Does A Calorie Deficit Make You Cold?


There are several studies showing that calorie restriction lowers core body temperature in animals. But what about the humans?

Does a calorie deficit make you cold?

In general, a long-term calorie deficit does make you cold. Calorie intake is a major regulator of body temperature. During thermogenesis, the body uses a substantial amount of calories to maintain a core body temperature, therefore calorie restriction can influence thermogenesis.

In other words, the longer you stay in a calorie deficit, you can experience feeling colder. But what happens after you lose weight?

In this article I will cover:

  • Do You Get Cold When Losing Weight?
  • Do You Get Cold After Losing Weight?
  • Can Lack of Calories Make You Cold?
  • Do You Burn More Calories When It’s Cold?
  • Can Shivering Make You Lose Weight?

Do You Get Cold When Losing Weight?

As a whole, you do get cold when losing weight. One of the metabolic adaptations during calorie restriction and weight loss is reducing core body temperature. When calories from food are low, the body lowers the core body temperature to save energy.

A lot of health benefits have been associated with calorie restriction.

And it turns out that as a result of low-calorie intake, the body lowers core body temperature, and this in itself positively influences longevity and aging (source).

With low body temperature, the body has to increase metabolic rate (burn more calories) to maintain the temperature.

It’s a cycle.

But most interesting is the fact that this happens only during the calorie deficit. This means once you get back to your regular eating patterns ( eating your regular amount of calories) at the maintenance level, core body temperature changes again.

Do You Get Cold After Losing Weight?

You don’t get cold after losing weight. During the calorie restriction, the body lowers the core temperature to conserve energy. However, this adaptation is caused by calorie restriction, not by body composition changes. After calorie intake increases, the core temperature comes back up.

So being on a calorie restriction can help you not only lose more weight by eating less food, but also burning more calories just to keep you warm.

Plus, there are several other health benefits from the effect of reduced body temperature (more on that later).

But what happens after you’ve done dieting?

Once you already reach your desired weight goal, our “plastic” body will adapt again.

So.

Take it or leave it.

If you’re not comfortable with feeling cold than be sure that after you lose weight everything comes back to normal. Your body temperature stabilizes and you won’t feel cold anymore.

But.

If you are like a Superman and you don’t mind feeling cold now and then, you may just want to take advantage of the fact that feeling cold burns more calories.

How you can take advantage of that?

Simple. Calorie cycling and intermittent fasting.

Calorie cycling

Calorie cycling is more than alternating days with low calories (or none) with a day of eating more calories. This will allow you to trick your metabolism, even after you’ve already lost weight.

You can do calorie cycling simply by:

  • Reducing food you eat
  • Reducing carbs
  • Do both

Intermittent fasting

Another way of calorie cycling is intermittent fasting. You eat less on some days. And eat more on others. For instance, you can divide days into fasting and non-fasting like:

  • Alternate-day fast (36-hour fasting followed by 12-hour eating)
  • 24-hour fast (once or twice a week)

Or you just introduce a feeding window where you only eat at certain times of the day, followed by the fasting window where don’t eat.

  • One meal a day (you just eat once per day)
  • 20-hour fasting followed by 4-hour eating
  • 16-hour fasting followed by 8-hour eating

So just by understanding how your body works, you can take a huge advantage while getting in shape or when staying in shape.

Can Lack of Calories Make You Cold?

Lack of calories can make you cold. Lower calorie intake and calorie restriction trigger a reduction in body temperature. It is suggested that cold body temperature during calorie restriction contribute to changes that increase lifespan, improve health and longevity.

Calorie deficit comes with a lot of benefits like changes in body composition, hormone regulation, gene expression, as well as reductions in inflammation.

Other benefits of calorie restriction include:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Lower fasting insulin levels
  • Lower oxidative stress

COLD TIP: Calorie restriction without a reduction of protein intake get more benefits than a regular calorie deficit diet.

Do You Burn More Calories When It’s Cold?

