2017 is flying – it’s Mid Year! Here in Australia the Mercury is just starting to fall, and while we might not get snow in as many places like the rest of the world, most of us are starting to feel a bit chilly. Is training in winter a calorie booster?
Winter brings about a variety of feelings for people, some of us love it, some of us are reaching for our snuggies and comfort food, and determined to hibernate until the surf weather returns. Suddenly the gym is a bit quieter in the early mornings. The sun’s not up, you popped your toes out of the blanket and decided you’d just rather not brave the cold for your workout today. On your drive to work later you see a group of dedicated individuals out for the brisk morning stroll in their active wear, breathing steam in the morning frost, in their hurried pace to keep warm and your guilty conscience tells you “I should have worked out early today, your burn more calories in winter”. Fact or Fiction?
I can tell you that there definitely are some extremely beneficial reasons for training in winter, but the additional calorie burn, solely because we have entered the colder months, just may be a little over hyped. Read on.
Our bodies nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems, are working constantly to maintain homeostasis – I like to think of this as “healthy Balance” – including our body temperature, hydration levels, respiration rate, blood pressure etc. When we are too hot our body begins to perspire (sweat) in order to aid us in cooling down and when we are cold – we shiver. Shivering is your bodies natural response to cold, because it needs to maintain a core temperature of around 36 degrees to prevent the ‘danger’ of hypothermia. The involuntary muscle contractions are your bodies means of generating heat to maintain its internal temperature. In addition, in sub tropical climates your body might have to work harder humidify the air we breathe. In order to perform these actions, well actually for your body to perform any action – like breathing, it is expending energy – burning calories.
You would be burning more calories than normal if you were shivering with cold.
Cue “winter training is calorie booster” Myth
Predating our current technology and availability of creature comforts, shivering was a necessary mechanism in order to survive. But I’ll ask the question: when was the last time you stood out in the cold for a number of hours shivering?
These days when we feel cold, or begin to shiver, we grab a jumper, blanket, reach for the climate control or a hot drink. We have a variety of means to control the temperature around us and for the most part, give our bodies a lot less work to do. I’m assuming that most of you are probably wearing some kind of thermal wear or multiple layers if your out early or late in the day when it’s cold? Though we may feel the cold, our clothing provides insulation so our internal temperature can be maintained. Once we start moving our calories burned are likely going to be the relatively the same to an ordinary day.
So ‘winter training calorie booster’ as you know it, is pretty much a myth, but I know you’re asking why you seem to feel hungrier and I promised you there were still AWESOME benefits to upping the anti on your fitness regime NOW before summer returns.
You may be feeling partial to more snacking during winter, because breaking down food – like shivering – is a thermogenic process. This means that your body expends heat/energy to digest a meal. Of course there’s always the factor that food – for many – plays a role as comfort. If your goal is weight loss, my tip is to opt for foods really high in fibre that take the body longer to break down – pack your slow cookers full of winter veggies! Try to avoid the sugary snacks. If it’s hot sweet drinks you’re craving try some herbal teas or Fruit Tisane’s ( I recently found a Choc Peppermint flavoured Tea) far less calories than a creamy moccachino, and depending your choice, loads of beneficial antioxidants or calming properties to help you wind down after a stressful day.
Don’t forget to drink water now as much as in summer. Although you aren’t obviously perspiring all the time, you still need to be constantly replenishing fluids, usually by the time you “feel thirsty” you are already dehydrated, so constantly sip.
Reasons to keep exercising in winter!
- Be your own fire place! I don’t know a single person who wants to MOVE SLOW when it’s cold! You are almost guaranteed to want to move faster to warm your body up- double bonus! You’ll no longer be cold and may likely get more work done than normal.
- Regular exercise is proven to be associated with better immune response and recovery time from illness. Another way to avoid the office cold or at least have far less days in bed sick.
- AVOID WINTER BLUES! The days are shorter, and many of us are leaving for work before sunrise and after night fall. There is research to suggest, that the reduced exposure to natural night during this time of year, can be responsible for our slump in motivation and energy- and it’s not just because you had to pack up the surf ski! Light stimulus triggers the release of different endorphin hormones- like serotonin. You might think of these as “happy” hormones, and in laments terms they help to stimulate the brain and get us going for the day. If you’re missing that stimulus, there is little wonder that you may be feeling a little flat or blue. Once again, exercise to the rescue! When you exercise you also trigger the release of endorphin’s, so although it may be a little tough to commit to getting out of bed early in the morning from the get go – you’ll feel energised, focused and ready to tackle the day once you’re done working out.
- At the end of the day, you are absolutely going to burn more calories exercising in winter than if you were not! Physical activity is what raises your metabolic rate.
- Experiment with changed training styles and boost performance. Many of my clients are heat sensitive ( tropical Queensland summer can make HIT training a bit of a challenge for some), but Winter can be the perfect reprieve and a chance to up the anti with decreased risk of heat exertion. They may find themselves feeling like they have more endurance in the cooler months than in the warmer ones.
There is ultimately a host more benefits than just calorie burn, to keeping your exercise regime up in winter. So grab your favourite hoodie, crank your favourite tunes and let the endorphin s flow!
Need some fresh workout ideas to boost your motivation?
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