Saturday, February 8, 2014

Shiver off that back fat!

After almost a month of silence I am back on track. I really want to start making this a regular post, so that I can share some fitness and health information, recipes and workouts with you every weekend. So from now on, stay tuned, and check back in every weekend to see what exciting news I have to share with you!

As an economics student, I really should stay up to date with current events, no matter if its in regard to international politics, the economy or business. However, I am a very lazy reader (unfortunately), and I have to admit that I spend my mornings looking at tasty recipes on Pinterest, rather than scrolling through the news. Pinterest is my one addiction, so stop making that judgmental face. I am easily entertained, ok?! So, in order to stay in the know about what is going on in the world, I ask my boyfriend to read the news to me [usually I don't even have to ask, he tells me anyways]. The other day, he excitedly read an article to me, which confirmed his long-developed claim that cold showers might be beneficial for fat loss. After that, I did some research, and here is a small summary of what I found:

First off, check out the article on ABC News: "Cold Showers may be secret to burning fat, research suggests" A new study from the US claims, that 10-15 minutes of shivering can provide the same results as an hour of moderate exercise. Now, seeing that I am not the biggest fan of cardio, but still sweat my bottom off on the bike, this is outrageous to me! How can they claim that a cold shower might be just as beneficial as an hour floundering my heart out when it comes to burning calories?!

Here is the 'scientific' background [I put scientific in quotation marks, because I feel like my explanation is not going to sound very scientific...]: Generally speaking, there are two types of fat cells in your body. White fat cells store energy for later use. Brown fat cells burn energy to regulate your body temperature. Research suggests, that shivering and being cold can turn white fat into brown fat, thus burning more calories and energy. When you are cold, your brown fat gets activated, your metabolism increases, and you start burning more calories in order to stay warm. Furthermore, the production of two hormones [FGF21 and irisin] increased, which also happens during exercise. These two hormones act like a communication line between fat and muscle, and thus help converting white fat into brown fat.

So far so good. Seems reasonable. However, I didn't stop my research there, and found this helpful article online. It basically provides a good summary discussing whether cold showers can really help with weightloss:
- The effect of decreased temperature on fat burning rate is very small, and varies from person to person
- Research suggests that overweight persons have less brown fat
- Swimming in cold water increases calorie intake, as it makes you hungrier

From these findings I took that taking cold showers in the morning definitely is NOT the new weightloss secret. In fat, I am happy to claim that, if you are obese, it will not change a thing. Nutrition, portion control, and regular exercise are still your best bet if you want to get rid of that extra fat. However, to me, the scientific explanation makes sense. I feel like exposing yourself to the cold every now and then might help you increase your metabolic rate throughout the day, thus burning more calories. If you want to lose those last 10 pounds [and we all know that's the hardest part], why not give it a try? There are many more benefits you gain from taking a cold shower in the morning, apart from burning more fat:
- Improved circulation [redistribution of blood flow]
- Improved immune system [stress on the body increases number of white blood cells]
- Improved energy levels [what else is better to wake you up from your morning slumber?!]
- Healthier skin and hair [pores close and this keeps out dirt and bacteria]

I will definitely give it a try and let you know how I go with my cold showers. However, I refuse to jump right in and start my morning with a 30 second cold shower. I think I would just die of a heart-attack, as I usually put the water temperature on the hottest possible. So here is a good procedure to start adjusting to cold showers:
1. Start off with your normal temperature, and enjoy the pleasure whilst it lasts.
2. Adjust the temperature to the middle between your normal preference, and the coldest temperature.
3. Stay here for a couple of minutes and adjust.
4. Adjust the temperature again, taking the middle between the coldest and the one you are on now.
5. Stay here and adjust.
6. Finally, turn the hot water off completely and put your shower on the coldest temperature possible.
7. Stay here for at least 30 seconds.

I also read that the body contains the most brown fat in the neck and back area, so let the cold water run down your back to activate those fat cells. Easy, right?

I will start taking cold showers in the mornings from now on, a nice little self-experiment project, and let you know how I go. I wonder if it is worth it in the end, 30 seconds of suffering in the morning...maybe I will be able to get up to 10-15 minutes of shivering in the shower, and could then skip my cardio for the day? Definitely worth it!

What do you think? Cold shower yay or nay? It seems like there is some scientific evidence that suggests that taking a cold shower in the morning can aid weightloss. However, more research and detailed experiments are necessary to show individual effects and the extend to which fat burning ability is increased through the cold. If you are curious and super hardcore [like me], join me in this 'cold-shower-terrbile-morning' challenge and let me know your results! Maybe, together, we can shiver off that back fat!

PS: Here is a super tasty recipe that I wanted to share for you. I made these Baked Sweet Potatoes with creamy Tuna Dip last night, and they were delicious! It is super easy and quick, and provides you with a ton of nutrition. Here is the recipe:

Baked Potato (about 130g)
Greek Yogurt (50-100g)
Tuna in brine (one can, 130g)
Sweetcorn (80g)

Wash and cut the Sweet potato in half. Place on a baking tray and cover with foil. Bake at 200C for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the tuna, greek yogurt and sweetcorn in a bowl. Place all the ingredients on a plate. Mine looked a little like a bunny head.

Sweet potatoes and sweetcorn provide you with a healthy amount of good carbs, and help curb those sugar cravings. In general, sweet potato is labeled a 'super-food' which highlights its overall health benefits [and I read it might aid in fighting cancer?]. Tuna is the perfect weightloss food - it is high in protein which helps repair your muscle and tissue after a workout, and keeps you fill for longer. Greek yogurt also is a good source of protein, and provides you with healthy fats before bedtime. And mixed together, this comfort meal is just scrumptious and super filling [and if you stick to the measurements, only about 400 cal]. Enjoy!

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