Winter running breeds some interesting misconceptions, so we decided to get the straight story. We enlisted the help of one of the key scientists studying cold-weather workouts: John Castellani, Ph.D., research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass. See if you can separate the truths from the lies below—and stay warm and fit all winter.
Winter running burns more calories. True or False. Sorry, put the French fries down. Unless you’re running through snow or mud, you’re not burning any more calories than when you run in any other season. Sure, research shows that shivering and very heavy clothes do cause you to burn more calories. But by “heavy clothes,” researchers are talking about army boots and hiking gear, not your winter shell with titanium thermo-regulating technology.
Cold makes you pee more, so you’re more likely to get dehydrated. True or false. Well, the first half is true: Cold can create what researchers call cold-induced diuresis (CID), meaning you pee more when your body meets cold air or water. When your skin gets cold, blood is shunted away from your skin and redirected to your core. “With more blood in the thorax, the heart says, ‘I have too much fluid on board and need to get rid of some of it,’” says Castellani. But exercise, even at a moderate intensity, prevents CID.
Moving the blood to the core also makes your body think you have enough fluids on board. You need to be smart about replacing what you’re losing, but don’t go crazy: Unless you’re overdressed, you won’t need as much water as you would on a 90-degree day with 80 percent humidity.
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