Does Working Out In the Cold Burn More Calories?

Here’s your cheat sheet for stoking the furnace during winter workouts

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There’s even more scientific evidence accumulating that working out in the cold can help you burn more calories:

Brown Fat

Brown fat is a type of fat that helps us regulate body temperature, so it would make sense that its formation might be stimulated by cold temperatures.

Transforming Fat Cells

Just this year, a study published in Nature showed that regular exercise can produce a hormone that converts fat cells from the lazy kind to the kind that burns calories.

The formation of this metabolically active, so-called “brown fat”, is also stimulated by cold temperatures.


In fact, The Joslin Diabetes Center has a special workout called the “Joslin Coolout” that uses cool temperatures to specifically activate brown fat.

This is the same reasoning that leads Tim Ferriss and other elite athletes to swear by ice baths.


The effect of shivering on calorie burn is well known.  Shivering generates a lot of heat so its a major calorie-burner.  Most of these calories come from the depletion of muscle glycogen.  but since shivering is a sign of hypothermia, its not a good way to burn calories.

There is, however, another effect called “non-shivering thermogenesis” which may help you burn more calories in the cold.

No Sweat

I have noticed a psychological effect as well, when it takes some extra effort at the beginning just to get my muscles and joints warmed up.  Once I do get warmed up, I find myself motivated to work harder just to break a sweat, because doing so in the cold requires more effort and somehow feels a lot more rewarding.




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