Friday, December 17, 2010

Shiver Yourself Skinny

Last week I was on a field trip with my son’s class. We went on a hike and it was freezing out. Toward the end another mom and I were joking about having to hit the restroom and she said, “the cold always makes me have to go to the pee.” I agreed then wondered why this was the case.  I emailed, Foodtrainers’ favorite doctor, and recent NYC marathon superstar, Dr O with my cold weather questions.

So, Dr O  can you explain this need to “go” when the mercury drops, is there a scientific explanation?
We have to pee more when it is cold because to maintain a core temperance, of around 98.7, our very smart bodies make the blood vessels close to the skin constrict to expose as little blood as possible to the cold.  This results in more blood in circulation, being filtered by the kidneys, and so more urine is made.  The opposite happens in the heat.  The kidneys are so smart and so underrated!

And why do our noses run during exercise or out in the cold weather?
Our noses run in cold weather because cold air is normally a lot drier then hot steamy air so our noses produce more (in my case today A LOT more) fluids to keep the nose moist.

What do you see in the ER when it’s cold out?
Hypothermia is a big problem this time of year. We have already admitted someone to the ICU with it (he was homeless and drunk) but people need to know that when exercising, this time of year, to always have their phones and ID with them.  Also, always tell someone that you are going out and what time to expect you back.

And finally (and most importantly, ha!) I heard cold weather can lead to weight loss, any truth to this?
 I think you’re referring to brown fat. Brown fat is a type of fat that burns fat. White fat is the fat your body stores excess calories in. It was thought that only infants have brown fat and that it helps them stay warm. In 2009, scientists found that adults have some of this brown, fat-burning fat.  In studies subjects exposed to colder temperatures, for longer periods of time increased their brown fat. So, in theory, in theory you can shiver your way thin.

Thanks Dr O, that’s exciting. The brown fat shows us  the upside of cold weather, we just don’t want to get carried away in our pursuit of weight loss and end up like the homeless man in the ER with hypothermia! 
Do you have any cold weather questions for Dr O? Do you have any things you feel your body does (or doesn’t do) when cold? And how friggin’ cool is brown fat?


  1. Brown fat? Utterly intriguing. Now I must race outside and keep this pregnancy weight gain at bay :)

  2. I sent my cousin and her husband an email about advice for cold weather running. They are both elite runners, live in Syracuse and have PhD's in sports Physical lucky am I to have access to them! I asked Dan, my cousin husband what marathons he was running this year and he said "well, I was invited to run Boston."

    Here is Dan's top 5 tips for cold weather exercise thought I would share. Love number 5.

    1. Good running tights,
    2. A lightweight wind-breaker,
    3. Fleece hat and mittens,
    4. A reflective vest,
    5. Courage.

    If you're dressed appropriately, you'll be cold and uncorfortable during the first 10 minutes of your run. But then will feel great.

    Going to spend the weekend with them in Massachusetts, so post any questions. We have decided to trade knowledge..they have a newborn and tons of medical questions and I of course have tons of running questions!