We know that running helps us to lose weight – and more efficiently than any other exercise. And we know that by eating a healthy balanced diet and consuming less calories than we burn, we’ll categorically lose weight. But if you’re already doing those two things, is there anything else you can be doing to burn excess fat? You’ll be pleased to hear there is. And, surprisingly, it’s some of the existing fats in your body that may be able to help you do just that – you just need to get them activated. Here’s how:
Scientists have discovered that exposure to cold temperatures triggers the body into super-efficient fat-burning mode. Simply being outdoors in the winter chill can prompt calorie burning. Add running and the effects are multiplied. Scientists have also discovered that cold weather sparks other changes, too. One such side effect is the activation of the aforementioned ‘brown fat’, a substance that, unlike the more familiar yellowish-white body fat that stores the excess energy accumulated when you eat too many calories, does the opposite, burning excess energy to use up calories. When switched on, brown fat is said to produce 300 times more heat than any other organ in the body. And, just when you thought this news couldn’t get any better, scientists are now convinced that intense exercise (like running), as well as exposure to the cold will activate it. So get outside, get running and get those fat stores activated!
The active ingredient capsaicin can also trigger brown fat into action. Yep, a post-run curry is back on the menu!
‘It has long been known that the number of calories burned, even at rest, is generally higher in cold weather, as the body goes into overdrive to produce more heat to stay warm,’ says Louise Sutton, head of the Carnegie Centre for Sports Performance at Leeds Metropolitan University. ‘This happens even when drops in temperature are relatively small and when the body isn’t cold enough to start shivering,’ she adds. Turn the heating off or down in the car, the office and at home. If you are walking around in a t-shirt in midwinter, your environment is too warm.
Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese are thought to be important in activating brown fat. Steer clear of high-fat sugary carbohydrates and highly-processed foods. While the evidence has yet to be proven conclusive, it is likely these foods have an adverse impact on brown fat.
Some studies have shown that cold drinks help to keep the body’s core temperature lower during exercise – the effects might also activate brown fat.