December 10, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Calories & Winter

I have heard mixed things about cold weather and its impact on calorie burning and was hoping you could clear up the matter.

Do you burn more calories in winter, or do you just feel like you do?

-- Luise (last name unknown)
Via the blog

It's funny, because some people ask me if it's true we burn more calories in the winter, and others want to know if it's true we burn LESS calories in the winter!

I chalk this all up to psychological impression.

Although it is true that an involuntary action like shivering -- our body's way of attempting to warm us up -- takes energy, it does not mean we automatically burn extra calories when temperatures plunge.

Besides, most people bundle up to prevent themselves from shivering.

Some research has shown that exercising outdoors in the Winter can slightly increase the amount of calories burned since the body has to work harder to keep us warm.

That said, it is important to not lose focus of the big issue here -- stay as active as you can, indoors or out.

It's not so much that temperature affects our caloric balance, but, rather, that our activities change as a result of the weather.

There is no simple answer to the seasonal calorie burning question because individual factors come into play.

Many people are more physically active in the Summer, and tend to turn to comfort foods when temperatures drop.

Then again, there are also those who become more active in the Winter (whether it be by skiing often or finding more time to work out at the gym since many Summer activities are no longer feasible.)

And then there are those whose weight does not fluctuate by season because their eating and exercise habits are fairly consistent.

Despite all this, it wouldn't surprise me if at some point down the road we see some scam artist hawking The Winter Diet -- Shiver Those Extra Pounds Away.... Until Spring!

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