In total, you do burn more calories when it’s cold. In cold ambient temperatures, the body generates heat by increasing metabolism to maintain a stable core body temperature. This process is known as cold-induced thermogenesis or thermogenic effect of cold.

So exposing yourself to a cold environment can help with burning more calories. For instance, taking a cold shower or taking a cold swim. Those methods have been proven to not only upregulate metabolism but also increase circulation.

However.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Exposure to cold also comes with the price.

Few studies were done on military personnel in the arctic or antarctic regions for 3 to 12 months, where to air temperature stays between -20°C (-4°F) to -40°C (-40°F). On average, they’ve noticed each person gain 1 kg of fat per month.

This phenomenon is caused by increased appetite. However, the reason for an increase in appetite isn’t directly related to the cold environment. Some other factors include:

  • Season of the year

During the summer season, you have 24-hour daylight. However, during the winter season, you have a 24-hour of darkness. Which can be quite depressing.

  • Emotional factors (loneliness, boredom)

Being in the arctic, confined to restricted quarters, and have not much to do can feel quite boring. Food seems like a convenient distraction and a way to make people feel better.

  • Changes in physical activity habits

Becoming more sedentary is a big factor in increased appetite. Physical activity is been shown to reduce appetite and food cravings.

COLD TIP: Short-term planned cold exposure is enough to increase thermogenesis and burn a few extra calories. Taking a cold shower in the morning can kick start your metabolism.

Does Being Cold Make You Lose Weight?

In general, being cold does make you lose weight. Being cold increases thermoregulation and increases metabolism to burn more calories. The body absorbs 17% more oxygen and increases CO2 production by up to 36% in the cold at rest, comparing to the ambient environment.

First studies done on cold-induced thermogenesis were done as early as 1780 by Antoine Lavoisier (source). One study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 1932 by Raymond W. Swift documented 21 young subjects locked in a 2 °C refrigerator for 75 min.

Here’s what they found out:

  • Shivering from cold increases the metabolism by about 400 percent
  • Shivering starts when the skin temperature reaches 19° C
  • There was no change in blood sugar levels

Wait. What?

Shivering?

It turns out that shivering is a common, almost involuntary, defense mechanism against cold and can drastically increase heat production, raising the metabolism to five times the BMR at its peak (source).

Can Shivering Make You Lose Weight?

In general, shivering can make you lose weight. Shivering thermogenesis is caused by a decrease in body temperature. Shivering increases the resting metabolic rate by increasing rates of heat production, during cold exposure.

Shivering thermogenesis ramps up the heat production as a result of cold exposure through muscular contractions to avoid hypothermia. The result leads to a 5-fold increase in REE (resting energy expenditure). This means we burn 5-fold more calories during the shivering time (source).

Who would know.

Is Being Cold A Sign Of Fat Burning?

As a general rule, being cold can be a sign of fat burning while being in calorie restriction. However, apart from burning fat, feeling cold is a signal of lower core body temperature and it can be the symptom of something else like hypothyroidism, poor circulation, or even a cold environment.

In other words, if you are currently on the calorie restriction for several days (or weeks) then feeling cold is normal. Your body lowers the body temperature to conserve energy.

Also, depending on where you’re, feeling cold can be influenced by your surroundings, like a cold indoor working environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cold Hands and Feet During Weight Loss

Having cold hands and feet during weight loss is normal. Part of the metabolic adaptation during weight loss is to lower the body temperature as a thermoregulatory response and save energy. However, stabilizing calorie intake normalizes core body temperature.

Conclusion

Feeling cold while doing calorie deficit is a normal part of metabolic adaptations. The longer you stay in the calorie restriction, your body will down-regulate and lowers its core body temperature.

This process only lasts as long as you eat less food as your body burns. However, to take advantage of that process is useful to cycle calorie intake and reintroduce calorie deficit so the body can continue to burn calories.

Being exposed to a cold environment and shivering from cold ramps up the metabolism and can burn 5-fold more calories than in the ambient temperature.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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