Could Turning the Heating Down this Winter Help Boost Your Metabolism?
20 DECEMBER 2020
As the temperature well and truly drops, most of us don’t think twice before reaching out to push the thermostat up a notch.
In fact, whether at home, our place of work or travelling between the two, we are all accustomed to automatically selecting the ‘sweet spot’, rarely venturing outside the temperatures we feel most comfortable in. Heaven forbid we need to add a few layers of clothing or expect our bodies’ internal thermostat to do a bit of work instead.
But does constantly adjusting the temperature of our external environment impact our metabolism or prevent us from burning a few extra calories as fuel? Let’s take a look…
Many of us consider gaining a few extra pounds throughout the winter months as being completely normal. Let’s face it, bikini season is way off on the horizon so a few extra pounds doesn’t pose an immediate threat. Some even believe the extra layer of fat is the body’s clever way of insulating us against exposure to harsher temperatures. But is this true?
Well, apparently not and according to scientists, cold weather should actually promote weight loss instead of the gains we’ve all come to accept, begrudgingly or otherwise. According to scientists exposing yourself to lower temperatures can actually increase your basal metabolic rate.
Interestingly, it has a lot to do with the type of fat we carry.
Humans have different types of body fat; white fat which acts as a storage unit for excess energy. We associate this fat with bulging hips, thighs and bellies and an increased risk of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes. Too much white fat is considered unhealthy. In contrast, we also have brown fat which burns calories to generate heat when we need it, in a process called ‘thermogenesis’ and this is what boosts our metabolism. Fifty grams of brown fat can burn 300 calories daily, about the same as a 30-minute jog.
Researchers suggest that exposing your body to temperatures of approximately 19°C for as little as two hours each day may be enough to stimulate the growth of more brown fat cells. In addition to ramping up your metabolism, cold therapy can help improve sleep and reduce muscle pain and inflammation (think athletes and ice baths).
Understanding that winter weight gain is unlikely to be the result of temperatures falling means it must have more to do with the diet and lifestyle choices we make throughout this period. So maybe it’s time to put down that 2nd mince pie and glass of mulled wine to venture outside and brave the cold weather for a quick stomp; all in the name of our brown fat.
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