deficient.
While these last 2 statements may be true, there’s no proof, that I’ve found, that his method actually changes the pH or the oxygen levels in your blood, but simply puts more oxygen and less CO2 in your lungs.
He says to test the pH of your pee or saliva with a pH strip before and after
I did this before and after a 30 minute “hyperventilation session” and saw no noticeable difference in pH
Let me know if you do.
Polar Bear Clubs have popped up all over the US, and probably onward, where people, never even hearing of Wim, jump into super cold water, because well, it is challenging, and you get to bond with your bros! And lastly, you get a really cool story to tell people and feel all special.
“I do not only endure the cold. I love the cold”
“The cold is merciless, but righteous.”
Cold was his teacher – he never had a master, sifu, guru, etc. Although he was inspired by anthropologists going to Tibet, Samurai, etc. these examples of amazing people that he wanted to become more like. He didn’t find what he was looking for in books.
He began the cold regimen from an early age, after he jumped in an ice covered lake.
Cold Showers are talked about the most in his protocol simply because they are readily available. Feel free to use the pool if you got it. But you’ll heat up a bathtub too quickly to see the same kind of results.
Wim boasts that this works wonders on your cardiovascular system. Vascular smooth muscle composes the majority of the walls of your blood vessels. These tiny muscles contract and relax in order to dilate or constrict blood flow.
Theory goes, the stronger these muscles are, the more efficiently your body is supplied with oxygen, and the less likely you are to build up lactic acid when you work-out. Not only would it prevent this build-up, but this also means that you will recover quicker, from ANYTHING.
Oxygen is THE most important nutrient that our body needs. We can go days without water, weeks or even months without food, but only a couple minutes without oxygen. Wouldn’t it make sense to amplify your ability to assimilate oxygen as much as possible?
“The hunting reaction or hunting response is a process of alternating vasoconstriction and vasodilation in extremities exposed to cold.” (8)
There does seem to be something here worth considering. Cryotherapy has been around for a long time, and there’s no doubt, that when you subject yourself to adversity, within reason, you grow stronger.
But does it help you be healthier? Or does it just help you handle the cold better? I’d rather wear a jacket, personally. I hate the cold. I’d rather strengthen other parts of my life with the resources that I have available. Swimming in ice cold lakes just doesn’t appeal to me.
Furthermore, cold exposure stimulates the production of, and conversion of white fat to, brown fat.
White fat is the one with which we are all familiar. It can be used to create fuel for the body.
Too much of it increases our risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes (the most common form of the condition)
Brown fat can be used to generate heat, AKA thermogenesis, without shivering.
You can’t get something out of nothing. Brown adipose tissue has to get its energy from somewhere.
This is where conversion comes in.
It’s said that Wim has as much Brown fat as a typical 20 year old. They found that he could produce 5 times more energy because of it.
We tend to spend so much time indoors, that our natural process of burning fat by creating heat has been, for the most part, lost.
So, yes, you can improve your ability to handle the cold, if that’s something you want to do.
And you can convert some white fat into brown fat with cold exposure, and burn it off, although not much. One study showed that the volunteers burned an extra 250 calories compared with what they would have used up during three hours of inactivity at more typical indoor temperatures. Yes, it’s some gain, but I think it's negligable compared to the benefits of healthy eating, exercise, stress levels, sleep, etc. Get the fundamentals of healthy lifestyle down first, then putting more attention on novel techniques like this.
Precautions and Contraindications
Don’t let your ego hurt or kill you. You don’t need to prove how tough you are to anybody. This is for health, not bragging rights. Don’t go jumping into ice baths before you’re ready.
The Wim Hof Method -
Cold immersion, breathing techniques, and mental focus
Breathing –Do the breathing in the morning and you will “prevent acidity and stress hormone” according to Wim. (actually according to the E. Coli study he did, readings showed that stress hormone increases)
I’ve heard that breathing through the mouth creates a stress response, but Wim says it doesn’t matter which hole, just get it in! I personally breathe through both, or just nose.
“Dr. Maurice Cottle, who founded the American Rhinologic Society in 1954, stated that the nose performs at least thirty functions, all of which are important supplements to the roles played by the lungs, heart, and other organs.4 In summary, breathing through the nose improves arterial oxygen uptake and delivery, improves ventilation perfusion (gas exchange in the lungs) and acts as a defence against airway constriction including exercise induced asthma.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, is considered an abnormal and inefficient way to breathe and may induce functional, postural and biomechanical imbalances – all of which can be detrimental to our health and sports performance” (9) – I haven’t checked this one out yet. I’m honestly so tired of researching this subject at this point.
Technique #1 – He teaches to do this for 3 rounds in the morning while sitting down
Breathe in fully
Then just let go, but before you let all the air out
Breathe in again
You are breathing in more than you are letting out
Then let all the air out, not forcing it out, and then hold your breath
When you feel the urge to breathe, breathe in fully and keep it for 10-15 seconds
This is one cycle
According to Wim, after about 1:30 you begin to stimulate the brain stem, the reptilian, primitive brain to go into survival mode. It stimulates adrenaline
If you keep this up regularly, you begin to re-establish neuro-connections with the neocortex and the primitive brain
Sounds cool, huh? What benefit is this? Doesn't this mean that you make it easier to switch into fight or flight mode? If you think about the movie Planet of the Apes a lot, it makes it easier to remember quotes and spout out lines from the movie. That’s cool too, you know. I think we’re good enough at stress already.
