Cold Exposure – The FREE Way to Lose Weight

Woman Weighing HerselfLosing weight is a challenge for most people. If it were easy, we’d all have the body of our dreams and the happiness in our own skin to go with it.

On top of mental determination and some physical discomfort, the road to your target weight has all sorts of turns along the way.

Should I take these diet pills, or that diet shake? Which diet plan is better? Is higher protein, fat, or carbohydrate consumption better?

So when a completely free, and very simple way to lose fat is literally at your fingertips, you might not believe in it.

And yet, believe it you must.

Metabolism vs Cold Exposure

NeurotransmittersWhat happens when you put a warm-blooded creature like a human being in a cold environment?

There’s no joke there. Serious question. In the context of metabolism, many people would believe that things get slower the colder they get.

The truth is, we need to keep our blood at a stable temperature to stay alive, a warm temperature (about 37 deg C or 98.6 deg F).

So when the environment we are in is colder than the desired temperature for our blood, our body has to get to work in order to keep it warm.

That involved burning fuel. Fat is the best fuel we have. It packs 9 calories per gram, and it burns most effectively under oxygenated conditions, like when you breathe.

So, being in a cooler room can help you lose weight? Let’s hear more.

Regulating Body Temperature – Thermoregulation

Woman in ColdNearly half – HALF – of our energy intake (food) is applied to regulating body – or core – temperature. A few degrees either side of 37 and we are in real trouble.

When we are in a cooler environment, we often put layers of clothing on or turn up the heater. At least, these days we do. And it can lead to weight gain over time, because instead of burning fuel to heat up internally, our bodies slow metabolism down.

What’s more, colder temperatures at night favour deeper sleep. Turning up the heat in the bedroom might cause a more restless night AND prevent some free and easy weight loss.

Brown Adipose Tissue – BAT

microscopeThis is the most exciting area of research in recent years, especially in the context of weight loss and fat burning.

Until 2009, scientists didn’t know adults even had any (Brown Adipose Tissue) BAT left.

BAT – also known as Brown Fat – is a type of fat which shares a few characteristics as muscle tissue, in fact it comes from the same stem cells.

Babies have a high proportion of BAT because they don’t have the ability to shiver.

Shivering warms us up as adults because of all the fuel it burns and thus heat it produces. Since babies can’t shiver, they have another method, called Non-Shivering Thermogenesis. That’s where a protein in BAT’s mitochondria produce heat instead of energy.

Adults don’t have as much brown fat as babies, but PET scans (the first in 2009) showed we still had some lingering around the shoulders and neck. It only lights up during exposure to cold.

Here’s the really interesting part: long periods of exposure to cold can even stimulate the growth of Brown Adipose Tissue.

So it has been shown that once we stop shivering and get used to the temperature, adults go into non-shivering thermogenesis.

How Cold Though?

ThermostatYes, that’s the question, isn’t it? … “cold exposure” could mean a lot of things, and most of them aren’t pleasant thoughts.

Luckily, the adjustment to make is more on the thermostat level than the ice bath level.

Research conducted so far suggests that 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.33 Celsius) is the cut-off temperature above which the difference is too small to notice.

One study showed that 6 hours per day at 60 deg F (15.56 celsius) can increase your BAT levels by 30%.

How Much Weight Loss is Expected?

losing weightIs it worth spending so much time in colder surroundings, in terms of fat loss? You can be the judge of that.

About 10 lbs can be lost per year by doing 6 hours a day.

The problem is that people have become used to living in warmer temperatures because technology allows us to control it.

Also, it seems spending time at or above core body temperature, following the cold exposure, negates some of the progress made!

Finally, people tend to eat more when they are cold. Therefore, resisting the urge to eat in compensation is necessary, otherwise any hard work done to increase BAT levels will be quickly reversed.

Conclusion and Recommendations

DoctorFor us, the easiest way to get some cold exposure in is to sleep with the thermostat down to 65 F (or about 18.5 celsius).

It might sound drastic to some people, but once you get used to it, your sleep quality also improves.

Be careful though: if there is any reason you shouldn’t approach cold exposure then don’t. Some people are affected much more than others are by colder temperatures.

Older people should ask their doctor first. As should anyone with circulation problems or any other condition which might not be conducive to this strategy.

To wrap it up: if you can handle it, then lower the temperature at night, and save a bit of money on heating your place at the same time.

Further Reading

Follow any of the links below to read more interesting articles like this one:

  1. Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?
  2. Coffee and Caffeine – How to Really Get The Benefits Back

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