Should your calorie intake increase or decrease when cold weather hits? Posted on October 24, 2016 by , 0 comments

Your calorie needs change based on activity level, muscle mass, age, and even the weather. That’s right—the weather. And now that the thermometer is dropping, it could be time for you to reevaluate your caloric intake, especially if you spend a lot of time outside.

But why is this? How do we end up burning more calories when it’s cold? The answer has to do with thermogenesis, the process by which the body burns energy. When we are cold, we shiver. Shivering requires more energy and calories in order to keep the body warm and functioning. In fact, a study published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2014 went as far as to suggest that mild cold exposure could be used in place of exercise.

However, the scientists involved in the same study noted that shivering is pretty miserable. They suggested that aiming for something called non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) can be beneficial without the shivering. The target temperature for getting the human body to kick into NST landed at 64 degrees Fahrenheit. A separate study published in the same journal concluded that exposure to cold caused the body to burn something called ‘brown fat’, which burns calories at a fast rate in order to create heat.

So should we adjust our caloric intake during the winter months? The answer is entirely based on your exposure to the cold and your desire to lose or maintain your weight. For example, if you are looking to maintain your weight and know that you will be snowshoeing that day, pack an extra snack and aim for a few more calories than your normal intake.

If you want to shed a few pounds, take advantage of the cold and go for a brisk walk, try out skiing or snowshoeing, explore winter camping, or looking into getting in some hiking. Whatever you choose, be prepared to stay warm once the activity is over.

What cool weather activities do you enjoy? Do you find that you get a better workout in the cold? Tell us in the comments below!