Technique #2 – They were using this during the Vice documentary, while trekking to the top of a snow capped mountain in just shoes and shorts.
Breathe in fully
Let go, but don’t let all the air out
Then breathe in again
You are breathing in more than you are letting out
Then hold at the top and squeeze the pressure into your chest, neck, and head
"This creates either real or illusory heat" - Vice Journalist
Technique #3 – Big Shabalambah haha Idk, this one is combining Wim’s method with a technique I learned at a Qi Gong workshop by Jeff Primack (who had met and trained with Wim).
This is the one where you want to be REALLY careful not to be standing up or driving a car, etc.
Perform the same 30 breath technique, except only breathe with your chest.
On the last one, hold your breath at the top, then drop the air down so that your belly gets pushed out.
Hold this for a couple seconds, then breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
You feel that? Damn.
It’s amazing what a little variation can do. This one clears my mind and gives me a reset like no other. I’d be curious to know what it does for you.
My original hypothesis was that when you drop the breath down, you are stretching out the bottom aspect of the lungs, an aspect which typically doesn’t get as much use. This is forcing a ton of oxygen into that area, and perhaps that’s where we have the biggest amount of oxygen uptake capability?
But now, I think it’s because when I drop it down, I also tend to tighten up the neck, and therefore cause added pressure on top of the already constricted blood vessels in the brain.
Technique #4 - Stressed? Angry? Depressed? Past trauma? Pain?
Break the cycle!!
This one actually works, and I use it. Regardless of his reasoning, you are affecting the physiology. You are breaking the pattern, and therefore your emotional state. You can do this through many different techniques. The important part is that you dramatically shift your physiology so as to cause a shift in hormonal stimulation.
If you have inflammation issues, Wim instructs to hold with the full breath. If you don’t have those issues, hold with breath out. (I don’t know what his grounds are for this, he probably thinks that you’ll make the blood more alkaline and reduce inflammation)
Do push-ups, squats, or some other kind of repetitious movement during breath hold.
Without the oxygen predominating toward the Sympathetic Nervous System, you break the loop.
A quickie of 4 minutes is enough to break the loop! Breathe 30 times, hold breath and do something physical. You don’t need a 5-hour energy, a cup of coffee, an anxiety pill, just take control of your Nervous System!
Cold Exposure -
To start, take a nice warm shower after your workout, but the last 30 seconds to a minute, cold shower.
Mental Focus -
Do the breathing method and focus on the area that “has the cold/flu” or has the issue – BELIEVE that you have the ability to connect with the site and influence its healing
I’ll have more on these last 2 aspects soon. But if you start doing what is here, you will build a good foundation for more to come. I want to meet him in person and get some real training before I start instructing on such potentially dangerous cold regimens. And the meditative techniques, I honestly just don’t understand very well yet.
“The love and the care for the planet, for the children, for all the living beings still is not established
I don’t want anybody to suffer anymore from not being happy, strong, or healthy” – Wim
Well Wim, maybe you should be a bit more thorough in your understanding of what causes happiness, health, and strength. There’s a lot more that goes into it than what you teach.
Well, I’m done here.
As always, cheers, kick some ass, and don’t be bamboozled!
PS - One more misleading story
He took people with no mountaineering experience up Mt Kilamanjaro in their shorts
in under 36 hours - - 31 hours and 25 minutes to be precise – record time for 18 people
Not as amazing as they made it seem – He touts that he’s proving scientists wrong that say you can’t go that high that quickly without incurring altitude sickness.
People have climbed to that height, and even higher, in less time. Also, the reason why people don’t make as fast a time, is because they ACTUALLY go to the top, not Gilman’s point, 2 hours short, and thus, if they were to go all the way, that day, it would be dark on the way back to safety, and this is why people wait extra time before ascending all the way.
“Not only did we reached our goal three hours faster than anticipated, but we showed no signs of mountain sickness which is deemed to be impossible.
Wim and the group of pioneers reached the summit of the 19,340 foot high mountain on January 15 to scoop his 26th world record”
(This statement is false. They didn’t go all the way to the summit) (10)
“The press release and the blog posts (English and Dutch) by Wim Hof are misleading on several points. Noteworthy is that the Dutch version of his blog doesn’t mention the fact that the last part of the climb (from Kibo-hut) was done fully clothed and not in in ‘Wim Hof-outfit’ (bare chested, only wearing shorts). The record time of less than 32 hours is set off against the usual time of 5-7 days for a trip which tourists would normally take. However, that’s the time for climbing ánd descending. The total time for Hof’s expedition was about two and half days (this is not mentioned more exactly)
Do you have any idea what the record is for an individual climb (and descent) of Kilimanjaro? I was quite shocked by the answer. It’s the astonishing time of 6 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds! This was set last year by Karl Egloff from Switzerland. And this was up and down to the real summit of the Kilimanjaro: Uhuru Peak” (11)