Years ago, I had a couple wrestler friends who would drop weight for competition by drilling in deep freezers. They would tell me the cold of the deep freeze would cause the muscles to work extra hard, and cause their bodies to burn tons of extra calories to stay warm. They used the cold itself as a tool and it worked. It worked because our bodies will respond to cold by shivering skeletal muscles to generate heat. The process is called homeostasis.
Homeostasis can help you burn fat
Homeostasis is the tendency of the body to attempt to maintain an equilibrium within its internal environment. Our bodies don’t want to be cold, or hot, they want to be just right.
In the freezer, the wrestlers’ skeletal muscles had to shake in small movements, generating warmth by expending calories to keep these guys from freezing along with the meats. This technique worked well and the wrestlers could shed weight in short times. Most of us don’t have access to a deep freeze and there was more at work than just the muscle spasms helping those guys.
The piece that they didn’t know about, was unseen and couldn’t be felt, was a metabolic boost that cold exposure naturally gives us. Recent studies on cold and metabolism by the University of Utah and the National Institute of Health, have shown that when we expose ourselves to even slightly cold temperatures we get a metabolic boost.
The cold can boost your metabolism by 10%
It doesn’t even take arctic lows to get this effect. In one study, participants were exposed to temperatures ranging from 81 °F to 66 °F over a period of 4 months. What the study found, was that the participants had a 10% boost in metabolic rates when the temperature dropped. They also found that the white fat stores, that is the bad, hard to get rid of fat, had converted by around 40% to brown fat. Brown fat is the good fat, this is the fat that is being used for energy and necessary functions of the body. Having brown fat is good, white fat is bad.
This is what makes winter the best time to get in shape, you get a kind of buy-one-get-one 10% free deal. You get that skeletal muscle fat burning trembling going, combined with the metabolic boost and then the fat conversion. There is no other time of year to pull this off without a personal deep freezer.
Every exercise is made more effective because of the effects cold has on our bodies. Running, for example, typically burns around 80 to 150 calories a mile, there are fluctuations based on weight, height, etc. of course. When you do this same run in temperatures under 66 °F you can get a bonus 10% extra calories burned. Even a brisk walk in the winter becomes about as effective as a warm-weather run.
The only thing you need to do in order make this happen and take advantage is to get outside into the cold and be active. It really is that simple.