When it comes to weight loss, the rate at which your body burns calories for energy, also known as your metabolism, is an important factor in determining how much weight you lose. Cold temperatures can slow down your metabolism by slowing down peripheral body functions to keep your core temperature up, but your metabolism is influenced by a complex system. Exposure to cold weather can increase your metabolism as your body works hard to stay warm, but it won't increase it to the same degree as extreme heat.
A common misconception regarding exercise in cold temperatures suggests that, since the body must work to maintain a warm core temperature in the cold, you'll burn more calories and increase your metabolism more in cold weather than in hot weather. In fact, the opposite is true. Exercising in hot weather increases your heart rate, dilates your blood vessels and costs more energy than exercising in cold weather.
There are multiple bodily processes that are involved in fat metabolism. According to research conducted by the Naval Medical Research Institute, some of these processes slow down during exercise in cold temperatures. One possible cause for this slowing of the metabolism could be linked to the constriction of blood vessels in periphery fatty tissue.
Exercising in cold temperatures isn't all bad when it comes to stripping off excess weight. Although blood vessels are constricted to reduce heat loss, any temperature cold enough to trigger shivering can result in impressive caloric expenditure. According to Appalachian State University, shivering, which is designed to ward off heat loss, causes muscles to eat up carbohydrate stores five to six times faster than normal.
Temperature isn't the only factor during cold weather months that can affect your metabolism. Lifestyle changes and eating habits tend to shift when humans are pushed into hibernation mode during the winter. Generally, a combination of a decrease in physical activity and an increase in the consumption of fatty foods leads to a slower metabolism and weight gain in winter months.
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.