The recent below freezing temps allows me to bring up something i’ve wanted to talk about for quite a while…thermal training and weight loss. I first came across the concept reading Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Body. If you haven’t read it yet and you’re interested in fitness, it’s worth a read. Specifically, he has a section about weight loss and training in cold weather and the benefits this has on excelling fat burning and building muscle. Without getting into too much crazy scientific detail, the introduction of cold exposure can change the way your fat cells are responding to physical activity. From Ferriss’ book (pg. 127):
Not all fat is equal. There are at least two distinct types: white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). WAT is what we usually think of as fat, like the marbling on a steak. BAT, in contrast, is sometimes referred to as “fat-burning fat” and appears to be derived from the same stem cells as muscle tissue. BAT helps dissipate excess calories as heat. In a nutshell: cold stimulates BAT to burn fat and glucose as heat. In other words, cold might help you incrase the amount of your “fat-burning fat.”
So, scientific gobbly gook aside, train in the cold, it will help burn fat and increase muscle mass. Get to the point of shivering, then get warm and finish your run, bike, climb, hike, whatever. The weather right now is perfect too, cold in the early morning, relatively warm in the sunshine, cool as the sun goes down and in the shadows. Take advantage and get burn some extra fat while you’re still able to enjoy it outside, especially since everyone else is hitting the treadmills at the gym. Weaksauce!
That said, be careful, 30 minutes is plenty of exposure, then it’s time to put a jacket on and not be an idiot. As usual, we’re not responsible for you losing a finger or worse due to frost-bite.