Even though those last couple of pounds may still require a sauna to shed, evidence shows that exposure to colder temperatures may cause the body to burn more calories.
Shivering Calories Away
The body’s natural reaction to cold temperatures is to shiver, which produces heat. Studies have shown that energy expenditure increases by five times when people are shivering as opposed to when they are resting at a comfortable temperature.
Shivering is not enjoyable, so luckily there is also a process called non-shivering thermogenesis (NST), and according to a study conducted by the Maastricht University in the Netherlands, it works at reasonable temperatures. This is more of a maintenance temperature and is estimated around 64 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t cold for most, but isn’t warm either. Some health and fitness professionals suggest sleeping in similar temperatures to stimulate calorie reduction overnight.
Researchers from the University of Utah have found that energy expenditure can reach levels equaling 40 to 50 percent of a person’s aerobic capacity if the body’s core temperature gets low enough. This type of response would require extreme temperatures. Anything in excess can cause a decrease in beneficial results and in this case could turn in to hypothermia. If you are turning blue you are too cold.
Brown Fat Heats Up The Body
Brown adipose tissue or “brown fat,” is a type of fat in the body that serves to burn calories rather than storing them. It is metabolically active and has been shown to take sugar out of the blood stream to maintain core temperature.
White fat is the largely unwanted kind of fat that builds up around the abdomen and causes weight related disorders. Brown fat is found in higher qualities in leaner people and also serves to protect against diabetes. This burning is activated in response to cold causing heat production, which burns calories.
Studies on Cold Temperature
A study conducted by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney identified two specific hormones that are stimulated by cold. They are irisin and FGF21, which are released by shivering and brown fat respectively. Approximately 10 to 15 minutes of shivering produced as big a rise in irisin as an hour of moderate exercise and in the laboratory. Irisin and FGF21 together transformed white fat cells into brown fat cells over a period of six days.
A study in Japan found that people spending two hours a day for six weeks in a 62.6-degree Fahrenheit room had a decrease in body fat.
The American Council on Exercise reported that shivering can burn an average of about 400 calories per hour.
Freezing the Weight off
Cold therapy is certainly no replacement for cardio and diet, but could be an easy addition to a weight cut regiment depending on location or availability of air conditioning.
People adjust to the cold over time and thus burn less fat as the body shivers less. This means that someone from a colder region would have to decrease his or her maintenance temperature to a much lower level than someone acclimated to a warmer environment.
Obviously the adaptation factor may come in to play for places like the Alaska, where cold temperatures are more common as opposed to Hawaii, where below 72 degrees Fahrenheit is jacket weather. Regardless of your environment, it may be worth while to take off your coat and tough it out for a bit.