MF CARDIO EXPERT Can I burn more fat by training outside?
Cold weather can make your body’s metabolism speed up for a greater calorie burn – but that doesn’t mean it’s an effective fat-loss trick
Your body has to work harder in the cold to keep your temperature stable, and that can have a positive effect on fat loss – but, cautions coach and sports scientist Richard Brennan, that doesn’t mean you can simply head out on a chilly day and expect the fat to melt away.
n cold environments, it’s a little harder for your body to regulate temperature. This causes extra strain, which in turn causes your body’s demand for all calories to go up. Logically it follows that training in the cold is better for fat loss. As with so many things in life, though, there’s a little more to it than that.
Blood runs cold
Environmental conditions removing heat from your body causes what’s known as ‘cold stress’ and, like other types of stress, it provokes physiological reactions. The key one for fat loss is that it speeds up your metabolism, which means you burn more calories.
Another reaction to cold stress is that your body diverts blood away from the surface of your muscles in an effort to keep itself warm. This means it’s especially important to hydrate yourself fully before you train outside so your blood volume is at optimal levels.
In truth, though, the increase in metabolism speed caused by cold can be overstated. As a matter of fact, the biggest impact the cold has on your metabolism may be the influence it has on what you wear. Wearing heavier cold-weather kit forces your base metabolic rate up because your body is forced to work harder. Cold itself isn’t a reliable, effective fat loss tool.
If you really want to burn fat as a fuel during your workout, a much better tactic than trying to freeze yourself is to structure your workout to promote fat burning. This means doing long, slow training as the base of your fitness. In addition to doing more complex, tough routines such as intervals and hill sprints, do lots of nice and easy, low-heart-rate stuff – at the end of the session you should feel, ‘I could probably do that again at a push’.
People who ignore this slow-running base will not produce sufficient slowtwitch muscles fibres, which are full of mitochondria. These are the powerhouses of the cells and having lots of them helps to maximise your fat burning.
My advice? Get your slow-twitch muscle fibres sorted, get the mitochondria in there, and you’ll be burning calories 24 hours a day, regardless of whether you’re training in Aberdeen or Alicante. Richard Brennan is managing director of Sports Science Consultants and is a Human Race coach ( humanrace.co.uk)
If you want to burn fat, there are more important factors than