You probably already know that a variety of factors influence your metabolism, including what you eat, how frequently you eat, how often and what types of exercises you do, and how well you sleep. In addition to these well-known factors, temperature also plays a role in your metabolism.
Metabolism is the chemical process your body goes through to convert the food you eat into energy for every part of your body to function. The more energy your body needs to maintain basic bodily functions, the higher your metabolism; conversely, the less energy your body needs, the lower your metabolism. Essentially, your metabolic rate is the amount of energy (calories) your body burns to maintain itself – think about the energy your body needs to breathe, think, talk, walk, sit, digest food, keep your heart beating, circulate your blood, and maintain your normal body temperature.
Your body is constantly regulating its core temperature to around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). When your climate heavily differs from this temperature, due to cold or heat, your body extends more energy by shivering to heat up or sweating to cool down – all in an effort to maintain its preferred temperature.
This might lead you to believe that living in an extremely cold or hot climate (Alaska or the Sahara desert, perhaps) will increase your metabolic rate. While looking at this factor alone definitely suggests that, it turns out that the metabolic rate increase only lasts in the short-term. Over time, other cells start adapting to the new climate, making it easier for your body to maintain its normal temperature. This is why people who live in very cold areas don’t seem to feel the cold as much as visitors experiencing the same temperature, and vice-versa in hotter climates.
However, there are some fun, money-saving, healthy ways to use temperature to boost your metabolism without changing your address every few months (I know, you weren’t even considering that, right?).
- Adjust your thermostat: When it’s cold or hot outside, let your body work (burn energy) to regulate your core temperature. Research led by Dr. David B Allison suggests that our dependence on heaters and air conditioners is contributing to the growing obesity epidemic. He advises turning your thermostat a few degrees higher in the summer and a few lower in the winter, so your body can do the extra work regulating its core temperature. Besides the increase in your metabolic rate, your bank account (and the environment) will thank you.
- Sweat it out in a sauna: Saunas are not only good for detoxing, but they make your body sweat, which increases your energy output and raises metabolism. Take precaution if you have any underlying conditions, and be sure to listen to your body and get out if you start feeling too hot.
- Drink cold and hot beverages: While there’s mixed research about the effectiveness of drinking hot and cold beverages to boost metabolism, the idea is that the extreme temperatures give your body extra work (more calories to burn). While researchers hash this one out, I’m going to keeping enjoying ice-cold water (with lemon).
- Exercise in cold weather: Working out in the cold can increase the amount of brown fat you burn, which in turn helps your body burn the bad, white fat. It’s actually fun too – much more fun than exercising in the heat.
- Learn to love a cold shower: Taking a cold shower provides the same benefits of exercising in the cold, and so much more. Not only will you jump-start your metabolism, your skin and hair will shine, and you’ll save money in energy and water (trust me, you won’t be taking any crazy, long showers with cold water). After years of my boyfriend telling me that I should take cold showers, I finally started last year and now they’re a regular part of my life.
There’s no better time than the upcoming summer months to try some of these out. Jump in a cold shower after a workout or make an effort to keep your AC a couple degrees higher this summer. Along with these tips and other metabolism boosters, you’re on your way to increasing your metabolism and decreasing your waistline. However, don’t forget that loving your body, whatever its size or metabolism level, is the most important thing.
Have you tried any of these temperature related metabolism boosters before? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.
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