If your hot-weather workout makes you feel like you are burning more calories that is because you are.
Although colder temperatures might make it seem like your body needs to work harder to warm itself, your body actually burns more energy in the heat. Working out in the heat comes with a bigger fat burn, but it also comes with several dangers.
Why does working in the heat burn more calories?
Working out in hot temperature burns more fat and calories because your body has to work harder to cool itself. Your body releases heat through sweat, which comes from blood pumped to your skin. The hotter your body gets, the more blood your heart needs to pump to expel that heat. Thus your heart works harder in hotter temperatures than it would in cooler temperatures, providing an increased calorie and fat burn.
What is REE?
The amount of calories you burn per day is determined by a variety of factors – some genetic and out of your control, but some can be altered. Your total energy expenditure is the sum of your resting energy expenditure, digestion of food and physical activity. Your resting energy expenditure (REE) accounts for the greatest amount of calories burned, while physical activity is the most varied aspect. REE is influenced by age, sex, hormones, along with body size and composition. Hot and cold environments also impact your REE and can increase the amount of calories you burn, because of greater demands on your body to maintain a steady temperature.
If you were to do nothing but lie in bed all day, your body would still need energy to preserve basic life functions, such as heart rate, temperature, circulation, nerve functioning and breathing. The amount of energy needed to maintain these functions is known as resting energy expenditure, or REE. It is measured in calories, and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of your daily calories burned.
Burning calories – hot vs. cold temperatures
When it is hot outside, your body works hard to keep you cool so you maintain a steady body temperature. You lose most of the energy manufactured by your muscles during exercise as heat. The more your muscles work, the hotter they become. Your body needs to kick it into overdrive to keep you cool. Your cardiovascular system increases blood flow to your skin so you start to sweat. Exercise inherently raises your body temperature, meaning your body doesn’t need to work harder to warm you up – it is already doing that. You burn more fat and calories and can exercise longer when you do so in warm temperatures, according to the American Council on Exercise. Don’t go overboard, though. If you experience dizziness, muscle cramps, weakness and headache, stop exercising. These are signs of heat exhaustion, which can be treated by getting to a cooler place and drinking cold fluids.
Know more about calories and perceived exertion
Working out in an extremely hot environment may cause you to perceive you are working out harder and burning more calories than you actually are. A study published in 2013 and funded by the American Council on Exercise examined the difference between hot yoga, which is typically conducted in rooms ranging in temperature from 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and regular yoga on core body temperature and heart rate. For the study, subjects participated in 60-minute sessions of both hot yoga and regular yoga, and their core temperatures and heart rates were measured before, during and after the workout. Even though participants were drenched in sweat by the end of the hot yoga session, the results yielded no significant difference in heart rate or body temperature between the two yoga classes. Participants did, however, perceive themselves to be working harder in the hot yoga class compared to the standard yoga class, based on ratings of perceived exertion scale. Researchers speculated participants may have scaled back on how hard they were pushing themselves due to the warm temperatures, indicating excessive sweating may cause you to believe you are burning more calories than you actually are.
That is why you need to structure your running schedule so that you can burn maximum calories during summer. Sweating is not an indicator against which you can measure the amount of calorie burn.
Although working out in extreme heat increases your calorie expenditure, doing so for long periods of time isn’t safe. Heat-related ailments have serious side effects, and can even lead to death. Northwestern Oklahoma State University reports that symptoms of heat-related injuries include reduced physical performance, heat rash, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, headaches, nausea, loss of strength, fainting and loss of consciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, cool off your body and drink plenty of water. Medical care might be required if symptoms are severe. To maximize your calorie burning and reduce your risk for heat-related ailments, work out in a warm to moderate climate and avoid extreme heat and cold, recommends the American Council on Exercise. Moderate-temperature workout conditions can actually help you exercise for longer periods of time, which helps them to be the most effective for burning fat and calories.
Hydrating myths during hot weather
Heat Myth #1: The more you drink the better it is for your health
While you do need to keep hydrated, it is also possible to get too hydrated. A few years ago, a young runner died at the Boston Marathon, and the coroner’s report said the cause was a cascade of medical events precipitated by excessive fluid intake. Another time, one of America’s best ultra-runners, Don Choi, had to be helicoptered out of the Western States 100-mile because he drank too much water and been stricken by hyponatremia. You need water, but not so much that you get bloated.
Heat Myth #2: If it is hot, you need salt
Well, not exactly! You do need electrolytes, which include potassium and magnesium as well as sodium (salt) for muscles to work, and if you sweat out too much of your mineral supply you can find your muscles failing. But the electrolytes need to be dilutes enough to be assimilated by your body while you run. It is best not to take salt tablets at all, but instead to take electrolyte capsules formulated specifically for running. However, that is only if you are going out for a fairly long time or distance. If you are going out for a three-miler, the minerals already in your blood from the food you ate last night should be more than enough.
Heat Myth #3: People just aren‘t born to run in heat the way a lot of other animals are
Wrong! A human has a uniquely efficient cooling system—bare skin, which is both a radiator and a conduit for evaporative cooling via sweat and for convective cooling via the “breeze” effect of skin moving against air.
What it all adds up to is that you don’t need to be afraid to run on a hot day if you use good judgment. Keep adequately (but not excessively) hydrated and supplied with balanced electrolytes, and you can handle anything. Work according to a consistent routine and soon you will notice you are burning more calories and maintaining healthy body weight.
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