Most of us have long heard training in the cold burns more energy, necessitating greater caloric intake to maintain performance. My own ravenous appetite after cold-weather training only seemed to reinforce this.
There's now new research by scientists at University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the University of Birmingham in England indicating this might not only be wrong, but that the opposite may be true. Their work showed at least some individuals burn significantly less calories when performing endurance exercise in cold temperatures. The cruel twist is these same people also experienced a greater increase in appetite following exercise in the cold.
Think about this for a moment. They burned fewer calories, yet were hungrier. This isn't good for anyone who wants to get down to race weight following a holiday season of overindulgence.
While more research needs to be performed to determine whether this applies to most individuals (the researchers used overweight, sedentary men and women in this study), and whether exercise intensity and specific temperature make a difference, there are two key take-home points.
1. Bundle up before heading out. Getting chilled while training, or racing, only degrades performance, regardless of any other effects it may have.
2. Don't let your appetite dictate overeating post workout. An occasional indulgence isn't usually a problem if you're not too far from race weight. Just don't let it get out of hand if you're not happy with progress toward your desired weight.
Following these will help make the most of your winter training. Thinking about warmer days won't hurt, either.